Chanuka, Take 2, Take 3…

Celebrating Chanuka is fun. Living at the times of the Maccabees was not. Similarly, Purim, the Feast of Esther, is a joyous celebration. Living in Persia with a death sentence over your head, in the days before Queen Esther revealed her identity, was frightening. Leaving Egypt after ten amazing plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea was awesome. Two-hundred and ten years of slavery was miserable. 

A popular joke sums up Jewish holidays in this way, “They tried to kill us. God saved us. Let’s eat.” But, of course, they did kill many of us. Those who survived went through scary and wretched times. Centuries later, knowing how things turned out, it is easier to channel into the joy than to feel the suffering. 

American history has its parallels. The Fourth of July, with its parades and fireworks, is a grand time. Life in Revolutionary War times was grim. When our Founding Fathers issued the Declaration of Independence saying, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor,” they did not know how things would turn out. Indeed, many of them and their families did lose their fortunes and lives.

My husband and I celebrated the first four days of Chanuka at a gorgeous resort in Puerto Vallarta, as the guests of a financial conference where he was the keynote speaker. It is a long way, in every meaning of the phrase, from the original clash between Jerusalem and Athens. We look forward to celebrating the final four days back home with family. That is also far removed from the original conflict. We can celebrate both the military victory and the miracle of the oil without having lived with the fear of those days. Yet, the underlying recurring theme of purity vs. depravity, good vs. evil, light vs. darkness, few vs. the  many is not far removed from us at all. 

I think many of us worry that life in the next few years might be darker and more dangerous. During the past few years, many have already willingly sacrificed their lives for truth or been victims of evil. This has been the pattern of history. Chanuka calls on us to take heart and channel the courage of our ancestors to do our part while relying on Divine Providence to guide and protect us. We know how it ends; our job is to do what we can to hasten that end. 

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5 thoughts on “Chanuka, Take 2, Take 3…”

  1. Your last paragraph is amazing, and likely quite prophetic, from the point of view that we are increasingly in the hands of those, who not believing in God, will fall into the trap of believing just any old thing. The core values of our society are besieged, and those of us who stand up for what we conceive as the Eternal Rightness upon which this Nation was founded, will be made perhaps to suffer in inconceivable ways. But we must not give up the Faith!
    Channel the courage of your ancestors and spread the spirit and message of Chanukah!
    Returning to a previous Musing about Syrian ‘refugees,’ anyone who would envision what the Sultan-in-Chief would accomplish should revisit the sectarian conflicts of the early seventeenth century, back when religion was politics and politics was religion. I refer most specifically to the English Plantation of Ulster. England was paranoid, lest Roman Catholic Ireland seek ruinous alliances with likewise Catholic France and Spain. So the Crown sought to implant, settle and overrun Irish Roman Catholic Ulster with Loyalist Protestants. Local Irish were disowned, displaced, disenfranchised and driven from arable land into the inhospitable hills. Here I go with history again, but the evil Plantation did not result in the conversion of the Irish or a final solution to the sectarian conflict, indeed it rather sowed bitter seeds of injustice and sectarian violence up to our present day. Has our Fearless Leader, despite being in fact part Irish, chosen lamentably to engineer a Plantation very like the one that tormented his ancestors? If so, his Irish ancestors who suffered and perhaps died from the Ulster Plantation are surely spinning in their graves. If I did such an abominable thing, I would fear that some ancestors would return to haunt me to madness.

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