The Light That Heals

Today, the message of Hanukkah is that we can overcome the powerful external forces that are crashing against us, and we can take back the spirit of the Jewish people.

Yishai Fleisher

OpEds לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7
This year, Hanukkah in Israel seems a bit dispirited. No wonder. After three years of the blood-thirsty intifada, the emergence of a massive movement of global anti-Semitism, and the painful, on-going rifts amongst the Jewish people coming to a head, the celebratory spirit of Hanukkah in Israel is noticeably subdued.

Post-Zionism has brought to question all the values that Israel once held dear. Some Israelis see the whole Zionist enterprise as unjust, war-like, and imperialistic. We are no longer the heroic Davidic underdog, but rather we are a Goliath-like, conquering war-lord who crushes the weak. Our self-image has been damaged by this movement and our values have become distorted.

Ariel Sharon's speeches leave one with the impression that the Palestinians indeed have a just claim on the land, and that the State of Israel has somehow dispossessed the rightful owners. The Supreme Court routinely blocks Tzahal (the IDF) from doing what's best for Jewish security. The government releases terrorist prisoners and uproots Jews from their land. Innocent, G-d fearing Jews are put on trail, detained, and harassed by their own country. The system in Israel has become, in many ways, anti-Jewish. How can we celebrate the Holiday of Lights in this time of darkness?

It is exactly at these moments that Hanukkah comes to strengthen and encourage us. Unlike most of our holidays, Hanukkah is not about a great beginning, a foundation miracle, or a time of atonement. Hanukkah is about Tikkun - about fixing a situation that has gone horribly awry. The Maccabees faced a time when Judaism itself was being totally undermined. Greek Hellenism managed to sway the hearts and minds of Jews away from the study of Torah and the precept-centered life to a life preoccupied with beauty, secularism, and hedonism. The Temple itself, once a center of worship and holiness, became the center of lewdness, depravity and lasciviousness. The country-side, which once saw Jews traveling to Jerusalem for the three holy pilgrimages, was now made to witness the desecration of holy sites, holy objects, and holy days. Many Jews threw off the yoke of Heaven and went willingly with the tide of sexual immorality. Others, who refused, were forced to bow to idols on pain of death. A great darkness descended on the Land of Israel and it seemed that the whole history of the Jewish people was for naught.

It was in such a time that the Maccabees revolted. They managed to push back the foreign influence in the land; they cleansed the Temple, and burned holy oil again on the Menorah. Their victory was as much against the Syrian Greeks as it was against the Jews who supported them and their culture. And it was indeed miraculous. They were few and weak, but they conquered their powerful enemies, and captured the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. They put Jewish history back on track.

Therefore, we celebrate Hanukkah not only to mark our great military victory or to remember the miracle of the long-lasting oil. On Hanukkah, we Jews celebrate the strength that G-d gives us to pull ourselves out of darkness, to redeem ourselves from epochs when everything seems to be going downhill, when all we want to do is to give up, when we have no hope because it seems that all is lost and that it is all our fault. Hanukkah is about rededication, rebirth, and renewed strength, and it is dafka (precisely) now, a time when darkness has set on the Jewish people and on the Land of Israel, that Hanukkah has its greatest significance.

Today, the message of Hanukkah is that we can overcome the powerful external forces that are crashing against us, and we can take back the spirit of the Jewish people. With the power of faith in G-d and with firm resoluteness for action, we can defeat the sense of defeatism that is so prevalent in Israel today, and we can turn this time of dreary despondency into a time when Israel shines forth as the greatest light the world has ever seen. Israel is the world's sole Spiritual Superpower, and no Jew-hating Osama, no blood-loving Arafat, and no anti-Semitic Frenchman can ever sully or extinguish the pure light of the Holy Menorah, which will one day illuminate the entire world from Jerusalem.