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National Courage: Chanuka's Lesson for Today

By Rabbi Lazer Brody
12/2/2013, 11:12 AM

Mattatyahu Cohen HaGadol, the High Priest whom we remember every time we say the "Al HaNissim" prayer during Chanuka, is buried in a cave in a forest, about a kilometer north of Highway 443 near Mevo Modiin.

Mattatyahu and his sons fought a double war - not only against the Syrian Greeks, but against the 95% of the Jewish people who had become assimilated Hellenists. But because of his steadfast, unwavering and uncompromising commitment to Hashem, to his emuna, to the Torah and to his homeland, he was able to overcome all obstacles and instill the fire of emuna and total dedication in the hearts of his brave sons and daughter.

Where did he get his strength and courage from?

Nothing gives a person strength like clarification of the truth. A person who knows the truth and who lives according to the truth is as fierce as a lion. He is not willing to live a lie; so, if you take the truth away from him, he'll no longer regard his life as worth living. That's why our ancestors in every generation all the way back to our forefather Abraham were willing to sacrifice their last breath and heartbeat for our faith in Hashem and our Torah.

Mattatyahu and his sons Yehuda, Elazar, Shimon, Yochanan and Yonatan knew the truth. For a servant of Hashem, life is worthless without Torah, emuna, and holiness. The Hellenists fooled themselves while trying to dilute the truth and appease the Syrian Greeks, but the latter wanted to destroy it altogether and to substitute truth with a life of pursuing bodily amenities.

Did Hashem send our souls down to this lowly earth just for another piece of steak, another fling with the opposite sex, or another NBA game? Those who waste their lives in the pursuit of material appetites are neither happy nor fulfilled. What's worse, they haven't devoted a single minute to clarifying the truth.

21-inch biceps won't give you courage. Truth and emuna will.

If the Government of Israel - and particularly the Prime Minister - would clarify the truth, no foreign pressure in the world would be able to delay, much less cancel, the construction of a single housing unit anywhere in our hallowed and beloved homeland, or stifle our efforts to do what we need to enhance our security. And, they'd have no qualms about moving Bedouin squatters off of government lands in the Negev as well as destroying all the illegally-built structures they erected.
 
Several months ago, the USA released a dangerous top Iranian nuclear scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi, who had been arrested in 2011 for attempting to acquire equipment that could be used for Iran’s military-nuclear programs. In the hypocritical eyes of Amalek, that's legitimate, for all Atarodi and his bosses want to do is destroy Jews and level the State of Israel - no big deal. Those who are kind to the cruel are in turn cruel to the kind - they've been holding Jonathan Pollard in intolerable conditions of incarceration for 28 years without a trial. If the Government of Israel would clarify the truth, it would find the way to get Jonathan Pollard's immediate release, may he come home soon, amen. The Hellenists among us would warn against rocking the boat, but they are the antithesis of national courage.

If a teenager would clarify the truth, then he'd say no to the stupid things that his peers are doing. If a Jew outside of Israel would clarify the truth and ask himself what Hashem really wants from him, he'd start planning to book a flight for himself and his family to Israel as soon as possible. If a woman knew the truth, she wouldn't care if her neighbors called her "nebby" or "yachna" for dressing the way Hashem wants her to dress.

Mattatyahu and his sons were masters at truth clarification. They weren't willing to live for two minutes without the truth. That's where they derived the courage to fight a virtually impossible war. And that's why they won.

While we're basking in the holy light of the Chanuka candles, let's ponder the real meaning of this beautiful festival that commemorates the miracle of the few prevailing over many, the pure prevailing over the impure, and the light prevailing over darkness. Let's remember the dedication and commitment of Mattatyahu and his sons. Let's strengthen ourselves and carry their torch of Torah and truth, no matter what the odds. We can do it.

All we need is emuna and truth; these are the two components of Jewish national courage. Whenever and wherever we see our leaders cave in to foreign pressure, there's an acute deficiency of emuna and truth. The Festival of Lights is our annual reminder to strengthen ourselves in these two essential areas. Happy Chanuka!