Most of us know the end of the Hanukkah story. Jews versus Greeks, out-numbered, miraculously win. The Temple, desecrated by our enemy, restored. Judaism--saved. Jewish independence on our own land, achieved.
That story is 2175 years old. But for Jews--perennial underdogs--it’s a victory that always satisfies. We sing. We light candles for eight nights. We celebrate.
But as satisfying as such celebration is, it’s not the end of this story that should attract us. It’s the beginning that should interest us—because that beginning is, indeed, our story.
That beginning is our story because we, too, face threats to our religion and our freedom. We, too, face Humanists who would betray us; and we confront hostile enemies who would conquer us.
Open the First Book of Maccabees. Turn to the first chapter. Read the first 28 sentences. Translations differ, so you may want to look at more than one translation. As you read, you may be able to see a hint of what we could be looking at if the Arabs and the Israeli Left triumph.
You might even be able to discover (if you read to the middle of Chapter Two) that the existential threat we face today has an existential solution linked to Hanukkah.
Here’s a look at our modern story, adapting the style of the original:
And it happened, starting before 1948, when modern Israel was born, that Arabs began a conquest of Israel just as Antiochus IV Epiphanes had done some two thousand years before.
They made many wars. They killed women and children. They did not give up.
They made a mighty and strong host in countries around Israel. They taught that host it is good to slaughter Jews.
And during these times their leader, Yasser Arafat fell sick, and he died. After his death, there came from them a wicked root named Mahmoud Abbas, who had written a PhD dissertation that purports to show a secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism.
Under his rule, they proudly entered the Temple Mount. They dug, then trashed evidence of Jewish history.
They refused to allow Jews to pray at their holiest site.
They stoned ‘Jewish cars’ on highways.
They fire-bombed Jewish property.
They said Israel must be Islamic, not Jewish.
They called the Jewish Rachel’s Tomb an Islamic Mosque. They said the Temple Mount had no Jewish connections.
Their TV stations showed religious leaders calling for Muslims to massacre Jews.
Then it was that Mahmoud Abbas their leader stood before the United Nations. He defamed Israel. He demanded that his people should be called a ‘state’.
And the nations consented, according to his words.
As these events unfolded in those days, there stood in Israel godless men who persuaded others, saying, Come, let us make covenants with the enemies who surround us. Ever since we declared independence in 1948, many sorrows have befallen us. We saw sorrow in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1978, 1982, the intifadas, 2006, 2008 and 2012. There has been no end, there is no end and there will be no end to this sorrow.
Come, let us seek an end. There is too much hate. We must end the hate.
If Israel were no longer Jewish, they said, the hate would end. Our Judaism creates hate. We must un-Jewish our nation!
Their plan seemed good in their eyes. Jews around the world supported them. Jews in Israel supported them. They exalted themselves before their brothers.
The godless men went before the nations to show their plan. There will be no Jewish state, they said. There will only a state of its citizens, Arab and Jew. The nations were pleased.
The godless men who sought treaty with their enemy implemented their plan. They sponsored women who disrupted worship at the Western Wall and enabled attacks against ultra-orthodox Jews. They sponsored Arabs who attacked Jews.
They filled Israel’s bureaucracy and courts to force Israel to give away land. Then, they scorned, harassed and arrested those who believed in G-d. They called to protect democracy. Then, they plundered democracy’s protections.
They bowed before the nations. They bowed before the Arab. They attacked their religion. They betrayed their people.
A political mourning spread throughout the land. Nationalists and Religious Nationalists groaned. The very earth seemed shaken, as Jewish homes were demolished by Israeli police in Ulpana, Mitzpe Yitzhar and Migron.
The Arabs continued their attacks while the house of Jacob was covered with shame.
So unfolds (with liberal translation from the original) our modern Hanukh tale. The existential threat is the same—and the key to victory for both is also the same: making the existential commitment that our existence belongs to G-d, not man.
We celebrate ancient Hanukkah victories with pleasure. But if we are to celebrate our own victories, we cannot rely on the Iron Dome, the IDF or the United States. We must continue now as the heroes of the original Hanukkah--with the call, ‘who is for G-d, come to me!’
According to Jewish tradition, this is, in essence, exactly how our own story’s end will begin—with a declaration that we commit to G-d.
The ancient Maccabeans succeeded because they had the courage to believe.
Do you have that courage?