Hanukkah Lessons: Those Who Reject the Status Quo
Hanukkah Lessons: Those Who Reject the Status Quo

“There is a special prayer recited at Hanukka and Purim ‘on account of the miracles.’ In this prayer we thank God for putting many in the hands of few. This refers, of course, to the victory of the few Jews over the vast gentile armies who exceeded us numerically. Yet it is equally possible to speak of the miracle of the victory of the few, in the midst of the Jewish people itself, over the many unbelievers among us.”

--Dr. Israel Eldad, The Road to Full Redemption (page 8)

The victory of the miniscule Jewish rebel forces against the great Syrian-Greek military! For that, as well as for the miracle of the oil lasting eight days, we celebrate the festival of Hanukkah, reciting the special prayer, “on account of the miracles,” which thanks God for delivering the many into the hands of the few.

But is that really all?

This miracle, when studied as more than just a supernatural occurrence, substantiates the extraordinary potential of a few, select individuals willing to separate themselves from a conforming majority in recognition of a higher purpose and being.

Every great revolution in history was initiated by exceptional individuals willing to oppose the status quo. Hanukkah was no different; the Maccabees did not rely on passivity to redeem them, nor did they succumb to the ruthless demands of the foreign oppressor. Judah Maccabee rose in direct resistance — total determination and commitment to the Hebrew mission being his primary backbone.

Indeed inherent deep in every Jew is a pride, courage, and valor unparalleled by that found within any other people. Acting on this fearlessness, the few Hasmoneans faced the Syrian-Greeks; all expected utter destruction, but like the 1967 Six-Day-War paradigm, the cynical masses were surprisingly proven wrong as the presumably feeble Judean army astonishingly prevailed against all odds.

This theme is also found prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, manifested by such underground organizations as the Lehi and Etzel. These underground groups – one left and one right yet remarkably united when it came to the freedom of Israel – contentiously confronted the imperialist British regime ruling Palestine at the time. They asserted that although resorting to such controversial methods as bombings may not be ideal, bloodshed was justified for the sake of liberating the Land of Israel and fulfilling a 2,000-year-old national dream.

This attitude was naturally rejected by the majority and both the Lehi and Etzel had to conduct their activities in disguise, undercover, and in secret.

Yet it is consequently thanks to these Jewish freedom fighters that the British left, as the final May 15, 1948 White Paper states: “84,000 troops, who received no cooperation from the Jewish community, had proved insufficient to maintain law and order in the face of a campaign of terrorism waged by highly organized Jewish forces equipped with all the weapons of the modern infantryman. Since the war, 338 British subjects had been killed in Palestine, while the military forces there had cost the British taxpayer 100 million pounds… The declared intentions of Jewish extremists showed that the loss of further British lives was inevitable…[therefore] the continued presence there of British troops and officials could no longer be justified.”

Meaning, the British left Palestine as a result of Jewish extremists.

Nonconventional? Not ideal? Absolutely. Yet in the face of a greater historic mission; in recognition of a certain, undeniable identity; in a reluctance to conform but rather confront truth, the Lehi and Etzel, just like the Maccabees, triumphed against the oppressor.

Today, when we submit to relentless, senseless foreign demands to withdraw from the cradle of Jewish civilization, we are not only in direct violation of Torah commandments, but we are also acting exactly opposite to the behavior of the valiant Maccabees we are commemorating this week, betraying Jewish history and compromising on our deepest national aspirations.

By submitting to foreign diplomats that urge us into the hopeless model of “land for peace,” aside from abandoning our people’s authentic collective yearnings, we are displaying the weakness of the once mighty Jewish people.

May we all learn from the fortitude and clarity of the Maccabees and join in our own modern re-enactment of the story of Hanukkah: May we recognize our Jewish identity, muddled and distorted by Western ideals, may we resist the attempts of foreign leaders to steal our land and dilute our culture, and may we all be chanting, “Nes Gadol Haya PO!”—“A Great Miracle Occurred HERE!”