By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui
The Holiday of Chanukah begins on the 25th of Kislev and continues for eight nights. “Whoever observes the lighting of the Chanukah lights will merit children who will be scholars!” WOW! What’s up with that? Let us go through some history.
The Jewish People entered the land of Israel and notwithstanding the many difficulties, about 400 years later the first Temple was built by King Solomon. During the times of the first Temple in Jerusalem which lasted 410 years, the prophets warned the people to improve their ways. Unfortunately ten tribes out of twelve where banished and lost from the land and then came the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians.
The second Temple was built in Jerusalem 70 years later under the leadership of Ezra the scribe. Ezra encouraged many to come back to Israel and many did return.
Living now in the land of Israel were the tribes of Judah Benjamin and the Levites which totaled a couple million souls. The Persians imposed their control over Israel and due to ongoing wars, after Alexander, the Greeks now imposed their influence and power over Israel.
About two hundred years into the second temple there was the Hellenization of the people. Strict observance of the Bible law was being compromised for the “forward” thinking of the times. People’s attention were directed to the health of one’s body as the new “religion”. The Olympics, is one creation of those times.
The Greeks set up altars all over the land of Israel where they would offer pigs as a sacrifice something which is against the laws of the Jewish people. The Greeks claimed they had no problem with sacrifices as prescribed in the Bible. “But let’s be logical about it” they said. “Why and to whom, really, should it matter if it’s not being offered in Jerusalem in the Temple? Why and to whom, should it matter if the animal is not kosher?”
Most of the people caved in to the pressure. As the influence of the Greeks approached Jerusalem specifically the town of Modiin a priest by the name of Matisyahu the Hasmonean, son of Yochonan the priest, decided he would not give into the pressure.
Although the army of the Greeks where by far stronger, way more qualified and more numerous Matisyahu followed the example of Abraham, Gideon, Joshua, David and so many more in our history who were aroused by their inner soul and flame not to feel challenged by what feels like the overwhelming power of darkness. Matisyahu understood that the light and flame of a G-dly soul can chase away much darkness, even when the darkness appears to be so vast and enormous. “Not because you are more numerous, but because I love you, says G-d.”
When Matisyahu was ordered to offer a pig for a sacrifice, he mustered the courage and killed the representative of this deviant and mistaken way for the people of Israel and was forced to flee to the mountains.
Matisyahu put out a cry, “Whoever is with G-d, (come) to me.” His family and a small group of righteous, pure souls started to terrorize and fight this vast army. They fought with the slogan, “Who is like G-d amongst the strong.” In Hebrew the first letters of these words spell “Maccabee”.
Because of this powerful unwavering faith in fighting for G-d, the Maccabees miraculously overcame the vast army and established once again the untainted spiritual practices of the Temple. The rulership of the land returned back to the Jewish people.
“Observing” this Holiday means, looking into the lights and listening to their story. Remembering, that it is thanks to these few members of the Maccabees who would not cave in, that we celebrate our Holiday today. Remembering, that it’s not always the majority of people whom we should follow. Someone, must stand up for what is correct and proper. No matter how big the darkness, sticking with the G-dly path in itself is already the winning path, the path of light.
A home in which this light shines, is sure to have children that society will be very proud of.
To read more articles from Rabbi Ezagui visit him at http://koshercaffeine.blogspot.com/