Hanukkah recalls power of faith
I look around the world in which we live, desperately longing to encounter greatness. I wish only to gain inspiration, not from great sages of the past, not from brilliant men who lived decades or centuries ago, not from heroes in the textbooks, but from a man who lives today. Where are our bona fide heroes? Our heroines?
The word "genius" is so easily thrown around, a "superstar," a "sensation." Do these words hold any real meaning? Where are the truly courageous people of unique ability who should be shaping our future?
Never has my yearning to be in the presence of a man who was truly an inimitable individual been as strong as it is right now, in the face of the festival of Hanukkah. I am truly awe-inspired by what the Maccabees, a small Jewish army, accomplished more than 2,000 years ago. To me this is not just a long-told legacy. The story of these courageous men is a living message of inspiration, for these were the men who shaped our future.
When the powerful Syrian-Greeks sought to eradicate Jewish life in Israel, the Maccabees fought back. They didn't take into account any physical obstacles or logical reasoning. They didn't call a board meeting or even ask for second opinions. They knew what had to be done, and they did it.
The Greeks had desecrated all that the Jewish nation held sacred. They posed more than just a physical threat. They sought to eradicate the very essence of the Jewish people -- they sought to destroy their religious spirit.
In an act of pure faith, the Maccabees picked up their arms and went to battle against the largest, strongest army at that time. It defied logic but they didn't stop to question.
What you and I would have written off today as an act of insanity, or what analysts would have pronounced as a suicide mission, was in fact one of the greatest deeds in Jewish history. God responded and assured their win -- but only because the Maccabees took the first step.
When the Maccabees reached Jerusalem, they found the Holy Temple desecrated and defiled. In the face of this utter debasement of their values and beliefs, the Maccabees once again rose beyond the laws of logic. They refused to light the golden menorah with ritually impure oil, despite the fact that Jewish law would have permitted them to do so. The Maccabees were absolutely determined to kindle the menorah as perfectly as possible.
So once again God intervened in the natural order, and made a single jar of oil last for eight days.
The miracle of Hanukkah is not limited to the military victory or the miracle that a single light burned for eight nights. For me, Hanukkah is also a celebration of the victory of man. For with the courage, spirit of self-sacrifice and profound faith in God of the few brave Maccabees, the impossible was accomplished.
History is not always made through acts of pragmatism or logic. History is made through heroic people who stand up and are willing to forfeit everything for what they believe.
The story of Hanukkah is a call to abandon the shackles and restraints of our logic, to forget what "makes sense" and to finally fight our wars. A nuclear Iran? Poverty and domestic strife? Anti-Semitism? The potential to attain the achievement equal to the Maccabees is within every individual. We must fight against the impossibilities, because only then can we make a difference; only then can we actually change history. Our personal history and that of the entire world.
Chana Graj is a teacher and staff member of Chabad of Hawaii.