The story of Hanukkah happened nearly 2200 years ago, but it's lessons still stand for all people of faith today.
Greece was the first society in history that was not a worshipping one.
The wicked King Antiochus, and the cultural elitist Greeks believed that their Hellenism, based on rationalism and materialism, was far superior to a global view based on God and faith. The Greeks (and their King) wanted to replace the faith of the Jews with Greek secularism, so they defiled the Temple, and forbade the observance of any of the superrational Jewish commandments.
Hanukkah commemorates how the Maccabees, a small ragtag group of faith-adhering soldiers, defeated the large and well-equipped army of Syrian Greeks.
This clash culminated with the Temple being reclaimed and dedicated (Hanukkah).
A further miracle occurred when a small jug of sealed oil, which only had enough oil for one day of kindling the menorah — the candelabra used in the daily Temple service — lasted eight days, long enough to procure more usable oil, and allowing God’s service to continue uninterrupted.
The physical battle had been won, as well as the spiritual battle — the God-centered worldview over the secular worldview.
Judaism was the only beacon of monotheism in those days, and monotheism itself was nearly snuffed out. Christianity and Islam, which were later born out of Jewish monotheism, also owes their foundation to the Maccabee victory.
The annual focus of Hanukkah in the Jewish community is lighting the menorah each night because the spiritual battle and victory is ongoing, and ultimately the God-global view will always win over secularism and materialism.
This spiritual battle in modern times applies to all people of faith, albeit the attack is more subtle. The value of faith in our society is often overlooked and, at times, singled out for targeting.
So, for example, when coronavirus lockdown precautions were at their peak, and only "essential" services could open, there were months of time where liquor stores could remain open, and movies could be filmed, but houses of worship had to remain closed.
Many could gather to march and protest for causes that were deemed acceptable, but religious gatherings were prohibited.
It was almost as if activities that championed a certain global view were given priority over others, rather than solely being directed by public health concerns.
Additionally, the Greeks did not seek to fully eradicate the Torah. What did they want? They wanted Judaism to meld into the homogenous secular society they envisioned.
The Greeks promoted the idea that Judaism could be practiced, so long as there was a Greek twist: God must be left out of the picture.
If Judaism was practiced for cultural reasons, it was considered all well and good, but as soon as Godliness was brought in, lines were drawn.
The influences of the same Greek philosophy remain in our society today.
A God-centered worldview is often challenged, and instead urged to conform to an alternative secular set of societal values.
"Religion" is seen as good and nice if it’s used to promote values currently in vogue in the culture, but if religion is adhered to as its own inherent set of values and way to connect to God, it is seen as something needing an "update."
People of faith may feel they are in the minority.
The God and faith minded person may feel he stands no chance against the values promoted by an opposing, and often imposing, society, and that defeat is inevitable.
We need to be modern day Maccabees.
Not with horses and weapons, but with religious pride.
We need to courageously stand up for the God-centered life.
We need to be unabashedly committed to our values for what they are, not what our society might want them to be. It might be daunting. It might seem bleak.
It may seem that all forces are against us, and we doubt our ability to make any significant change. This is when the spiritual message of Hanukkah rings truest: Light always wins over darkness.
When the light of our own faith shines within us, we are automatically transformed into lamplighters illuminating the world with a positive influence around us as well.
Motivator, entertainer, and educator - Rabbi Pinchas Taylor hosts "Taylor Talks," available on YouTube, which provides weekly inspiration as well as promotes universal values and themes. He regularly features celebrity guests, athletes, and other public figures on his show. Rabbi Taylor prides himself on being a problem solver and a member of the American Counseling Association and the Association for Conflict Resolution. His most recent book (2020) A Jewish Guide to the Mysterious details the Jewish view on the paranormal. He is the director of Orthodox adult education and outreach in Plantation, Florida.
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