To most Jews today Chanukah is the festival of lights, as we light the Chanukah Menorah for 8 days. In addition, we eat pan fried latkes (potato pancakes, deep fried soufganiyot (Israeli Jelly rolls), and give children Chanukah Gelt (money).
The more observant Jews say the ‘Al HaNissim’ supplication prayer. This is of course, much more relevant to the real Chanukah than just celebrating the holiday without knowing its relevance to the past, present and future of the Jewish People. In Al HaNissim we thank G-d for the miracles of Chanukah. Most modern Jewish ‘experts’ like to emphasize that the fact that a 1 day’s supply of olive oil in the Holy Temple lasted 8 days was a great miracle, and indeed, it was an unpredictable result.
However, one simply has to read ‘Al HaNissim’ to understand that some things much greater took place:
Relatively few Jews rebelled against the Greeks who were forcing their anti-Jewish culture onto the Jewish population. They bribed ‘Jewish leaders’ into making many concessions which would have destroyed all presence of Judaism in Eretz Yisrael.
We acknowledge that G-d “delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of Your Torah.”
What would the Las Vegas odds be before Matityahu the Cohen rose up both against the Greeks and the Hellenized Jewish leadership? What chance did he and his sons led by Judah the Maccabee have against the vaunted Greek army? Slim and none. The Hashmonites knew that they were a minority within a minority, yet with deep faith they hurled themselves against the mighty oppressor and great miracles occurred. The Maccabees were stubborn Jews.
Throughout Jewish history, there are many cases of stubborn Jews who bucked the system, who went against the masses. Here are a few examples:
-Abraham our father, stood on 1 side, with G-d, while everyone stood on the other side. Yet, he was right and stood for what he believed in, no matter what the consequences. Abraham was a stubborn Jew.
-Moses repeatedly went against much of the Jewish leadership and took on Pharaoh in order to free our People from slavery. Moses was a stubborn Jew.
-Little David the shepherd boy stood up against the giant Philistine Goliath, who was humiliating the Jews. David declared that G-d would deliver Goliath into his hands and down went Goliath! Then that stubborn little Jew, David, took his sword and cut the Jew hater’s head off in front of the Jews on one side and the now cowering Philistines on the other. By removing Goliath’s head, David removed the humiliation against Israel.
-Samson the brave, earned his title. He was never popular. It is doubtful that he could beat most of today’s polished politicians in an election. Yet we remember Samson. We remember him fighting the Philistines to save the Jewish People. We remember, Samson, tied to the pillars of a building, blinded and sure to die shortly, talking to G-d and pleading. Pleading for a return of his eyesight? Hardly. Pleading for his personal freedom? No. Pleading for the Nation of Israel. That’s right. Samson had but one wish: To do great harm to the oppressors of Israel. Nothing more. Nothing less. Samson didn’t worry what the media would say. He certainly didn’t care about political ‘considerations’. Samson knew the right thing was to take revenge against those that wantonly murder Jews in Eretz Yisrael, and so, G-d granted Samson his wish and he died gloriously at the bottom of the heap as he brought down the house containing so many important enemies of Israel.
In modern times we have seen the resurgence of some stubborn Jews:
-The early pioneers, Halutzim, who came from Europe to drain swamps and make deserts bloom in Eretz Yisrael when there was no running water, electricity, medical care, sufficient food supply, etc. Yet they persevered.
-While millions went to their deaths through disease, starvation, beatings, rapes, burnings, shootings, gassings, and bombings during the holocaust, there were some stubborn Jews. Many joined the Partisans and fought the Nazis in and out of the forests. With nothing to lose in 1943 and the vast majority of Warsaw’s Jews already dead there arose a rebellion, appropriately called the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. A few very undertrained, under manned and under armed Jews decided to kill as many Nazi murderers of Jews as possible. Better to die with honor was their motto. Yet something else began to stir.
News spread about one victorious day against the Nazis in Warsaw, where the Betar division of the Ghetto fighters, followers of the recently deceased fearless, intellectual leader, Zev Jabotinsky, hoisted the flag of Israel on top of a building in the middle of the Warsaw Ghetto in front of the wicked Nazis, and the Poles who watched in bewilderment from outside of the Ghetto in Warsaw. These were stubborn Jews, most perished in the fighting, but they left behind a legacy of Jewish heroism. The few against the many.
This gave new hope to the fighters of the Irgun, the Lehi, and the Hagannah. These Jewish fighters for a Jewish State eventually succeeded over the local hateful Arabs and the British oppressors. The State of Israel was born. It wasn’t born because of the United Nations. It certainly wasn’t born because of the United States. It wasn’t born because the majority of Jews sacrificed so much before the State was declared in 1948. It was born because small groups of stubborn Jews had enough of crusades, pogroms, and holocausts. They had enough of memorials. They decided that being dead and loved was much worse than being alive and respected.
Now we are living in Israel. In some ways we see a rapidly developing country, a leader in bio tech, high tech, military etc. On the other side, we have very weak and faithless leaders, constantly making concessions to our enemies and supposed friends. Yet, in the land of Israel there are pockets of Stubborn Jews. Jews who live on hill tops with the barest of necessities to settle and secure Jewish sovereignty in Judea/Samaria. Jews in the Negev who set up farms in the middle of nowhere and have to combat constant harassment from local Bedouins. Farmers in the north, the Galilee who are extorted, robbed, etc, from local Arab gangs, yet persist in working the land and producing some of the world’s greatest produce. There are special anti-terror units who risk their lives daily just to prevent another atrocity in one of Israel’s big cities. These are some of today’s stubborn Jews.
Hanukah Oil Menorah
In a few days we will light our Chanukah Menorah in our home in Israel. I could live in a bigger more comfortable home in Canada or the United States for the same money, but I won’t.
Our Menorah will be lit by fire burning from olive oil as in the days of old. Not just any olive oil. This is extra virgin olive oil from olive growth in olive groves in the Galilee, planted and cared for by Jewish workers and volunteers. This is oil pressed in a Jewish olive press. We don’t just have to guard against theft from the local Arab thieves to be able to produce and sell some oil. We need to pay more for the land than we would if the government would allow more land privatization. Our water costs are much higher than almost any other Western country, not only because water is more scarce here, but because the government gives much of our water to Jordan! Producing this oil by Jewish hands on Jewish land while observing Jewish law is certainly not the ideal business plan when seeking to maximize profits. Yet, we will persist and we will plant more trees and keep producing more of this oil. Why? I guess, we too are Stubborn Jews. Happy Chanukah!
*In honor of the Jewish heroes known and unknown, and the Righteous Gentiles such as Raul Wallenberg and others, who with nothing to gain, risked and often lost their lives to do what was right.