"What DO We Learn From Chanukah?"
What better time than the eve of Chanukah to share an important lesson of which Rabbi Louis reminded me in his Shabbos morning speech. While acknowledging that many Jews glory in their ancestors' military victory over the Greeks, that victory, Rabbi Louis argued, is not the central lesson of Chanukah. The Greeks had previously forbidden the study of Torah in pursuit of their objective to starve the Jewish soul of its nourishment which, they thought, would eventuate in the eradication of Judaism from history. Our Sages responded by shifting focus to the Hebrew Prophets, choosing themes that mirrored the weekly Torah readings.Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik pointed out the Greeks forbad Jewish homes from having front doors because they correctly understood the focal point of Jewish life to be the Jewish home. Whether he meant that literally or not, it is clear their intent was to extinguish "the fire" of Judaism where it burned most intensely.
Jews insert an additional prayer, the "Al Ha Nissim" (for the miracles) into their services during the eight days of Chanukah, In defining Chanukah's relationship to Jewish religious belief, the "Al Ha Nissim" praises G-d for His acts of kindness: "YOU delivered the mighty 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 sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah."
The crux of the matter is that the strength needed to achieve victory then as now resides in and emanates from G-d, a cardinal tenet of faith Jews should acknowledge more often. Just as man and woman do not alone create life, neither do they dig the well of their own strength by themselves.
As for the Greeks, they ultimately failed in their objective, as have all of the enemies of the Jewish people, but not before inflicting enormous physical and spiritual damage from which we have only partially recovered. Rather than imitate Greek hedonism, the psalmist advises that we look up and declare: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall my help come? My help cometh from the Lord who made heaven and earth."
Alan D. BuschThe Eve of ChanukahRevised 12/15/11
This article is from my good friend Alan D. Busch, author of "Snapshots of Ben", a beautifully written memoir on the life and death of his beloved son , Benjamin. It's a warm and poignant story that one will not be able to put down, written with heart and courage.