June 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chanukah is a minor holiday in our calendar that has been commercially transformed into a major one by Hallmark and Mattel toys over the years. Nevertheless, although Chanukah is a minor holiday like Purim, it has a very important lesson for us – particularly as Jews in America today.

Historically, many attempts have been made to physically annihilate the Jewish people, most notably that of the Nazis in the 1940s and that of Haman in Persia some two thousand plus years ago. All those attempts, thank God, have failed.

The Chanukah story takes place in Israel approximately 2,000 years ago. The Syrian-Greeks controlled that region of the world at the time. They were not interested in annihilating the Jews (as Haman and Hitler were) but rather causing them to totally assimilate and leave the Jewish faith. From the perspective of Jewish identity, this threat posed an existential danger to Jewish continuity. For if we do not survive as Jews, then the ethical values Judaism represents may well fade into oblivion.

The faithful Jews of that era fought valiantly to survive and drove the Syrian Greeks out of the Temple. They then rededicated the Temple, found a small amount of sanctified oil for the holy Menorah that miraculously lasted eight days, and therefore we have the festival of Chanukah. Chanukah is a fitting name for the holiday because the word means “rededication,” and the Temple was rededicated at that time.

The threat we face today is different since it comes from within rather than from an external source, and that is the threat of self-destruction. The assimilation rate in America alone is frightening. We are clearly threatening to destroy ourselves by diminishing our numbers. Therefore, let us use this Chanukah season not only to sing songs, eat latkes and light the menorah, but to rededicate ourselves to the real message of Chanukah—the survival of the spiritual aspect of the Jewish faith.

Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg
Edison

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