2015-12-09 / Editorial

Chanukah message: Freedom is worth the fight

As the Chanukah story is retold, a wicked ruler in ancient times was determined to force Jews to abandon their ancient traditions in favor of practices drawn from Greek culture. A ragtag rebel force known as the Maccabees defied them, heroically defeating these rulers and restoring traditional rituals in the Jerusalem temple.

We light the Chanukiah, eat latkes and play dreidel games not just for fun but also to remind us that our right to practice Judaism is worth the fight. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, put it this way: “The struggle of the Maccabees was one of the most dramatic clashes of civilizations in human history. The Maccabees overcame one of the most magnificent spiritual, political and military challenges in Jewish history due to the spirit of the people, rather than the failed spirit of the establishment ….”

It is our story, yet a theme that resonates with all people subject to tyrannical rule. The first war in human history fought in the cause of religious freedom, Chanukah long ago became a universal role model of national and religious liberation struggles against all odds, the victory of faith and liberty over cynicism and opportunism, and optimism over pessimism.

The plight of the Maccabees – assimilate or else – is one facing many beleaguered religious minorities in modern times. The Islamic State is far from the only culprit. China forces Christians to worship in secret; North Koreans must venerate their “Great Leader” as a God or be sent to the gulags, and the list goes on.

As Jews, we must advocate for religious freedoms not only for our people; we must support all peace-loving people living under such threats worldwide. Let’s keep the flame of religious freedom burning bright.

May it be a truly happy Chanukah for Jews everywhere! .

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