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The Truth Of Chanukah

12/09/2021 04:02:47 PM


Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Chanukah’s history is more complicated than the story we teach our children. For instance, the glorious war of the Maccabees was as much a struggle against assimilated Jews as it was against the Seleucid Greek armies. Furthermore, the Maccabees themselves may have been good fighters, but they were deplorable rulers; one of them had hundreds of his Jewish opponents slaughtered. And the final defeat of the Hasmoneans (as the Maccabean government came to be known) was the ignoble result of a conflict between two brothers.

That may all be “true” historically. But it is not the “true” story of Chanukah. Living a religious life – whether one is religiously strict or lenient, progressive or traditional – means dwelling within stories. There is no requirement to believe our stories – whether biblical or midrashic – literally. Even many of our traditional commentators understood that. Rather, we abide within our stories, which are akin to poems. They may not be factually true in every detail, but they still contain important lessons and eternal truths about creation, the formation of a people, living a moral life, and more.

Our job is to discover the important truths within our glorious – and often entertaining – stories. Among Chanukah’s truths are 1) we must fight for and protect religious freedoms; 2) we will encounter darkness in the world;  and 3) we, as Jews, must bring light – bit by bit – to dark places.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach – Happy Festival of Lights!

Rabbi Jeffrey Weill

Tue, April 23 2024 15 Nisan 5784