A new survey found that 74% of Israelis light candles every evening. This is an amazing piece of data. Let’s look at the world honestly. There is no Antiochus persecuting us and forbiding us to live as Jews. How do we preserve the fire of the Maccabbees, the enthusiasm, when nothing is “forbidden” and everything is “allowed”, when there is no bad guy who runs after us, and when the environment gives us the message of “Bro, do whatever you feel like, it doesn’t matter.”? The stories about our forefathers who hid, who were persecuted and tortured during the Hanukkah story and in every generation – they are moving and important, but what about us? It is easy to preserve your identity when you are in an obvious war of the good guys against the bad guys. In an open, liberal world, everything is more confusing and complex. The challenge to form a stronger identity, one that has purpose and meaning, becomes critical and essential.
Today, when we hear of zealotry or self-sacrifice, we mostly think about Bin-Laden or Nasrallah, about an ideology that sanctifies death. But how does one sanctify life? How can Judaism light a positive fire, a fire of goodness, of kindness, of light? Every year anew, during Hanukkah, we find out that there is a large majority who are interested in continuing the story of this holiday, from generation to generation. We want to preserve the values of our forefathers, the Hasmoneans, even in a world in which there is no Antiochus – not because we hide from evil decrees, but out of joy, good will, and love. And this, too, is a kind of heroism in our days. Happy Hanukkah