Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah
December 07, 2023
25 Kislev 5784
If you go back to the Book of Maccabees and read their version of story of Hanukkah, there is no mention of a single jug of oil lasting for eight days.Even though it’s become the central part of the story for most of us, the Maccabees themselves didn’t mention it. The story of that miraculous jug of oil is preserved in an obscure rabbinic text called “Megillat Ta’anit,” which lists all the holidays and observances from the Second Temple Period. It is also preserved in the Talmud, which is a slightly later text. Even if the Maccabees wanted to focus on their military accomplishments, others wanted to make sure that the story of the oil was passed down to future generations. So, why do we focus so much on the miracle of the oil? Sure, it makes for a great story. And it also brings God into the story after the Maccabees played the starring role in all the battle scenes. But, I think there’s more to it than that. I think that there are times when we all feel as if we don’t have enough fuel to keep our fire going. We get tired. Instead of seeing all the great possibilities in front of us, we start to despair that we are not good enough to get there, that the challenges are too great. Over the past eight weeks, the Jewish community as a whole has started to feel this way. The terrorist attack on Israel would have been enough to put us in a funk. It was a jarring event for us a people. But then, it was exacerbated by the antisemitic response to that attack. From the very day of the attack, there were those who argued that Israel and Jews deserved it. There were others who suggested that it didn’t really happen, and Israel staged it. There has been an antisemitic onslaught ever since. Israel has been vilified, Jewish businesses have been targets, and Jewish college students don’t feel safe on their campuses. We’re exhausted. We feel like we barely have enough oil to get through this day. So, Hanukkah couldn’t come at a better time, really. The miracle of Hanukkah is not just about a jug of oil. It’s the story of the Jews. Our ancestors could have given up many times throughout the course of Jewish history. But they didn’t. Starting with the Maccabees, who chose to relight that Menorah, the Jewish people have lasted longer than any objective observer could have predicted. We have more “oil” than we think we do. So, as we look at the Hanukkah lights this evening and throughout the rest of Hanukkah, let’s all remember that we must shed light on the darkness of antisemitism. We must respond to the lies and conspiracy theories with facts and truth. And on the days when we feel like we have enough “oil,” we must reach out to others and support them. Because when we stick together and support one another, we discover that, miraculously, our individual jugs of oil last a whole lot longer than we expected. Best wishes for a Happy Hanukkah!Shalom,RAF.