Chanukah for me has often been a time of missed opportunities — let me explain. Even as a child, while I enjoyed getting presents and lighting the menorah, I realized something was missing. The main message we were taught about this festival was the miraculous nature of the oil lasting eight days instead of one. Even as a youngster, I thought that this miracle was relatively minor when compared to other biblical events such as the creation stories, crossing of the Red Sea and receiving the 10 Commandments.
As an adult who served 20 years in the U.S. military and is a staunch supporter of Israel, I quickly realized that the real Chanukah miracle was that Jewish people of all ages and levels of observance were willing to put their lives at risk to maintain the practice of our faith even when faced with a formidable army. They held onto their principles, fought a war and won.
As we kindle the lights of the menorah, let’s think back to this relatively unknown story of 2300 years ago and reflect on the heroism, the courage and the bravery of mostly unknown men and women who believed so much in their faith that they were willing to put their lives on the line for it.
The knowledge of their sacrifices is something that can empower us as we maintain our faith moving ahead. Happy Chanukah to all.
Rabbi Albert I. Slomovitz, rabbi-at-large, Etz Chaim Congregation; founder, Jewish Christian Discovery Center; professor of American history, Kennesaw State University.