Chanukah is all about faith. When the Greek Seleucids first desecrated the Temple, someone had faith that one day it would be rededicated and hid a small jar of oil. The Maccabees had faith that if they fought, they could defeat tyranny. When they won, they had faith that if they lit the menorah, it would work out, even though there wasn’t enough oil. These may all seem like small acts or miracles compared to others that we read about. But there is nothing small about Chanukah.
Overcoming despair can seem to be as big a miracle as anything. If the Maccabees had given into despair, no one would blame them. Yet we are still celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and faith over despair.
Since the massacre of October 7th, with all the horrors then and since, one thing that we can’t let be destroyed is our faith in a better future. Since its founding, Israel has often had to fight to defend itself. It can be easy to give into despair that terrorism and war are the norm – that peace is nothing more than a pause between wars or that working towards long-term peace is a fool’s errand. Being a faithful Jew, though, is not to give in to that despair. Israel can’t make peace by itself – Israel has tried hard to achieve peace many times. Yet, we can’t give up our faith in the future or stop trying to achieve it. Israel has achieved peace with Egypt, Jordan, and more recently, with others through the Abraham Accords. One day, perhaps, there will be both security for Israel and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. When that day comes, it’ll seem miraculous – but on Chanukah, we know we’ve seen the miraculous before.”
Rabbi Holtz is the senior rabbi of Temple Kehillat Chaim in Roswell, Ga.