During the period of the Second Temple, under the reign of Syrian-Greek leader Antiochus IV, the Jewish people faced a severe test of faith. Antiochus IV, with his zealous drive for Hellenization, imposed prohibitions on Jewish religious practices and desecrated the sacred Temple in Jerusalem, even erecting a statue of Zeus Olympus in the Temple itself. This was not merely a political crisis; it was a spiritual assault on the very soul of Judaism.
Rising against this tyranny, the Maccabees, a small band of faithful Jews, took a stand. Their battle was not just against the might of a great empire; it was a fight for the spirit of Judaism, a struggle to preserve our way of worship, our traditions, and our identity. Miraculously, against the odds, they emerged victorious. They reclaimed Jerusalem, purified the Temple, and relit the Menorah (candelabrum) with a single cruse of oil, which, defying all logic, burned for eight days. This was not a mere military triumph; it was a divine affirmation of faith and resilience.
The story of the Maccabees resonates deeply with us today. We are reminded by the prophet Zechariah, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). The Maccabees, though lacking in physical might compared to their Syrian-Greek opponents, were imbued with profound spiritual strength and dedication to their faith. They teach us that the spirit of the Jewish people, powered by faith in God and commitment to our heritage, can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Today, we, the Jewish people, continue to face battles on multiple fronts. In Israel, we are engaged in a physical battle against Hamas and continue to face physical threats from those who want to see us wiped off the map. Beyond our borders, we engage in a different kind of warfare: an advocacy battle against the resurgence of antisemitism worldwide. As hatred and misinformation spread, it becomes our sacred duty to stand up for the truth and to uphold the values of goodness and morality that are the foundations of our faith.
We are few, but we are strong in our faith and our conviction. Like the Maccabees, we will prevail. We will fight for peace, for righteousness, and for the preservation of our people. We stand firm in the belief that, with God’s help, the light of truth and justice will illuminate the darkness, guiding us toward a future of peace and understanding. As we say in Hebrew, b’shaym Hashem na’aseh v’natzliach (בשם ה’ נעשה ונצליח) “in the name of God we will do and we will succeed.”