Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, now exhale slowly… That was easy, wasn’t it? Not for everyone…
All across South Florida, the Jewish community is in festive Chanukah mode. There are parties and events scheduled throughout the entire eight days. There are gala concerts, menorah lightings and Chanukah programs and fairs. There are dreidels to spin and latkes to eat and presents to wrap.
During these tough days of economic and political uncertainty, having fun is especially appreciated. It’s easy to get swept up in the happy swirl of activities and really forget the meaning of the holiday. However, the story of Chanukah is one that is of great significance to the Jewish people. It needs to be examined.
The narrative relates the tale of Judah Maccabee and his little band of men who fought the powerful Greek-Syrians (Under King Antiochus) and restored the holy Temple. It is the classic story of good overcoming evil and triumph under adversity. But the saga goes deeper.
Antiochus and his well-trained army were an external danger. The threat was apparent. Dealing with the assimilated Greek Jews was an internal danger and more subtle. It was actually a greater peril to the Jewish nation.
We have seen this scenario throughout the history of the Jewish people. When Jews overly identify with an alien culture, they face the risk of losing their own heritage.
We saw this with the Hellenist Jews who loved and emulated Greek culture. We saw this with the Jews of Persia who partied with Achashveirosh. We saw this with the German Jews who loved their “motherland.” We see this presently in the American-Jewish community, with its staggering 50 percent intermarriage rate.
The Chanukah story is an ongoing challenge to our people. Our greatest problems still seem to come from within.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to Jewish Press Assistant Publisher Naomi Mauer, who last week suffered the loss of her husband, Dr. Ivan Mauer, and her mother, Irene Klass. May Naomi be comforted among the mourners of Zion, and may she know no more sorrow.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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