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Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Rambam defines Chanukah as “y’mai simchah v’hallel,” days of rejoicing and praise of Hashem. That provides a satisfactory response to the question; rejoicing is an essential part of the holiday. If celebrations would be more restrained because of the Arabs’ recent massacre of our people, then we would be giving them unwarranted power over us. They – murderers, thugs, and enemies of all that is just and noble in the world – do not get to control our emotions and certainly not to cast a shadow over our religious lives and experiences.

There is a natural tendency to try to curb our joy because our nation – in Israel and elsewhere – is enduring a difficult period. But we are all familiar with the halacha that the onset of one of the Yamim Tovim cancels the observance of shiva or shloshim, and the mourner is obligated to rejoice on those festivals. The national rejoicing supersedes the mourner’s personal feelings of sorrow. Although Chanukah is not a festival that negates formal mourning, the reasoning is still apposite.

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Chanukah celebrations should never be frivolous, nor should we lose sight of the reason for the celebration: gratitude to Hashem who enabled us to defeat the Syrian army and the Hellenist culture. Imagine how confounded our enemies will be when they witness our celebrations, including the lighting of the menorah in Gaza! Especially in the current context, appropriate joy on Chanukah marked by Hallel, singing, family gatherings, and gifts will lift our spirits and more. It will remind all of us that in our history we have faced even more vicious enemies, more powerful empires, and more depraved cultures. With Hashem’s help, we have prevailed, survived, and prospered. And we will again against this ruthless monster, if we have faith, strength of character, and a steely will – just like our ancestors did, bayamim hahaim bizman hazeh.

– Rav Steven Pruzansky is Israel region Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of six books, including the recent “Road to Redemption,” available at Kodeshpress.com.

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Rabbi Zev Leff

In essence the manner that we relate to tragic events is by empathizing with those who are affected as if it is us who are personally affected. This is called carrying the yoke of others upon ourselves. However, we do not let the negative circumstances prevent us from continuing to fulfill mitzvot and create a future. We do not become mired in the tragedy but utilize it to redouble our efforts to continue on with greater inspiration and zeal.

Hence, totally curtailing Chanukah celebrations is not proper – but conducting them in a way that totally ignores the state of war that is being waged in Gaza and the plight of the soldiers and their families and the tragic plight of those suffering from the October 7th attacks, and especially those whose relatives are in captivity and those who were murdered or wounded and those still recovering from their wounds, would be insensitive and also improper. Hence, a balanced mitzvah oriented celebration would be the proper path to follow.

Rabbi Zev Leff is rav of Moshav Matisyahu and a popular lecturer and educator.

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