In the second century CE, a group of Jewish warriors, known as the Maccabees, came together to reject assimilation and rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem. After the Maccabees’ success, they lit the menorah that once sat in the Temple, and a great miracle happened there; the oil lasted for eight nights, rather than one.
Each year, Jews gather around their Hanukiah for eight nights to recognize the miracle our ancestors experienced so many years ago. Each night, a new flame is lit. Hanukkah represents the light of Judaism, for each night the light grows brighter, lighting up the home in the memory of miracles. This too, illuminates the outside world. There is often hope of someone catching a glimpse of the lit candlesticks from the outside, telling the world that a Jew lives here, proudly.
Yet, the greatest miracle of all may not be the oil lasting for eight nights rather than one. Instead, the miracle lies in Judaism existing today. Where, after centuries of expulsion and execution, the flame of Judaism is still burning bright.
In the new age of social media, we are often inundated with hate speech and false claims about Judaism and the Jewish people’s homeland. While it has led to exhaustion and oftentimes frustration, it has also introduced us to a new generation of Maccabees.
These modern-day Maccabees have placed themselves at the head of the table, speaking for the Jewish community at large by demanding better, more expansive representation across media and politics, while advocating for the rights of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland and the diaspora alike. Fighting hate online has led many of us to people that were previously unknown, allowing friendships to blossom and grow across boundaries. While we have our differences, we have been able to bond with one another over our shared love of community and culture. In doing so, we have recognized the lasting impact the Maccabees have had in their fight for freedom.
The story of the Maccabees is one of inspiration, where a small group of Jews chose to take back their agency. It is a reminder that today, we are lighting the path for the future of Judaism. And as the Hanukiah grows brighter each night, so too do we.