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Chanukah Heroes

Chanukah Heroes

The courage to fight the goblins of our time.

My favorite Chanukah story is Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel.

Actually my favorite Chanukah story is the story of the battle and the miracles of the actual event. Nothing really beats the drama of a small band of Jews standing up against the Greeks and Syrians to fight for their beliefs. It’s a tale that deserves its own Rocky-style triumphant music in the background as we celebrate the victory of the weak over the strong, the few over the many and the faith in God over all. That’s the best story.

But for sheer whimsy and fun, nothing beats Mr. Kimmel’s tale of Hanukkah goblins, probably based on a Yiddish folk tale like all stories of its kind.

It’s a wonderfully imaginative tale of a people too intimidated by the menace of the goblins to light their menorahs and Hershel’s clever triumph and vanquishing of the threat. It’s a clever and subtle way of teaching about the courage to stand up for one’s convictions even in the face of intimidation, even when others aren’t.

And isn’t that the Chanukah story after all? That small band of Jews, those Maccabees, weren’t fight for their lives or their land. They were fighting for their very souls. All Jews praise those fearless Maccabees. All laud their heroic actions. But many have forgotten their battle cry, "Whoever is with God, follow me!”

This was a battle for the individual and collective soul of the Jewish people. The Greeks didn’t threaten our physical existence. They welcomed our participation in their lives and their culture -- as long as we renounced all ties to our faith. And some Jews did, even going so far as to have their circumcisions reversed, obliterating the mark of the covenant. It’s an old story -- assimilation and the desire to belong -- that has played out across the ages.

Only the few have had the courage to say no: No to intermarriage, no to assimilation, no to the constant and unfair attacks on Israel -- no to the “goblins” of our time. And even fewer have had the courage to say yes. Yes to constant and open-handed support of Israel. Yes to learning about our heritage. Yes to involvement in our traditions. Yes to a relationship with God.

Our heroes, the Maccabees, said yes loudly and clearly and were willing to pay with their lives. What do you say?

Yes to involvement in our traditions.

December 12, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) rachel, December 21, 2009 1:05 AM

Read the book,then your article to my 9-yr old

Thanks-never to early to hear these ideas or too old for a reminder!

(2) Anonymous, December 15, 2009 11:01 PM

Scary story that the children love

I have read this story to my Kindergarten through fourth grade students. They all love it.

(1) ruth, December 15, 2009 4:21 PM

I say YES

I say yes to learning about our heritage; Yes to involvement in our traditions, Yes to our relationship with God and YES to the notion that we are all ONE under ONE God, meaning to cherish our Jewish Identity but also to recognize that everyone, Jew and non Jew, has access to God and to a very personal relationship with the Creator of all, and of awe. I think in this time of miracles, the greatest miracle of all, is simply being. And if we are to move forward, that march that is surely a climb for us all, must be to gather on the mountain together, to sing in unison, and to celebrate everyone, the diversity that is so beautiful in all creation. We are flowers. We are rainbows. We are trees and sky. We reach and are "handed" story upon story, in which we climb.

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