Chanuka, 5716 (1955)
Chanuka recalls the rededication of the Holy Temple which had been defiled by the heathen rulers of the Holy Land and their assimilationist collaborators.
The miracle of Chanuka was brought about by the self-sacrificing resistance begun by the Hasmoneans despite the overwhelming odds against them.
In applying the lessons of Chanuka to today, insofar as the daily life of the Jewish individual and community is concerned -- and this, after all, is the purpose of all of our festivals -- several aspects are especially noteworthy.
Firstly, that even so holy a place as the Holy Temple can be defiled under certain circumstances, though outwardly remaining intact.
Secondly, that in such a case, as the events of Chanuka clearly emphasize, cleansing and rededication of the Sanctuary can only be attained through mesirat nefesh, that is, a self-sacrificing determination to resist the forces of darkness without entering into any calculations whatsoever as to what the odds are in the struggle.
For, since there can be no compromise with an enemy bent on defiling that which is most sacred in Jewish life, the only Jewish answer can be "unconditional resistance," leaving the final outcome to the Divine Will.
Where such an attitude of mesirat nefesh exists, the outcome cannot really be in doubt, for such is the perennial lesson of Jewish history.
Furthermore, as is always the case in Jewish life, material welfare is likened to the spiritual.
Thus in the case of Chanuka, too, although the persecution started in those days with an effort "to make them forget your Torah and transgress Your statutes," it was followed by a policy of robbing the Jews also of their material wealth, and of their children.
However, when under the leadership of the handful of Hasmoneans the Jews resisted assimilation with steadfast faith, the Almighty helped them to completely vanquish the enemy, thus saving not only their souls, but also their wealth and their children.
Nowadays, as often before, Jews who want to remain loyal to the heritage of their fathers find themselves outnumbered and endangered by the forces of darkness that threaten to engulf the world, and the Jewish world in particular.
The Jewish home, yeshiva and synagogue are the Sanctuaries of G-d which are not immune from defilement, G-d forbid; it still requires the same kind of Hasmonean determination to preserve their purity and holiness.
But although the odds may seem overwhelming, the reward is more than commensurate, for with G-d's help, the outcome is certain to be miraculous and the victory complete, spiritually as well as materially, as in those days at this season.
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(Excerpts from “Sichos in English”, reprinted with the kind permission of www.sichosinenglish.org)