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Hanukkah: A Festival of Lights in a Time of Deep Darkness

Hanukkah: A Festival of Lights in a Time of Deep Darkness

From Antiochus to Auschwitz, from Hitler to Hamas, the deep and deadly darkness falls upon the Jewish people. Yet the light glows on, as it will tonight.

For it is Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights that recalls the miracle of the lamps that burned for eight days when there was not enough consecrated oil for them to do so — a legend from the days when the Maccabees took back Jerusalem from the Seleucid King Antiochus IV back in 164 B.C.Days long gone, and yet perhaps not, when Jewish people had to fight for whatever they wished to hold of this Earth. For generations, ritual and remembrance have brought families together to celebrate their heritage and thank God for their blessings.

This year, Hanukkah comes on the day a few — a very few — recall the horror of Pearl Harbor, as if to remind us that the war between good and evil that roiled the world in World War II will never end.

For this year, claws of anti-Semitism have gouged an indelible mark of death the world has not seen since the days of Hanukkah 1945 when emaciated skeletal survivors with camp tattoos stark against the pallor of their skin gathered with other survivors of the Holocaust to hope that never again would being Jewish carry a death sentence; that some place would be safe.

Amid hate running wild, as families gather to recite ancient blessings, some will be missing.

Noya Dan was 12. She pictured herself looking like Harry Potter, battled whatever prejudice goes along with the word autism, and lived a life of promise until Hamas came to her kibbutz to kill. They found her days after the massacres, along with her grandmother Carmela, who was 80, according to the Times of Israel.

Noya left behind a voice message. Last words.

“Mom, there was a big boom at the door that scared me. All the windows in Grandma’s house were broken at the entrance. Because there was another boom, there are many broken windows. Mommy… I’m scared,” she said.

No more. The end.

Aner Shapira, 22, had been at the Tribe of Nova music festival. As Hamas came to kill, the off-duty soldier hurled back grenades to protect those who took refuge in a shelter because, to Hamas, more than 250 dead innocents were not enough.

WARNING: The following video contains graphic violence that some viewers may find disturbing.

“He stood at the entrance and threw the grenades out and he managed to save so many people,” his mother said, recalling the incident documented by video. Roughly 30 people survived. Shapira left behind a tradition of heroism.

Paul Kessler, 69, a Jewish man from LA went out one day to wave an Israeli flag as a dutiful piece of loyalty. He was killed. His head hit the pavement after he was struck by a counter-protester.  Gone. For being who he was.

And yet, amid death, even during the despair of the Holocaust, the light cannot be extinguished by evil.

In Theresienstadt, where Czech Jews were warehoused in 1942 before going to death camps, a Jewish inmate managed to steal a block of wood, according to History.com. In secret, day after painstaking day, the wood was carved into a menorah, then endures long after its makers as a testament to the power of faith.

At Bergen-Belsen, the camp where Anne Frank would die, the time leading up to Hanukkah, was picked for a massacre, as recounted on Chabad.org, A wooden clog, strings and shoe polish were such as could be found for a menorah.

The Rabbi of Bluzhov was asked how he could give one part of the blessing that offered thanks.

“I noticed that behind me a throng was standing, a large crowd of living Jews, their faces expressing faith, devotion, and concentration as they were listening to the rite of the kindling of the Hanukkah lights. I said to myself, if God, blessed be He, has such a nation that at times like these, when during the lighting of the Hanukkah lights they see in front of them the heaps of bodies of their beloved fathers, brothers, and sons, and death is looking from every corner, if despite all that, they stand in throngs and with devotion listening to the Hanukkah blessing ‘Who wroughtest miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season’; if, indeed, I was blessed to see such a people with so much faith and fervor, then I am under a special obligation to recite the third blessing,” he said.

We can say the Holocaust is a memory, but when thousands jam cities and the halls where intellectual elites stoke flames of anti-Semitism, the hate that fuels it is alive and slithering through our world ready to consume all in its path.

And so in a world where, once again, anti-Semitic mobs curse Jewish people for existing, where a new generation of terrorists murder Jews in their own homes, Hanukkah emerges not only as a part of tradition but as an affirmation of resistance.

In the end, it is not a day about policies or politics or the rest of this world’s dross. And one need not be steeped in Jewish traditions to fully understand the meaning of this day, because it is said in the Gospel of John, in the new living translation: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

To the Jewish people, and to all who search for what is right in a dark world growing colder by the day, let faith in Jehovah Himself shine, and its light will not be extinguished.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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