by Rabbi Jonathan Biatch
During Hanukkah, Jews remember the oppression under which their ancestors of the ancient land of Israel lived, and which they sought to overthrow. In the years around 165 before the Common Era, they were subject to the repressive rule of the Selucid dynasty, which imposed its pagan Greek religion upon the Jews. The Jews’ holy places were demolished, and their religion was ridiculed throughout the society. Hanukkah represents a celebration of the eventual defeat of the Selucids at the hands of the Macabees, a band of Jewish activists who fought for the preservation and purity of their religion.
For the ancient Israelites, this victory represented the triumph of religious freedom. For us, the larger lesson can be seen in the dedication of a people in their struggle, whatever it may be. When a significant goal must be achieved over a long period of time, it is possible to lose sight of the objective, or get lost amid distractions. Some may lose energy, or become discouraged when short-term objectives appear out of reach. Yet when the cause and goal are righteous and honorable; when a group of individuals strive together to achieve a just and noble purpose; when, even through defeats, the group maintains a sense of optimism: These are conditions that will, eventually, lead to success.
As we consider the needs of those in our state who struggle for worker rights and economic justice, we should also bear in mind the example of the Maccabees, which was to struggle even when the odds seem to be against us. The Maccabean army fought for religious freedom against a foe ten times their size. The forces against economic and social justice may seem to be of similar proportions, yet the struggle for doing what is right is just that: right and proper, and supported by people of good faith.