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Hanukah 1

Next Sunday evening Jews around the world will light up the first candle of Hanukah.

During the era of the second Temple (2000 - 2400 years ago), neighboring nations showed interest in the Land of Israel. The Land of Israel was a strategic crossroad between Africa, Asia and Europe. Having control over the Land of Israel presented major strategic imperial advantages - economical, military and political.

Quite interesting, in that territory lived a small tribe that hasn't made any effort to become an empire, take over more territory and establish itself as a dominant player in the international community.

On the contrary.

The Jewish people - the People of Israel - who lived in the Land of Israel tried, very much, to remain uninvolved. They felt very comfortable being at the very perimeter of the family of nations. Their religion, life style and rituals made them very different and it seemed they wanted, very much, to be left alone in their country.

The more they wanted to be left alone, the more empires of different eras kept coming back.

The Greeks were no different (roughly 2150 years ago).

The Greeks found the Jewish nation to be very interesting. They saw some strong similarities between the Jews and the Greeks: They both appreciated wisdom and learning.

The Greeks were the first nation to encourage and fund academies that were aimed at 'producing' nothing but concepts and ideas. That approach gave the world some of the greatest minds ever: Plato, Aristotle and their fellow philosophers.

The Greeks found out that the Jewish nation supports learning on a very large scale with no tangible goal. Learning for the sake of learning. They thought that was a good match; bonding with the Jews seemed a natural process. They thought they would gain control over the most strategic territory of the ancient world fast and easy.

They were wrong.

They were shocked to find out that the Jews did not consider them much of a partner. If any - an opposition. The Greeks decided to move in by force. They conquered the land. They established themselves well in the territory. They started turning the Land of Israel into a Greek colony.

They thought, in time, the Jews would adopt the very tempting Greek life style (architecture, beauty, art, sports, leisure time) so the Land of Israel would become part of the Greek empire.

Many Jews did. Some did not.

The small group that rejected the Greek lifestyle was fierce, solid, unwilling to give in.

The Greeks investigated the issue. They found out the Jewish nation was not just learning to sharpen their minds. Their learning was part of a spiritual quest; the Jews were answering to a higher authority.

That was unacceptable. The Greeks considered mankind and the human mind as the superior power of our world. Answering to a higher authority, obeying laws and following spiritual restrictions were against their most fundamental perception and philosophy.

Therefore, they made observing the laws and the restrictions of Judaism illegal. Punishment by death. They wanted the Jewish people to continue learning, exploring, investigating. They appreciated wisdom. They did not want the Jews to connect to the spiritual aspect of their learning, to the daily rituals and commandments.

When that happened, that small group of dedicated Jews decided to fight back. Disconnecting from spirituality, shutting down the activities at the Temple, turning the Temple into a shrine for paganism - that was a line the Greeks shouldn't have crossed.

The war lasted many years.

At a certain point, the Jewish rebels managed to defeat the Greek army, free Jerusalem and re-instate the holly procedures at the Temple.

That is why we celebrate Hanukah.

Though the war did not end yet, though the battles still continued, we celebrate Hanukah.

Though many more would die in the battles, we celebrate Hanukah.

We don't celebrate Hanukah for winning the war.

We celebrate Hanukah for re-gaining our spiritual and cultural freedom.

Considering that, so I believe, Hanukah represents the most universal and fundamental concept of freedom.

How could we NOT celebrate Hanukah?

How could anybody in the world - Jewish or not - not connect with the idea of Hanukah?

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