Chanukah is anything but a child’s holiday. Oh we have made it into a time for children with presents, and dreidles and silly Chanukah songs. But this is a holiday that commemorates the conclusion of a brutal war. The Syrian-Greek army against the priestly family and descendants of Mattethias who defended the rights of the Jews to worship and the ancient Temple from the Hellenizers-those Jews who would assimilate. The irony is that in America where Jews are assimilating into the larger culture (according to the Pew Study) at an alarming rate, Chanukah is widely observed. And yet the message of Chanukah is to resist assimilation to the larger secular and in the Maccabees’ time idolatrous culture.
The true message of the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees was the re-establishment of true Jewish sovereignty. For the first time since the Davidic monarchy Jews ruled over themselves. Chanukah not only commemorates the rededication of the Temple but the defeat of Greek culture and religion and the return of a priestly family to power. The Hasmonean dynasty would barely last 150 years as soon the Hasmonean dynasty made a deal with Rome-the successor to the Greeks!
So on this third night of Chanukah–proclaim your Jewish identity proudly, light your menorah and think about the ideals of Jewish sovereignty as they are played out today in Israel. Ask a lot of questions about the balance of the larger culture with Jewish culture in your own life? How assimilated are you? What does Chanukah ask of your Jewish faith and identity?