Beautiful Spiritual Art by Michelle Katz

This week’s music – Hand in Hand

Over the years there has been a tendency to categorize our Jewish identity based on community. Most of us grew up thinking that Judaism or being Jewish was simply a religion. I identify with Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Jewish Community Center, non-denominational, etc and that in a nutshell is my Jewish identity.

The “Chashmonaim”, a.k.a. The Maccabees illustrated to us that there is much more to Jewish identity than religion only.

Matityahu called out to an entire nation, “Mi La’Hashem eylai,” whoever is with God is with me. I am ready to go to battle, but only in the name of God and with the belief and security that Hashem is on our side, wanting us to defend our people now. Already he was fusing the idea of religious Jewish identity and national Jewish identity. Of course, we all now that the main characters in the battle field were none other than Matityahu’s sons. His family represented the Jewish family. Thus The “Chashmonaim” represented, through their beliefs and actions, the family of Jews, the nation of Israel and the religion of Judaism.

We can draw similar parallels to our founding fathers and mothers of Israel. “B’nai Yisrael” was built on the family of Yaakov/Yisrael’s 12 tribes. This family was the beginning of our nation of Israel, “B’nai Yisrael,” who were walking in the footsteps of their grandfather Avraham Avinu, the founder of monotheism in the world. Certainly the Torah introduces us to the concept of prayer to God through each of our fathers and mothers, but it also teaches us dear lesson on the importance of maintaining a wholesome and united Jewish family.

What’s happening with us today? We certainly have displayed an emphasis on the Jewish religion, which for some of our brothers and sisters is frankly a bit too much. My way or the highway. You are not Jewish if you don’t conform to my understanding of the Torah, if you don’t accept my viewpoint you are a racist! Need I go on? It is all off. Being a “religious” Jew means you adhere to your belief, displayed proudly in everything that you do and hope that the beautiful light you are displaying will be attractive to the whole world.

As the nation of Israel, perhaps our modern day “Chashmonaim” are our Israeli army, whose lives are on the line every day dedicated to protecting us in every way that they can, while simultaneously being taught by their superiors that our victories are simply miraculous. Yes, the Israeli army teaches our soldiers about the miracles of war. And no, none of us really know what they are experiencing, but we know for sure that they are tremendously dedicated to their nation of Israel. Last night we had the honor of receiving 40 soldiers in our home to light the Chanukah candles, sing and dance, share words of Torah and perhaps most important, giving them an opportunity to know who we are and that we regard their commitment a second to none for the entire Jewish people.

Then we come to family, perhaps the most forgotten part of our Jewish identity. No matter what your religious, sociological or political views are, no matter how much we disagree, we are all still brothers and sisters and are obligated to find a way to make it work, in spite of all of our differences. We need to teach this to our children as a pillar to the future of our existence.

Wherever my personal Jewish identity most strongly stands it does not supersede the absolute fact that all there of these areas, religion. Nation and family are integral undeniable parts of who we have been, are and will continue to be.

May Hashem bless us all to take the example of Matityhau and his sons and find the way to incorporate all of these three life aspects into our personal, communal and national Jewish identity. In this way we can all be fulfilling the aspect of Chanukah which is most important, “pirsumei nisa,” publicizing the miracles that take place and reign upon us every day. Tell them to each other, solidify them within ourselves and share the light with the world.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach
Yehudah