Calling all Maccabees to dispel hate and spread love – liherald

Posted By on December 20, 2019

By Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum

It has been said that the world is warmer and brighter between December and January than it is between January and December. The reasons are obvious. December is the month of giving and of religious and secular celebrations. For world Jewry, it is the time of the year when we celebrate Hanukkah, our joyous holiday of lights.

In fact, no sooner have we finished eating the Thanksgiving leftovers, on Black Friday, we begin our quest for those perfect gifts for our children and grandchildren. The joy of giving and the reward of seeing happy children as they unwrap their gifts is the essential theme of Hanukkah.

That being said let us not lose sight of the main message of our festival of lights as reflected in the central personalities of the Hanukkah saga, the Maccabees. In addition to transmitting a message of heroism, their valiant war against tyranny, seemingly against insurmountable odds, provides us with direction in addressing the challenges of our day.

The first lesson we learned is resolve and commitment to cause. This is a most important lesson as American Jewry faces an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitism. In New York City, the Anti-Defamation League reported there was a 105 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents this past year and Jews account for 50 percent of all hate crime victims in New York.

Across Nassau County, there has been a tremendous rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents this year over the last, and it seems that a day doesnt go by that the news doesnt report another act of hate. The most heinous and heart wrenching occurred in Jersey City with a murderous attack against the JC Kosher Supermarket. But, let us take heart in knowing that we are not helpless. That the status quo need not be accepted nor a portent for the future.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in partnership with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone spearheaded the establishment of a Long Island task force against hate and anti-Semitism. In conjunction with Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Curran, ordered the intensification of police presence and patrols during this holiday period at religious institutions and places of assembly.

But, let us not only rely upon our elected officials, but take steps on our own to change the present environment. Let us begin by confronting hate with love, despair with hope and prejudice by promoting understanding and respect. Most importantly, we must build bridges of understanding between the diverse members of our community and be champions in the cause of Jewish unity.

The second lesson of the Maccabees to take to heart is keeping faith with ourselves, most especially when we encounter setbacks, obstacles and reverses in life. Remember, the Maccabees, in addition to their victories, had their defeats. Yet, they stayed the course and won the day. The Maccabees teach us the importance of having faith in God and expressing that faith in ones daily life. Their first act after winning the war against Antiochus IV was rededicating the temple and rekindling the menorah, symbolizing hope, life and faith in God as his Eternal People, a light unto the nations of the world.

Therefore, dear friends, this Hanukkah let us find joy in giving and receiving and take to heart the message of the Maccabees of old. May the light of the menorah, which speaks of love, dispel the darkness of hate and may God bless us and all his children with a New Year of health, happiness and peace.

Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum leads Temple Israel of Lawrence.

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Calling all Maccabees to dispel hate and spread love - liherald

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