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Learning from Chanukah and the Holocaust
By Yehuda Stein
Everyone celebrates Chanukah. It doesn't matter what manner of
religious persuasion you are, everyone lights Chanukah candles.
We Jews all seem to agree that there was a miracle on Chanukah
and that it surrounded the re-dedication of the Temple. We know
that the heroic Maccabean fighters risked their lives to re-instate
the holy service in the Temple in its purity and sanctity. The
driving force behind the Maccabean fighters was to rectify an
intolerable situation, the usage of the Temple as a place of idol
Amongst the many tragedies and calamities that the Jewish people
have suffered, we dedicate a portion of our life to the remembrance
of the Temple. At each wedding, the groom steps on a glass, breaking
it as a remembrance of the destruction of the Temple.
During the year, there are no less than four fast days to recall
the calamities associated with our exile and the destruction of
the Temple. In the religious service that surrounds these fast
days, culminating with Tisha B'Av, we recall the destruction of
the Temple. The slaughter of the many Jewish inhabitants is also
mentioned in the liturgy, but only as a secondary aspect of mourning.
The chief focus is on the Temple, its destruction and our subsequent
We, on the other hand, are descendants of the generation of the
holocaust, the worst tragedy of modern Jewry. We are aware that
the suffering of our people was enormous and without parallel
in modern historical annals. Yet, we are still plagued with the
burning question of "why?".
We can examine the holocaust from two aspects. One is the aspect
of the Jewish suffering and the second is the aspect of the Jewish
national experience. From the side of Jewish suffering, perhaps
nothing we know of can compare to the suffering inflicted on an
innocent people. Each of the six million that perished, suffered
a terrible and unfathomable torture, pain and famine that we,
the succeeding generation, can never fathom. Each individual person's
suffering added together, made up six million Jews who perished
in a manner that only G-d knows why.
From the side of the Jewish nation, the mourning and loss of these
six million however does not compare to the loss of the Temple.
The Temple was for us a revelation of G-d in the world. A Jew
had only to go up to Jerusalem to the Temple and he was spiritually
recharged. The differences that existed during the time of the
Temple were only of how best to fulfill the will of G-d. There
were no doubts as to the existence of G-d.
We, on the other hand, live during another holocaust. This holocaust
is the silent holocaust. It is the one which we are obligated
to prevent with all of our strength. It is the destruction of
the millions of Jewish children who do not receive any form of
Jewish education. It is an accepted fact that the Jewish child
in an environment of gentiles will eventually succumb to inter-marriage,
the silent holocaust.
Jewish education is unfortunately very costly. It requires self-sacrifice
from the parents in terms of money and time. It requires the involvement
of the Jewish communities. Unfortunately the Jewish Federations
that have been established in the majority of cities around the
world do not feel that every Jewish child should be entitled to
a Jewish education (of his or his parents choice). Instead, they
build large headquarters, fund projects that promote themselves
and all because we remain silent on this critical issue.
Chanukah is the time of the re-dedication of the Temple, a re-dedication
of the Jewish spirit, a re-investment of Jewish education. Let
us begin to speak out for Jewish awareness and Jewish education.
Let us not let the silent holocaust cause more losses to the Jewish
nation. It is time that we let our voice be heard, demanding that
those institutions that have the power and influence, use their
moneys to promote Jewish education through out the world.
This is the real triumph of Chanukah, the return to Jewish values
and Jewish education. We must utilize this time to re-establish
Jewish values in our families and children. This will end the
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