Chanukah demands that we remember the valiant and courageous action of Mattathias and his sons. King Antiochus sent his representatives to Modin (seven miles from Jerusalem) and insisted that this priestly family fulfill the king’s command to forsake the Jewish law and covenant, profane the Sabbath and bow down to an idol placed in the Holy Temple.
The book of I Maccabees describes the choice which Mattathias and his sons were forced to make: Either do as the king decreed and thereby be assured of favoritism as among the king’s special friends, or suffer misery and horrible death.
Each year, as we kindle the lights on our Chanukah menorah we recall the heroic response to this demand, which was proclaimed by Mattathias:
Though all the nations that are
Under the kings dominion obey him
And fall away each one from the
Religion of his fathers, yet will
I and my sons and my brethren
Walk in the covenant of our fathers.
Today, in this dark period of rampant racism, sexism, prejudice, and the rise of brazen bigotry, when honest people are cowed into a submissive silence which is so out of keeping with true and historic American patriotism, I for one hunger for red-blooded, modern day Maccabees to stand up and once again proclaim:
Let us ever kindle the sacred lamp
so that those who walk in darkness
will once again see a great light!
My sincerest love and best wishes to each and every one of you for a blessed and joyous Chanukah season!
Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn