“The sins of Israel in the time of the Greeks were: Fraternising with the Greeks, studying their culture, profaning Shabbes and Holy Days, eating treif and neglecting Jewish tahara.”
– Hayom Yom, Kislev 29
When we read about the Chanukah miracle, we usually imagine violent wars and huge battles between the Greeks and the Jews. But in fact, the warfare conducted by the Greeks was much more dangerous than any sort of physical battle. It was spiritual warfare, designed to target the Jewish people’s weak spot, and convince them that they, too, could behave like the Greeks. It almost worked: we learn from the Hayom Yom that the Jewish people fraternised with the Greeks and were punished severely as a result. It was only through a great miracle that the Temple was restored and the oil burned for eight days, leaving us with the beautiful and inspiring story we repeat each Chanukah.
And yet, those of us who know and love this story quite often find ourselves falling into the behaviour patterns criticised by the Hayom Yom. We assimilate. We hide our observance. We feel ashamed to be Jewish or frum. I know all too well how easy it is to start doing this. In today’s world, frumkeit is portrayed as something outdated, or bigoted, or just plain uncool. We are told that we need to put our Jewish faith aside, or we are convinced that we can combine it with other sets of values, and other religious celebrations.
Simply put, we can’t. The Torah was given to us as a set of rules to live by for all our generations. And as we recount the Chanukah miracle this year, let’s remember how and why it happened, and strengthen our Yiddishkeit in response to the spiritual attacks we face every day.