Chanukah: Integrity, Courage and Bravery
Long before anyone ever heard about the feminist movement, there were strong, courageous and determined women who did what they had to do regardless of how they were viewed in terms of their gender.
In the story of Chanukah we find one such woman. Her name is Yehudit (in English Judith) and without her fearless actions, the story of Chanukah would have unfolded in a very different way.
What was Chanukah all about? What did the Greeks want from Jews?
They were not out to annihilate the Jewish people or to enslave us or drive us from our land. The Greeks were at war not with our physical existence, but with our souls. Their aim was to strip our way of life of its spirituality, of its holiness. It was acceptable, in the eyes of the Hellenists, for Jews to identify as Jews, and even to study Torah and do mitzvas, provided that we were willing to forsake the G-dliness of Torah.
In other words, as long as we did ‘Jewish’ things and did not connect it to the Torah, the Greeks were willing to go along. As soon as G-d was brought into the picture, the Greeks put a stop to whatever we were doing.
In a small village called Bethulia, the people refused to give up the Torah. In response, the Greeks laid siege to the village, until its residents were weak from lack of food and water. The village leaders, seeing no escape, decided to submit to the Greek demands.
Yehudit, who lived in Bethulia, realized that everyone was going to starve to death as a result of the Greek general Holofernes cutting off all food and water. After a town meeting, the people overruled their leaders and decided they would rather die of starvation than give into the enemy. It was then that Yehudit put forth her plan.
Yehudit’s plan was to befriend the general and then, after a short time, gain access to his tent. Part one worked perfectly.
Once in the general’s tent, she plied him with salty cheese and glass after glass of wine. He became intoxicated and fell into a deep sleep. At that moment Yehudit prayed to G-d that what she was about to do would save her people and she slew him. In the morning, when the Greek army saw that their general had been killed, they fled in terror, allowing the meager Jewish army of the Maccabees to win the battle.
It was the bravery, intelligence and determination of Yehudit that saved her people…long before the feminist movement and a couple of thousand years before women could even vote.
In Judaism, the Torah and events such as Chanukah or Passover are not merely viewed as historical stories. Torah is eternal and therefore all of the stories and events are to be taken as a lesson for our lives today.
Yehudit: Integrity, Courage and Bravery
Women do not have to be ‘feminists’ to be heroes. They quietly and with little or no fanfare make the lives of those they meet just a little bit better.
Women who are bringing up the next generation of Jews with morals, decent values and a strong home foundation are heroes. Quietly, with courage, bravery and integrity, they teach their children and those in their orb the depth and truth of what it means to be a Jew.
Yehudit is still a role model in our times. Her confidence and resolute determination to fight for what she believed in, despite what appeared to be overwhelming odds, is what women must emulate in our day-to-day lives.
The wisdom of the woman is the ability to step back and see the entire picture – the past, the present and, most importantly, the future. In fact, it is not a mystery at all. It is, as the lights of Chanukah, out in the open for all to see.
May the lights of the Chanukah menorahs, lit around the world, illuminate this wisdom for all too see and bring, at long last, peace in the world. Forever.