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Kfar Maccabiah, December 2014
המרד - חג הנס - חג המכבים
Chanucah is, of all Jewish Festivities, the Maccabi
celebration per excellence.
We remember how bravely Matitiahu HaCohen and his five
sons (Shim'on, Yochanan, Yehudah, Yonathan and El'azar)
fought the Seleucid (Graeco-Syrian) rulers of Eretz
Israel who tried to force their polytheistic Hellenistic
culture upon the Jews. In his fierce fight, Yehudah is
called "Hamaccabi". There are three explanations to the
name that brings so much pride to our Movement:
- Maccabi is an acronym for the
famous verse "Mi Camocha
("Who is equal to Thee among all forces, Oh Lord",
Exodus 15:11). We recognize the Almighty's
protection over us.
- Maccabi also stands for
Matitiahu Cohen Ben Yochanan, the leader of the
revolution against the Seleucids, who inspires us
with his example of struggle against assimilation.
- Maccabi is also makevet,
hammer: Yehuda was known for his way to smite his
enemies as with a mighty hammer. The spirit of
resistance and self-confidence that was
indispensable in the creation of the State of Israel
is based in this ideal.
According to these interpretations of the Maccabi name,
we can understand the multiple meanings this festivity
has for the Jewish People and, in particular, for the
members of our Movement. In Chanucah, the Maccabi
Festivity, we can relate to four different and
transcendent miracles that forever affect our destiny as
- The miracle of the light: no
doubt, this is the best known miracle of all four.
When Yehuda haMaccabee liberated the Beit Hamikdash
(the Holy Temple), he found that everything in it
was defiled, except for a small olive oil vessel for
the Temple's Menorah - which was sealed by the High
Priest. Although the amount of oil it contained was
only enough to last for one day, it miraculously
lasted for eight days - the exact time needed to
prepare new oil to keep the Temple Menorah lit. The
Almighty brought His light to His House and to the
House and hearts of the Children of Israel
(Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b).
- The miracle of the military victory:
we read in our Siddurim (our prayer books): "You
(G-d) delivered the strong (the Greeks) into the
hands of the weak (the Jews), the many into the
hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the
pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous..."
The military victory was a miracle felt by every
member of the Jewish People at that time, and
resembles some of the victories the small and young
State of Israel has achieved over those who attack
- The miracle of the Jewish identity:
in a shorter period of time, all other peoples who
were conquered by the Hellenists lost their own
culture and accepted the conquerors'. The Jewish
people, though quite temped by the hedonism of the
Greeks, stayed faithful to their -our!!!- own
heritage, defending it and deepening their
commitment to the civilization they created.
- The miracle of faith: to
dedicate the purified Temple (chanucat hamizbeach,
as described in the Book of Hasmoneans 1:4), the
Jews had to kindle the menorah. The undefiled oil
found was enough, as said above, for only one day.
They needed eight more days to produce the new oil.
It was not logical to kindle the menorah for a day,
and to wait for seven more days to kindle it again.
The reasonable thing was to wait for a week, then
use the oil found, and add to that the new oil
produced during that period. The Jews of that time,
however, believed that if the Almighty helped them
so much to win an otherwise impossible victory in
war, then He would keep the oil burning until they
could produce the new oil. It was the miracle of
faith - their faith in transcendence, hope and
May the light of these miracles bless us all in these
days, so full of darkness, hatred and violence. May we
keep that light burning in our hearts and souls,
renewing our commitment to our Jewish heritage. May we
deserve to be called Maccabim like those who brought so
much pride, strength and resolution to our People.
May this CHAG HA'URIM, the Festival of Lights
carry the Torch of the Maccabees
to illuminate our continuing commitment to the
Maccabi ideals which guide our Present and Future.
RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO
Deputy Director-General &
Director of Education
Festivity of Succot, we are ordered to dwell in
booths - the very fragile succot - for seven days -
Vaikrah (Leviticus) XXIII, 42. Moreover, we are
supposed to consider the succah as our fixed
dwelling for those days - Babylonian Talmud, Succot
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