Just over two thousand years ago, the founders of Western Civilization clashed with the Maccabees in a conflict of ideologies. It was idolatry versus monotheism, hedonism versus discipline, domination versus autonomy. Today, we celebrate the triumph of freedom and conviction. Yet the battle rages on— subtly, fiercely, and shrouded by modern traditions.
Ironically, we have assimilated a holiday born from our ancestors’ resistance to assimilation. These days, it’s not uncommon to string blue and white lights for Hanukkah. I see dreidel-shaped tree ornaments for sale in the windows of Judaica shops. Jewish children in America look forward to Hanukkah presents the way Christian children anticipate Santa. We continuously assimilate the very way we observe this holy day with modern culture. Yes, we survived the Greeks. But will we survive ourselves?
I see the same thing happen within myself. When I act against my convictions, I don’t change who I am— I widen the discrepancy between myself and my behavior. Over and over again, I fight to keep an outside force from doing something to me which I later do to myself. “I’m the only one who can ruin my life,” I tell myself. “Only I can waste my time.” I will avoid spending time with others when I have work to do, and afterward, find myself procrastinating on my own. I let my dedication slack, and it drops me into a pit.
If I see the rope above me, however, I can still climb out. As much as Hanukkah is about resistance, it is also about rededication. After the Maccabees had successfully fought back Syrian oppression, they celebrated with a rededication of the temple. As I fight for the freedom and courage to make my own decisions, I must remember the weight of the responsibility to make a choice. It’s never too late to rededicate myself to the positive principles of my past and the betterment of my own life. Now that I choose what I dedicate myself to, I must choose to be dedicated to myself and live how I feel is right. With discernment and determination, I can reenact the Maccabees’ mighty victory over assimilation.
- Notes on Hanukkah: The Maccabees and Zionism’s ‘invented traditions’ (mondoweiss.net)