Chanukah is the holiday of Jewish pride

Published by Aish HaTorah

Chanukah is the holiday of Jewish pride; it’s the time when we made a historic commitment not to blend in. Despite the allure of Greek society, despite the capitulation of many of our brothers and sisters, the true heroes were those who stood apart. They were not seduced by the blandishments of the Greeks; they knew they held a precious treasure and it was not to be relinquished…

This Hanukkah lamp, made in Italy in the 19th century, depicts Judith holding a sword in one hand and the severed head of Holofernes in the other.

One of the lesser-known yet not-unsung heroines of the Chanukah story was the widow Yehudis. Perceiving the danger that her people were in – the physical danger of the Assyrians at the door, and the spiritual danger should Jerusalem fall, she devised a plan. Her town was under siege, its inhabitants on the verge of surrender due to lack of water when Yehudis acted. Pious and resourceful, she requested a meeting with the Assyrian General Holofornes.

She recommended herself as his advisor in his campaign to defeat the Jews. Seduced by her intelligence, blinded by her beauty, Holofornes agreed to her plan. She invited him to a luxurious dinner where she served him great quantities of cheese – to promote thirst, and wine – to quench it. Finally he fell into a deep and uncomprehending sleep.

Without wasting a moment, Yehudis grabbed his sword, cut off his head, and returned with it to the anxious, waiting Jews. The severed head was displayed on the walls of the city, terrifying the Assyrian army who panicked and retreated. The Jewish soldiers were victorious and a prayer of thanksgiving was offered up, with gratitude to the Almighty and his righteous agent, Yehudis.

When the chips are down, women have the power to rise above. When our families are threatened, we become mother lionesses, roaring at and attacking our enemies. When our people are at risk, we have the power to save them. If we use it wisely. If we’re focused on the goal.

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