The Second Candle: Liberating Gender Barriers

There are several Jewish texts that we believe describe the events or time of Hanukkah.  The first are the books of the Maccabees, which tell of the Hasmoneans and Judah the Maccabee.  There is another text that we believe intends to speak to the Hasmonean time, although it is not set in that time period, and that is the book of Judith.  None of these texts have entered the Jewish canon, and so they are not often studied, but they describe interesting gender diversities that challenge our stereotypes.  

Judah the Maccabee was a warrior and Judith was a widow living quietly in her town.  When Judah the Maccabee liberated the Temple, he and his men are described as sweeping it clean, hanging curtains and decorating the rooms.  When Judith’s town is threatened by an enemy and no one will fight them, Judith plans and executes a strategy to behead the enemy general, Holofernes, and gather an army to fight.

Judah and Judith, the same name, the same goal, each crossing gender stereotypes of their time.

Hanukkah teaches us to exceed our perceived limitations to fight evil and achieve our goals.

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