Hanukkah represents a time when everything Jewish was under attack. The people, the religion, the culture, independence, autonomy, monotheism, family, Torah, everything that connected us to anything Jewish was under attack. We often think Hanukkah was a time of warriors and battles with weapons and armies. But the books of the Maccabees also describe the civilian resistance that was waged by the women.
While the men picked up weapons, the women made sure to pass Judaism to their children. Circumcision was punishable by death, as was teaching Torah, Hebrew, keeping Shabbat or eating Kosher. And yet, story after story is recorded of women who never gave an inch. These stories are tremendously heartbreaking and difficult to read but it is clear that these women knew that if the war is won, but Judaism is lost, then nothing has been won.
Jewish law thanks women for their steadfastness, courage and bravery by stating that while the Hanukkah candles are burning, women are to refrain from labour. So every night while those candles burn, the women should gather around the candlelight and share their stories. It happens around sunset – around dinner. For these 8 days, the men of the household are to handle everything while Jewish history honours our women.
Hanukkah is about recognizing the unsung heroes among us.