SINAI TODAY:Hanukka and the eternal Jewish connection to the land

It is a simple fact that there has never been a people more devoted to a city than the Jewish people are devoted to Jerusalem.

December 14, 2017 20:15
3 minute read.
SINAI TODAY:Hanukka and the eternal Jewish connection to the land

AN ANCIENT oil lamp unearthed at a site dating back 1,500 years and frequented by travelers between Jerusalem and the Coastal Plain, was exposed, near Beit Nekofa, west of Jerusalem, in 2015. . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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We are in the midst of Hanukka, a time when we celebrate truth about who we are and where we come from. The events which Hanukka commemorate took place more than 2,000 years ago, when the Seleucid Greek empire invaded the Land of Israel and conquered Jerusalem.

They brought their idols into the Temple and sought to impose their value system on our ancestors. When the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem, one of the first things they did was to rekindle the candelabrum, the menorah. Its light represented the restoration not only of Jewish sovereignty, but Jewish values. Every year, for more than 2,000 years, we light a menorah in our homes on Hanukka to remind us of our Torah values and of the power of Jewish destiny. It reminds us of the light of Judaism and the privilege we have to be part of such a compelling heritage.

The events of Hanukka remind us that Jews have been in Jerusalem for thousands of years and of the eternal Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. It is significant that the symbol of the modern State of Israel is the menorah, for today’s Jewish state is a successor and inheritor of thousands of years of Jewish history.

It is so sad that the recent announcement by the United States government recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel has caused so much outrage and violence. As Hanukka teaches us, the announcement merely reflects the simple facts of history.

It is a simple fact that King David established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel more than 3,000 years ago. It is a simple fact that his son, King Solomon, built the holy Temple in Jerusalem, where he reigned over his kingdom. It is a simple fact that ever since then, there has been a Jewish presence in the city.

It is a simple fact that since Jerusalem was invaded and destroyed by the Roman Empire, Jews have referred to Jerusalem in their prayers three times a day, as well as in the Grace After Meals, at every wedding and at every funeral. It is a simple fact that there has never been a people more devoted to a city than the Jewish people is devoted to Jerusalem.

This kind of situation is not without precedent. It is not without precedent for people to deny basic facts and then to react angrily to anyone who has the audacity to stand up and say the facts as they are. For centuries, the conventional and accepted wisdom was that the Earth was the center of the universe, and when Galileo Galilei had the insight and the courage to assert the simple fact that the sun is the center of the universe and not the Earth, he was persecuted. Investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, Galileo was found guilty of heresy and was forced to recant his assertion and spend the rest of his life under house arrest.

When society becomes detached from reality, then those who remind people of the basic facts are often persecuted. To declare that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, to deny the Jewish bond to the city, is like saying the Earth is the center of the universe.

The tragedy is that such an announcement of a simple statement of fact, which is clear to any objective observer, can lead to conflict and bloodshed. This is tragic, but the only way to find lasting peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is to begin with truth.

The Talmud states the world exists on three things – “on justice, on truth and on peace.” (Pirkei Avot 1:18) These three values are intertwined. Without truth, there can be no peace and justice. Peace will only come to the region when basic truths liberate us from the tyranny of thought that is imposed by a world that often would like to pretend otherwise.

As we gather to celebrate Hanukka this year, let us do so with pride and with joy.

Let us celebrate the light of the Torah values that God has given us, and let us celebrate who we are and where we come from.

May Hashem bless Israel with peace.

May Hashem guide the events that are unfolding in the world to a peaceful conclusion, and may we all merit to see the final redemption speedily in our day.

The writer is the chief rabbi of South Africa.

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