Some things are worth fighting for

Chapter 3 of Maccabees 1

1 Then his son Judas, who was called Maccabeus, took his place.

2 All his brothers and all who had joined his father supported him, and they gladly carried on Israel’s war.

3 He spread abroad the glory of his people, and put on his breastplate like a giant. He armed himself with weapons of war; he fought battles and protected the camp with his sword.

4 In his deeds he was like a lion, like a young lion roaring for prey.

5 He pursued the lawless, hunting them out, and those who troubled his people he destroyed by fire.

6 The lawless were cowed by fear of him, and all evildoers were dismayed. By his hand deliverance was happily achieved,

7 and he afflicted many kings. He gave joy to Jacob by his deeds, and his memory is blessed forever.

8 He went about the cities of Judah destroying the renegades there. He turned away wrath from Israel,

9 was renowned to the ends of the earth; and gathered together those who were perishing.

10 Then Apollonius* gathered together the Gentiles, along with a large army from Samaria, to fight against Israel.

11 When Judas learned of it, he went out to meet him and struck and killed him. Many fell wounded, and the rest fled.

12 They took their spoils, and Judas took the sword of Apollonius and fought with it the rest of his life.

13 But Seron, commander of the Syrian army, heard that Judas had mustered an assembly of faithful men ready for war.

14 So he said, “I will make a name for myself and win honor in the kingdom. I will wage war against Judas and his followers, who have despised the king’s command.”

15 And again a large company of renegades advanced with him to help him take revenge on the Israelites.

16 When he reached the ascent of Beth-horon,* Judas went out to meet him with a few men.

17 But when they saw the army coming against them, they said to Judas: “How can we, few as we are, fight such a strong host as this? Besides, we are weak since we have not eaten today.”

18 But Judas said: “Many are easily hemmed in by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few;

19 for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven.

20 With great presumption and lawlessness they come against us to destroy us and our wives and children and to despoil us;

21 but we are fighting for our lives and our laws.

22 He* will crush them before us; so do not fear them.”

23 When he finished speaking, he rushed suddenly upon Seron and his army, who were crushed before him.

24 He pursued Seron down the descent of Beth-horon into the plain. About eight hundred* of their men fell, and the rest fled to the land of the Philistines.

25 Then Judas and his brothers began to be feared, and dread fell upon the Gentiles about them.

26 His fame reached the king, and the Gentiles talked about the battles of Judas.

I’ll be honest, I love Hanukkah. I didn’t grow up loving it, but once I understood it, and what it meant, I fell in love with the Maccabees. The real ones, the real meaning of Hanukkah. The one Y.B. wrote about. The Hanukkah that makes me realize in every and all generations we must safeguard those things that we hold most dear. Judah knew what was at stake, he assumed command after his father Mattathias died, he and his brothers had been with Mattathias as he began the fight to save the Hebrews from the orders of Antiochus that were meant to eradicate the practice and knowledge of Judaism. To restore the land and the people to a way of live they were meant to live. But they had to survive the soldiers to do that. Judah didn’t just pray and hope for the best.

Verse 3, “He armed himself with weapons of war; he fought battles and protected the camp with his sword.”

Weapons of war was not a “bad” phrase, or a “hate speech” or used in a denigrating way. It was a fact of life. You want to live? Be prepared, because there are bad evil people out there, they do not care if you’re a pacifist or not. This phrase always makes me pause. A couple years ago I was in Tel Aviv and I was a woman with a mission. I wanted to find a model of a Centurion tank circa 1973 Yom Kippur war. I went in a toy store and looked around and a clerk, a young man, came up and asked if he could help me. They had a model battleship, and some airplanes, I couldn’t find the tanks. I explained as best as I could what I wanted. He finally got it and had a shocked and appalled look on his face. “You mean a weapon of WAR??” he exclaimed horrified. Yes, I want a tank. “We do not want weapons of war in this store!” he informed me self-righteously. I shot a sidelong glance at the battleship. Uh huh. I was pissed but it wasn’t worth the argument and I didn’t know enough good words then. I thought to myself, buddy, if it weren’t for those “weapons of war” and some of the people that knew how to wield them you’d have been in a world of hurt more than once. It was a couple weeks after that Hama$$ began firing rockets into Israel again from Gaza, the prototype of how the two state solution will work. Weapons of war can be an excellent thing you have to defend your camp.

13 But Seron, commander of the Syrian army, heard that Judas had mustered an assembly of faithful men ready for war.

14 So he said, “I will make a name for myself and win honor in the kingdom. I will wage war against Judas and his followers, who have despised the king’s command.”

15 And again a large company of renegades advanced with him to help him take revenge on the Israelites.

16 When he reached the ascent of Beth-horon,* Judas went out to meet him with a few men.

17 But when they saw the army coming against them, they said to Judas: “How can we, few as we are, fight such a strong host as this? Besides, we are weak since we have not eaten today.”

18 But Judas said: “Many are easily hemmed in by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few;

19 for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven.

The Maccabees, my partisan heroes. The Warsaw ghetto partisans, the partisans of the forests, the hills, the caves. Small but determined groups that were willing to fight and risk all for freedom. Because what they fought for was what they treasured. Just as Judah knew and told us, deliverance comes from Heaven. To G-d deliverance from a few or from many is all the same. 1967, 1973 and for the Maccabees G-d does not respect political correctness or numbers and no task is too much for G-d. He’s in the miracle business and he’s very good at it. Do I know why he hasn’t granted miracles every time I think there should have been one? No. But maybe someday I will understand, or ask him. Zelmans Partisans may be a small group, but we are a small group of determined people who know what we are about and are tenacious as wolverines. We understand what we fight for.

The Maccabees were having none of this compromise our rights, compromise our Torah, our feasts our way of life, our Shabbat. No. Compromising on “evil black rifles” “high capacity (adequate capacity) magazines is the same folly. We can follow “man’s” “king’s” laws to the death, or we can live by G-d’s commands.

I was talking with a friend about wars, Israel and history. I was told that today Israel doesn’t fight to win. Not really. They fight a little. Enough to keep things at bay, enough to keep the status quo. Yes, yes, I suppose that is right. Fight that battle and get it done. Fight it fast and hard and keep the knowledge of what you are fighting for in the front of your mind. Fight to win. If you have to fight, no halfway measures.

The Maccabees didn’t fight for sufganyot or latkas, not even the yummy jalapeno cheddar ones. They fought to live as G-d commanded them. And the things that we hold most precious, most dear are the things we must be willing to fight for. I suppose one could evaluate what really is most dear to them by looking at the things they really are willing to fight for.

I have seen miracles, this time of year. I don’t believe they are limited to this time of year at all, but I have seen some rather amazing things happen this time of year. I believe G-d is still in the miracle business. And so I pray for my much loved teammates and for our members and readers a season blessed with miracles.

Happy Hanukkah.

Judah Maccabee Meme
Judah Maccabee Meme
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