The eight-day observance of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, gets underway this Thursday, December 10, and will culminate next Friday, December 18.
In summary, Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees — a group of fierce warriors who used guerilla tactics against an occupying army — in 166 BCE when the Maccabees liberated the Jewish people from the Greek-based rulers who essentially had outlawed the Jewish religion.
When the triumphant Maccabees captured the city of Jerusalem, they quickly entered the Holy Temple, tossing out the images of the Greek gods that had been installed there by the occupying rulers.
When the Maccabees went to light the Menorah candles in the Temple, they thought they only had one day’s worth of oil. However, the lights remained lit for eight days — hence the miracle of the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah is a joyous occasion for Jews world-wide, marked by large gatherings of friends and families and the playing of traditional games such as the dreidel and eating traditional foods such as latkes.
Although Hanukkah celebrations this year will be much more subdued than is typical because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wish all of our Jewish friends a happy, healthy, and meaningful Hanukkah in 2020.
The virus is a hunter — and we are its prey
It now has been nine months since lockdowns went into effect in many states, including here in Massachusetts on March 16. However, despite all of our previous efforts, the COVID-19 pandemic is surging across the entire United States.
The pleas of public health and government officials can only go so far if Americans fail to heed their warnings and do not take the common-sense and easy-to-follow steps of wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and not congregating in group settings of any kind.
With the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, this is no time to let our guard down. The virus is everywhere and no one is safe from it. Each and every one of us must assume personal responsibility for the safety of ourselves, our families, and our friends.
The coronavirus is a living organism that is stalking us wherever we go and whatever we do. We are its prey — and it requires that we must be ever-vigilant in order to avoid becoming another victim and spreading it to others.
Selfishness and failure to follow the rules simply are not options amidst this widening pandemic.
Pearl Harbor was 79 years ago
It was 79 years ago this week — December 7 — that the nation of Japan launched its attack on Pearl Harbor.
The very next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened a joint session of Congress in which he famously declared the attack as, “A day that will live in infamy,” and asked Congress for a Declaration of War.
For more than two years prior to the attack, America had stayed out of the war that already had engulfed the rest of the world. By the time of the Japanese attack, Hitler’s Nazis had conquered all of continental Europe and much of Africa, while the Japanese had invaded almost all of Asia, save for the U.S. outposts in the Philippines and other small islands in the Pacific.
Americans clung to the belief that our isolation, separated from the rest of the world by two oceans, would keep us out of the war. But after Pearl Harbor, we no longer could keep our heads buried in the sand.
The lessons of Pearl Harbor are many, but chief among them is that freedom isn’t free — and that we always must be vigilant to recognize the forces of evil that seek to destroy our way of life.