By Michael Levitt
As many of us in the Jewish community gathered together virtually last night to light the eighth and final Hanukkah candle, we were reminded of how much our world has changed in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.
Bubbies and Zadies couldn’t hug their grandkids while handing out the Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins). We couldn’t marvel at our favourite aunt’s delicious latkes, and it was a very different experience watching from afar as the kids opened their presents. To put it mildly, it has not been the Hanukkah any of us had hoped for.
And yet, from the glow of the menorah, we are warmed by a renewed hope that brighter days lie ahead. Indeed, the Hanukkah story at its core is one of resiliency and perseverance in times of great adversity, as our ancestors rose up against the brutal tyranny of Antiochus and his powerful forces.
Outnumbered and beleaguered though they were, the heroic band of Jewish warriors known as the Maccabees succeeded in driving Antiochus’ army out of Jerusalem. With great sacrifice and against all odds, the golden menorah of the city’s Holy Temple shone brightly once again, and though there was only enough oil to keep it lit for one night, it miraculously blazed for eight. This is the miracle of Hanukkah.
The story of Hanukkah holds special relevance in this difficult year, for Jews and non-Jews alike, as we struggle against a terrifying new enemy: COVID-19. As we have endured these dark months of isolation, economic hardship and devastating loss of life, we have also witnessed so many heroes among us, who have shone as our beacons of hope. And none have shone more brightly than our front-line workers.