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Zelensky Channels Hanukkah’s Maccabees – A Jewish View

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Much more than 2,000 decades ahead of Russia invaded Ukraine, Seleucid despot Antiochus IV of Syria barged into Jerusalem and established about persecuting the Jews who lived there. He banned procedures such as observing Shabbat, when his soldiers desecrated the Temple where the Jewish community prayed. Antiochus’ routine was recognized for its cruelty: In a single especially well-known tale, the Seleucids tortured and killed an outdated woman’s seven sons simply because they refused to eat pork, which in traditional Judaism is not kosher, and consequently proscribed.

Finally, the Jews had had plenty of. Headed by Mattathias, the patriarch of the Maccabee family members, and afterwards by his son Judah, the Jews rose up in revolt towards their Seleucid oppressors, defeating them in battle and restoring the Temple. Miraculously, a jar of oil in the Temple that was only anticipated to last 1 day lasted 8 days when lit, giving rise to the Hanukkah celebrations that mark this tale and a concomitant nickname: the Pageant of Lights.

These accounts come to thoughts when wanting back again now – for the duration of the 8-day Hanukkah vacation – on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inspiring management given that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin requested his troops to attack Ukraine. As a Jewish male with roots in Ukraine (my maternal grandfather and his loved ones lived in Odesa), I see the similarities among Zelensky’s tale and the Hanukkah tale, in particular with regard to Judah Maccabee, the iconic leader of the loved ones who bravely fought towards a colonialist empire that sought to wipe out his culture. Without a doubt, the relationship involving Putin’s Russia and Antiochus’ Syria has never ever appeared so alike.

For one particular, Zelensky and Judah share a religious custom: Judaism. Additionally, they are both of those underdogs. The Maccabees faced a more impressive and a lot of enemy, but Antiochus’ armed forces might couldn’t defeat the Jewish resistance, which used methods these kinds of as guerilla warfare from the Seleucids. In the same way, Putin’s after-vaunted forces have faltered from the outnumbered Ukrainians, who have blended their expertise of the home terrain with their use of weaponry this kind of as the portable Javelin to harry their opponent.

As commanders, Zelensky and Judah have significantly in typical. Zelensky’s oratorical skills and charisma match these of the historical Maccabee, who would guide his soldiers in prayer ahead of fight. Although Judah was a zealot who was pretty spiritual, and Zelensky isn’t, they are joined by their heritage and pleasure in their history. Zelensky’s strategic head also stacks up properly against his Maccabean counterpart’s, section of the explanation why Judah was so effective as a standard.

But the most significant similarity in between Zelensky and Judah Maccabee is the oppression their folks have confronted. The Russian authorities’ torture of prisoners and makes an attempt to demolish Ukrainian society are reminiscent of the Seleucids’ attempts to wipe out the Jewish faith. As Antiochus did in his effort and hard work to Hellenize the Jews, the tyrannical Putin wants to bring all of his subjects less than the umbrella of one dominant cultural mindset – Russia’s. As these, Ukraine, like the Jews did underneath the Maccabees, faces an existential risk.

The problem is, will Ukraine’s tale have a likewise joyful ending?

In the historic accounts retold on Hanukkah, there is a message for a present populace besieged by hardship. Electrical power shortages in Kyiv and other locations prompted by the shelling from Putin’s depraved armed forces are mirrored in the Seleucid army’s vandalism in the Jewish Temple, which still left only a single jar of oil for mild. Could Ukraine practical experience a identical miracle exactly where everything is illuminated the moment once more?

There is no doubt that Ukraine’s effectiveness throughout the war has been miraculous, but it has also been due to thorough strategic scheduling and reliable execution by Zelensky and his properly-experienced navy. These kinds of endeavours level to human capabilities relatively than supernatural ones: the product of ability, expertise, wisdom and intelligence from an outfit that was not envisioned to place up a fight… just like the Maccabees. From a clinical standpoint, we should give credit history the place credit rating is due in the two cases: to persons, not the divine.

A comparison of Ukraine’s situation to that of the Jewish Maccabees is not wholly without having distinctions. When Ukraine does have a sizable Jewish populace, most citizens of the place are Christian, with the vast majority training Orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless there is a universal takeaway from the Hanukkah tale that transcends religious boundaries: Genocidal dictators can be defeated. The Maccabees did it in historical instances, and Ukraine can do it today.

Zelensky is a rather humble person who most likely would not believe of comparing himself to 1 of the great heroes of Hanukkah. I do, even so, assume we can make this comparison in great faith. Ukraine’s President has shown that he is a contemporary-day Maccabee deserving of Judah, and he has the navy victories, as very well as the community assist, to exhibit for it.

How significantly this will carry previous the holiday break year as Russia continues to attack Ukraine is unclear. But it’s particular that Hanukkah – a Pageant of Lights in a earth whose primary defender from Putin’s evil is so usually in the darkness of blackouts – will be much more meaningful this calendar year than ever ahead of.

Supplied Zelensky’s Maccabean, against-all-odds achievement, a miracle might not be so unlikely right after all.



Simon Hardy Butler

Simon Hardy Butler

Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. Throughout his occupation, he has created for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek. His views and views are his own.

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