Israel Forever

For the week ending 24 December 2011 / 27 Kislev 5772

The Unsung Heroes

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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"In the days of Matityahu… and his sons" is the way in which we begin our special prayer of thanks on Chanukah which encapsulates the great miracle that took place thousands of years ago at this time of the year. When we mention in this prayer that with Heavenly help "the many were delivered into the hands of the few" we automatically conjure up the image of Yehuda Macabee and the other heroes who waged war against the mighty Greek army.

But we must not forget the unsung heroes of the Greek exile – those Jews who suffered torture and death as they defied the enemy's ban on religious practice. We must honor their memory by reading and relating to our children the accounts of their self-sacrifice in remaining faithful to their G-d.

We must not make the mistake of members of the public who idolize those who actively resisted the Nazis and neglect to pay tribute to those Jews in the death camps who risked their lives in order to perform mitzvot to the best of their ability.

It is the failure of Yad Vashem and other Holocaust memorial bodies to pay such tribute which has been criticized by observant Jews as an insult to the heroism of those who kept Judaism alive. Only by appreciating their heroism and emulating their self-sacrifice can we be worthy of enjoying Israel forever.

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