Chanuka: How the People of the Book Celebrate Victory of the Sword, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Hanukkah is Judaism’s most universal holiday with deep resonance for all Americans.

Our great country was founded by refugees who escaped religious persecution in Europe and were prepared to cross an ocean in order to found a colony where they could worship as they chose. Indeed, freedom of religion applied as a principle of colonial government goes back to the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649, which provided that “No person or persons … shall from henceforth be any waies troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof.” By 1777 Thomas Jefferson himself had drafted The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, one of only three achievements Jefferson instructed be put on his tombstone.

For Jews, however, practicing our religion has never been as straightforward. Throughout history we have had to fight and die simply to observe our faith. Hanukkah represents a triumphant moment in the second century B.C.E. when that struggle was victorious.

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