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The Heroines of Chanukah

Yehudit, beautiful Yehudit, daughter of Yochanan the High Priest. Her self-sacrifice for her people knew no bounds. She could not stand by quietly as young Jewish girls were forced to spend the night before their wedding with the enemy governor. Quietly, stealthily, gracefully, Yehudit penetrated the enemy camp, endangering her own life, and brought back a prize for those who were not as brave as she--the grisly head of the Syrian General Holefernes. The story of Yehudit is below.

Chana, brave Chana, mother of seven sons. She taught them to love G-d and the Torah--more than life itself. "Foolish woman. Tell your sons to bow down to the idol so that they may live," the soldiers told Chana. But Chana knew that her definition of life was different from that of the pagan soldiers. Her sons would die in this world sanctifying G-d's name, but they would live forever in the World to Come. She whispered encouragement to each son. "Remember that the L-rd is one, there is no other." Not one son, from the oldest to the youngest, bowed to the idol. "Abraham, you were ready to sacrifice one son. But I, Chana, a simple, Jewish woman, sacrificed seven," cried out Chana as her youngest child was killed before her eyes.

Heroines now? Yes, Jewish women of today can be heroines. Heroines who, in their own way, are as brave as Yehudit and Chana. How? Like Yehudit, Jewish women can stand up to the prevalent morality that has become accepted though it is not at all acceptable. They can say, "This is immoral, not in keeping with true Jewish values. I will fight it and I won't succumb to it, even if others greater, stronger and braver don't have the courage to resist."

How else? Like Chana they can remind their children or others around them, "The way of the world is not our way. We are here to sanctify ourselves, to brings holiness into the mundane, to bear witness to the fact that G-d is one."

And, they can get in touch with their true selves, with what it means to be a Jewish woman, with what has characterized Jews in general and Jewish women in particular for millennia--we are compassionate, modest, kind, believing, giving, loving, caring.

The word Chanukah means dedication. What better time than the holiday of Yehudit and Chana for Jewish women the world over to rededicate themselves to exploring the ancient definition of Jewish womanhood!

 

 


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