Courage is not a Miracle, It’s a Choice

I know we talk the miracle of Hanukkah story. You know, the cruise of oil that contained only enough oil for one day lasted eight days? Well, as you may also know, the historicity of this miracle is questionable. There is obviously no ‘proof’, no hard core evidence that supports this story. This is ok, because the story, true or not, reminds us of the need for perseverance, for having faith in God even when the odds are all against us. It is actually the quintessential Jewish story of believing in God’s presence in the darkest of places: Jerusalem in 148BCE, Mainz in 1096, Barcelona in 1492, Kishinev in 1903, Berlin in 1933: these places and a thousand thousand more were scenes when the end felt very close. That we keep going forward, that we survive to rise to greater heights, is like a cruise of oil for one night only that cannot be extinguished.
Tonight as Shabbes comes I’m thinking about another story. Instead of recalling the miracle of the oil, I’d rather focus on the human effort behind our survival. Because as much hope and courage as we get from God’s presence, it is individual Jews and their prodigious efforts that enable us to ultimately triumph. It is Jews who have stated to the world, in the words of Tom Petty, who, while not Jewish, does state a very Jewish ethic: Well I won’t back down, No I won’t back down/ You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down./ I’m gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around/and I’ll keep this world from draggin me down/ and I won’t back down.
There’s no miracle here, just hard work and faith that the future will be better than the present. The courage to go on comes from the thrum of life that God plants within us, but that we must tune into it in order to hear the sounds of freedom that are so inspiring. It’s that simple. And that hard. Maybe it’s like football: God calls the play but we execute it.
Enjoy Hanukkah and Shabbat. Listen for the call and get in there and play!
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach,
rebhayim

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