The Maccabees were an enigma in Jewish History. How did such a small number of Jews fight back the masses of Greeks that massed against them in order to destroy their religion? There is no logical explanation for how hundreds of soldiers could beat back tens of thousands of enemy soldiers. That is the essence of the miracle of Chanuka that is celebrated to this very day by Jews around the world.
How symbolic is it that Israeli soldiers light the candelabra on Chanuka. They are doing exactly what the ancient Maccabees did nearly 2,000 years ago. The Menora (candelabra) symbolizes the faith that the Jewish people have in God and in His ability to literally perform miracles for the Chosen people in the Chosen Land. When an Israeli soldier – in uniform – stops his daily regimen to light the candle and praise God for His deliverance, it is exactly the right thing to do. It is a refocus as to the source of the strength of the Chosen People in the Chosen Land.
Today’s Israel Defense Forces is probably the most religious Israel Defense Forces that has ever existed. There have been religious Israeli soldiers from the very first days of the Israeli Army. But today, there are more and more commanders – even senior commanders – who are religious and proud of it. Ultimately, it seems inevitable that much of the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel will be religious or at least semi-religious. Because at the core of the reestablishment of the modern State of Israel is a religious concept – the ingathering of the exiles, engineered by God. It is so fitting that the modern-day Maccabees be religiously observant and God-informed with every step of the way.