Shalom! As we prepare for the joyous celebration of Hanukkah, we should take note of the prominent role that women played in this event. Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi stated, “Women are obligated to light the Hanukkah menorah for they took part in the miracle”.
How is this so? Two stories are told:
1. The Syrian governor demanded that Jewish brides be first given to him on their wedding nights. When the daughter of the Kohane Gadol, the High Priest, finished her wedding ceremony, she tore off all of her clothes and stood naked before all of her guests. Her brothers became enraged with her and wanted to kill her. She said, “Over my nakedness you become angry, but over what the governor will do to me you remain silent.” Roused to fury, her brothers went to the governor and killed him. Thus began the revolt.
2. The Syrians were besieging a city and the Jews had no hope. Then a woman named Judith left the city and entered the Syrian camp, the enemy. The Syrian general desired her, and that night Judith prepared a feast for him, including many cheeses to enhance his thirst. He drank wine until he fell asleep, and Judith then beheaded him. When the Syrians discovered their leader dead and saw the Jews bearing his head aloft while advancing to the attack, they fled. This is a basis for eating cheese on Chanukah, not just latkes.
There is a custom that women should not have to do any work while the candles are burning. Some carry this honor further, saying that women should not work during the entire festival of Chanukah. That would probably be the greatest gift of all!
Whether you are a woman or otherwise, have a Happy Hanukkah!