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The Unsung Hero of Chanukah 

12/02/2021 09:56:51 AM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

As the Chanukah candles continue to add more light into our world, and as the latke smell continues to seep through every room in our homes, I want to tell you the story of a real Chanukah hero. You might be thinking of the Maccabees. Or you might be thinking of the oil that lasted for 8 days. But, in fact, I want to tell you all about Judith.

Some of you may have heard about or read the Book of Judith previously. This apocryphal, and most likely fictional tale follows the story of Holofernes and Judith. Holofernes leads the Assyrian invasion of Israel in the 6th century B.C.E. When the Assyrian army camped out around the city of Betulia, Judith took matters into her own hands. Armed with wine, cheese, bread, and cakes, she entered Holofernes’ tent and got him so inebriated he passed out. While unconscious, Judith took a sword and cut off his head, bringing the Assyrian siege to an end.

If you read this story as a standalone story, you might think that Judith was pretty impressive. But what does it have to do with Chanukah?  Some commentators say that Judith was a descendant of Judah Maccabee, another Chanukah hero. Others say that Judith’s cunning and ability to overcome the Assyrian army is directly connected to the themes of Chanukah. Either way, this story shows yet another powerful Jewish figure from our history, someone who helped our people continue to thrive and flourish.

So, on this Chanukah, as you celebrate the miracle of the Maccabees, the miracle of the oil, let’s also celebrate the miracle that is the power and strength of Judith. In honor of Judith, it’s traditional to eat cheese, or specifically, cheese latkes.

If you want to learn more about Judith and how she connects with the story of Chanukah, please enjoy this article. It also contains a recipe for cheese latkes at the bottom.

Wishing all of you a joyful, light-filled, cheesy Chanukah!

Mon, February 6 2023 15 Sh'vat 5783