Published December 2019
Spirit and Spirits
“Not by power, nor by might, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
Why did the Rabbis choose this verse to epitomize Chanukah? Judah Maccabee was a war hero. The Maccabees won by force. The history of the events seems to indicate just the opposite of this verse.
If we consider that period of history, however, we will find that spirit was the ultimate determining factor. Indeed, had the Maccabees not been infused with the spirit of freedom and devotion to Judaism, they would never have had the strength and the courage to keep fighting. When there is spirit there is strength; when there is no spirit, a cause vanishes like smoke on a windy day.
The following humorous story makes the point.
Certain religious groups frown upon the use of liquor. In one such group a congregant knew that his minister liked an occasional glass of brandy. So for a holiday, the fellow sent his clergyman a bottle of apple brandy. The clergyman was pleased but did not know exactly how to respond. Finally, he sent the following note: “Thank you for the apples and the spirit in which they were given.”
Yes, spirits stimulate us physically and spirit lifts us emotionally. Happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD