While studying in Israel I came out to a friend of mine who was in the midst of planning her wedding. As the wedding drew near, I was asked to read one of the Brachot (blessings) under the Chuppah (wedding canopy). My friend informed me that, while she and her fiancé had originally wanted me to be an Eid (witness), they feared that some of the Rabbanim (Rabbis) wouldn’t accept my Eidut (testimony) if they knew I was gay. I in no way blame my friend for having made her decision, but it was quite the wound to recover from. As a Shomer Shabbos & Kashrut (Sabbath and Kosher observant) Jew who wears his Zizit and Davens (prays) everyday, being told that I might not qualify as a complete Jew within some parts of society is very hurtful.
Prior to the actual miracle of Chanukah, 2nd Temple Israel was already heavily influenced by Greek hedonism. Raised in the Hebrew Day School system, I was taught that the Yivanim (Greeks) arrived in Israel and in one swift motion attempt to wrestle control from the Jews. It wasn’t until my college years that I recognized the religious significance of this inaccuracy. The Jews of this period, commanded as we are to live as G-d fearing lives, were failing in this task. While the 1st Book of Maccabees relates the nationalistic battles of the Maccabees, the 2nd Book of Maccabees emphasizes that the purpose of the Hasmonean revolution was to spiritually redeem the Land of Israel. While the battles waged were against foreign occupiers, the thrust of the revolt was to return the Jews to a spiritual level befitting G-ds chosen nation.
We know that, while Antioches (IV Epiphanes, for those who are interested) is described as having forbidden the Jews from fulfilling some of the Mitzvot (commandments), many Jews had been heading down a similar path of their volition. The Hellenization (the blending of Greek culture with the cultures in occupied lands) of Israel was a slow process. The socializing and political interactions between Greeks and Jews led to the Jews slowly favoring Greek activities and moving away from the faith. Temple sacrifices were neglected and the positions in the temple became more political than holy. The battle fought by the Maccabees was not only against the occupation, but against the social assimilation and religious fragmentation.
Many gay Jews struggle to maintain the Jewish faith while stuck between a rock and hard place. Gay frum Jews do not promote assimilation. We recognize that G-d created us as individuals and that we cannot fight our nature. We sadly accept that we cannot fulfill every Mitzvah, but try to do the best we can with those we are capable of fulfilling.
Chanukah is unique in that one of the commandments associated with it MUST be done in public. The lighting of the Menorah is to be done for all to see. While commonly understood as a commemoration of the miracle that occurred, the display of the holiday lights broadcasts the fact that we remain steadfast in our faith. We inform everyone around us that the Maccbees succeeded in their cause of resanctifying the Jewish people. This Chanukah, as I light my Menorah, I will try to remember what it is the Maccabees fought for and what I am fighting for today: For all Jews to practice Judaism to the best of their ability and be welcomed within all aspects of society. I will light my Menorah for eight nights to remind myself and others that the Jewish spark is alive within me.