On Nov. 14, in commemoration of Chanukah, Canada Post issued a new holiday-themed stamp. The stamp features a brightly lit Chanukiah, the Chanukah menorah, surrounded by hues of purple and yellow. When the stamp was presented to the public, Canada Post revealed that the designer of this stamp, Lionel Gadoury, intended to explore the relationship between light and dark, while provoking a sense of reflection and contemplation.
At first glace, this may seem like a minor gesture; however, it is important. And here’s why:
The story of Chanukah teaches us many lessons; ones not exclusive to the Jewish community but those that can be relevant to us all. We can learn about courage and dedication to religious freedom, self-determination, and most importantly, one’s identity – all of which the Maccabees, a heroic group of Jewish warriors, exemplified.
Chanukah tells their story. The Maccabees were not known to be mighty. With an army small in size, it was hard to believe that the battle against their oppressors was possible to win. And yet, against all odds, they succeeded.
From this, we learn an important lesson: even a small group of people can make a big difference.
The Maccabees possessed vigorous determination and dedication to their faith, community, and identity. They did not admit defeat in the face of tyranny and refused to succumb to a forced assimilation to Hellenistic culture.
Shortly after their victory, the Maccabees and the Jewish people miraculously found a jar of pure oil in the Beit Hamikdash, the ancient Holy Temple of Jerusalem that had been destroyed in the battle. The oil, which they used to rededicate the temple, should have only lasted one night. Instead, it persisted for eight.
This is yet another important lesson to learn: light will always triumph over darkness.
Each year, we remember their courage and celebrate this victory. Not only did the Maccabees successfully knock down an empire, they also succeeded in rebuilding their Nation.
Still united more than 2,000 years later, the Jewish community ensures that in whichever place it has rooted, its identity lives and thrives.
Today, we celebrate Chanukah by lighting Chanukiahs with our loved ones, bringing light, warmth and comfort into our homes. By doing so, we remember and marvel at all of G-d’s miracles, big and small.
Canada’s embrace of these traditions has helped build and unify Canadian Jewry over generations. What is most remarkable is that we can now live in a society that values these traditions. In Canada, common decency, love for others and eagerness to welcome individuals of all faiths and backgrounds is much of the norm. This is what makes Canada such a wonderful home to people from around the world.
We must ask ourselves what lesson can be learned from a simple Chanukah-themed stamp. Perhaps it is the most important lesson of all: be courageous, kind, and always willing to accept those who are unlike you.
The only way we can illuminate the world with our individual light is through action and dedication to acceptance, community building and, ultimately, peace.
When we use the Chanukah-themed stamp to send holiday greetings to our friends and family this year, let it serve as a reminder to be fearless in our pursuit of freedom, just like the Maccabees.
It is our responsibility to carry on their legacy.