The Maccabee story continues…
The towers were strange and the large stone walls were defended by Greek soldiers. The beautiful city of David had been destroyed and rebuilt. It looked like a scary fortress, rather than the city of Elohim. A pagan altar at the end of the street and strange smells made me feel sick. I turned and ran back to the rocks outside the city. They were my welcome friends. They hadn’t changed.
Jerusalem had been my friend. Many times I had come up with my father and my brothers to celebrate the feasts. I loved building a booth. Father always thought I was good at building things. Rather fitting, I guess, since Maccabee means “hammer.“ But now, I just wanted fresh air. I wanted everything to be the way it was. I knew I shouldn’t feel this way. I was, after all, a man of fifteen, not a little girl. But my heart cried within me. Why did YHVH let this happen?
But my thoughts were interrupted when Eleazar put his hand on my arm.
“Jonathan, it’s time to go. Father says there is nothing here for us. We will have to do what we can at home, where the soldiers haven’t taken over.”
So that was it! We just walk away with our heads down, while a strange king takes away everything holy, destroys our city, our temple, kills our people, and brings pagan services into every city! Something inside me changed at that moment. I didn’t understand it then, but I didn’t want the Greeks to get away with it all.
Many months passed, and the soldiers took over even our town of Modin. It was a day like every other. We tried to keep to ourselves and out of the soldiers’ way. I was making some repairs on a little hut we used for storage, when I saw the soldiers. They came right up to our door and banged so loud. They wouldn’t stop until my Father appeared at the door.
“You will be first to use our altar. Your sons will be rich. You will have all the power in the city. You will do it now.”
That same determined look returned to Father’s face.
“I will NOT defile myself with your abominations. My sons and I will follow the living Elohim, YHVH, Creator of the Universe! Bring what you will. We will not yield!”
Suddenly, I saw a man run down the street. I knew him! He was the baker! He ran up to the altar and made a sacrifice. The smoke filled the air. The smell of burnt animal flesh hit my nose. But then my father ran down the street after him. The light caught something shiny peeking out under his tunic. It was his sword! I think I must have fainted then.
The next thing I remember was Simeon calling my name. I was cold and it was very dark around me. In a moment, I realized I was in a cave. Water was dripping in some distant corner. Simeon told me that we were hiding with many people that also wanted to serve YHVH. My Father had risen up as their leader.
“Jonathan, will you serve YHVH, no matter what? They may kill you. You may have to fight. Will you be faithful?”
I knew my answer right away. Somehow I had always known it. His precious Torah was too valuable to throw away. His kindness was too precious to forsake Him.
“Yes. I will be faithful.”
“Then we need to teach you how to fight. But right now I think you need some bread and water.” A smile appeared on the corner of his mouth. I almost missed it. But there it was. I thought of the days when we would tackle each other out in the field, and Father would tell us to get back to work. I flashed a little smile back and suddenly realized how hungry I was. I made short work of the bread he gave me and tried to remember the good old days.
We had no woman in our household to help us prepare for Shabbat, so Eleazar made the extra bread and set aside some special dried fruit he had grabbed when we fled Modin. We were anxious to rest since it had been a very long week. We had no Torah to read or synagogue to meet in, but we each had memorized many sections of Torah, and Simeon would recite the portion for us. As the sun went down, we did our best to lay our cares aside and rest in YHVH’s wonderful love. The cave was damp and smelled funny, but I preferred it to Modin, where the soldiers had taken over every house.
As the sun appeared on the eastern horizon, Simeon awoke us all with beautiful Hebrew phrases. The story of Phineas rolled off his tongue as we rose from our slumber. Phineas was so brave and did what was right. I hoped I could be that brave.
As the sun rose the next day, a man came running toward the opening of our cave. He was a friend, a man that had been hiding several miles from our cave. He nearly tripped in his hurry to reach us. My Father met him outside and spoke quietly with him. He brought the man inside and gave him some bread and water. Then he looked up at us and said, “We will choose life. Our brothers have just been killed, one thousand of them, because they would not fight on the Sabbath. But YHVH wants us to live! We will fight and we will live and we will give Torah to our children’s children. Those wicked men will not wipe us off the face of the earth!”
TO BE CONTINUED…
Don’t forget to download the complete story with daily activities here.
Enjoy perusing a list of children’s Chanukah books.