There is something special about Chanukah: the core dynamics of this holiday have been repeated time and time again throughout Jewish history.

Chanukah primarily marks the willingness of Jews to put their lives on the line for the sake of preserving their Jewishness — that is, to remain loyal to the Torah G‑d has given us as the blueprint of our mission in life.

The military victory came and went, and was incomplete at any rate — within a short generation or two the fledgling Maccabee-ruled state had already lost its independence, coming under the hegemony of the Romans.

What Chanukah celebrates most of all is that we did not allow anyone to dictate our relationship to G‑d. We are prepared to give up everything for this cause — even our physical lives.

Indeed, throughout the ages Jews have succeeded in maintaining their beliefs against numerous attempts to forcibly change them, often at great cost to themselves.

But is Chanukah still relevant today? For the first time in our recent history (i.e., the last 2000 years or so), the vast majority of Jews live in countries where they can practice their Judaism freely and without oppression.

Is the lesson of Chanukah no longer necessary? Do we no longer have a need to live its story and reinforce its message?

The truth is, in our present state we need Chanukah more than ever.

Chanukah continues to inspire us to persevere and overcome great obstacles to living our Judaism. The locus of this struggle has merely shifted from external challenges posed by human enemies to the internal challenges evoked by our own human natures.

We need to overcome the indolence and apathy bred of security from harm and effortless access to all the necessities of life. These are good things, but they cause us to forget how fragile, tenuous and therefore precious life is. We then easily overlook how much we truly need the ongoing flow of Divine energy that vitalizes us at every moment, and the ultimate purpose for which G‑d bestows us with that constant flow of life.

When we have to struggle for physical or spiritual existence, we constantly need to remind ourselves of the reason we work so hard to preserve it. We need to constantly ask ourselves, “Why am I struggling so much for this life? what is its value and purpose?” But under less challenging circumstances, we ask ourselves this question of core purpose a lot less often. Ironically, when we are not threatened, and we can express our Judaism freely, we often fail to evoke that intense commitment.

Chanukah challenges us to look within ourselves and find heroism and determination. Not the overt, raw, physical courage needed to overcome oppression and religious coercion as in the past, but more subtle though no less intense expressions of spiritual courage:

We find the willingness to overcome taking life for granted.

We find the moral strength to defy the self-indulgent, complacent nature of our secure existence.

We demand of ourselves that we rebel against static self-satisfaction.

We insist on extracting meaning, purpose and holiness out of every moment of life that G‑d blesses us with.

May all of us and our families have our lives illuminated by this Chanukah.