We're often told to look at life positively, to be a "glass half full" person, but why is this so important? Why should it make a difference if we are optimistic? Surely, the world will function as it will, irrelevant of our optimism or pessimism. Furthermore, should we try to be realistic? And shouldn't we plan for the worst in case it happens?
The story of Channukah is a powerful example of the strength of optimism. The first celebration of Channukah happened when the Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated, and the oil miraculously lasted eight days. However, we are celebrating the topic of our prayers, and the story's primary focus is the military defeat of the Greeks and Hellenisers. If so, it is strange that we commemorate the rededication of the Temple, as the war of independence continued for years afterwards. The final victory for the Maccabees would take much longer to achieve.
The answer lies in optimism. When the Jews reentered the Temple and rededicated it, they would have been overcome with joy and hope. They believed fervently that Hashem was helping them and that they would prevail. They had yet to achieve final victory, but they thought they would. The power of their optimism would carry them from that point. Even as the Greeks deployed bigger and bigger armies, the Maccabees would win again and again against ever more overwhelming odds.
The stories we tell ourselves can change our reality. They change the way we think and act and the way that we pursue our goals. If we are optimistic, we can weather the shocks and setbacks that life has in store because we can contextualise them as only temporary, not indicating final failure.
The Maccabees teach us the power of optimism and how it gives us the resilience to overcome difficulties. Let's apply this message to build a better world, just as they did.