Do you know that Hanukkah is holier to women than to man? I did not and my name is Judith. Why? Rabbi Eliezer Melamed explains: “Since the miracle of Chanukah was initiated by a woman named Yehudit - whose courage led her to behead a commander of the enemy forces - women have a higher-level obligation to celebrate the holiday; for women, then, the holiday is elevated to the level of a classic, Torah-commanded festival, during which melacha (work) is prohibited.”
Well, Book of Judith which is traditionally read on Hanukkah presents her as something special and not only because she beheaded the man who tried to starve her town to submission. She was also beautiful, rich, smart and widely respected.
The lady makes her entrance by arguing theology with with the rulers of her besieged town. They want to surrender if G-d does save them within 5 days. Judith considers testing G-d blasphemy. They admit she is right.
Next Judith offers to devise a scheme to beat the Greek army. Charming the commander is not the most difficult part. To get him drunk all she had to do is feed him salty cheese. Getting away unharmed required a much more is.
Upon her return she not only used Holofernos’ head to overcome Jewish fears but instructed the local commanders on the right strategy to exploit her success and defeat the befuddled enemy.
She leads the victory celebration with a poem detailing G-d’s victory over his detractors.
Upon her death she distributes her wealth equally between her own relatives and those of her deceased husband.
Clearly, a heroine for the ages and no one recognized it better than artists who feted her on canvas, marble and song as the heroine of freedom, religious as well as political especially during the Renaissance.
We can do worse than place this learned, savvy, fearless ancestor at the center of our Hanukkah celebration.