I wanted this week’s message to be filled with joy and happy notes about Chanukah. However, I had a true case of writer’s block after hearing the racist and xenophobic language from someone who wants to be the leader of this great nation, and then watching his favorable ratings improve as a result. How do I speak of the joyous event that happened more than 2000 years ago, led by the brave Maccabees, when today we are looking for true leadership and seeing none? How can one talk about miracles and faith when the fear of terrorism is dragging people to stores to purchase guns?
And yet, this is the perfect holiday for these times. When some would say that we should bar a particular religious group from immigrating into this country and spew slurs about our Islamic brethren, this is the time to observe the holiday that celebrates religious freedom and be inspired by it. When we are feeling hopeless and helpless, this is the time to observe the holiday that teaches us the true meaning of faith. When we feel like we are wandering in the dark, our candles are bringing light.
“22 centuries ago in Israel, after the public practice of Judaism had been banned, Jews fought for and won their freedom, and these lights were the symbol of that victory,” wrote Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. During these nights of Chanukah we pray that our candles will inspire within us the determination to insure the public practice of all religions, not only our own.
Again, using the words of Rabbi Sacks, “Chanukah candles are the light Judaism brings to the world when we are unafraid to announce our identity in public, live by our principles and fight, if necessary, for our freedom.” Today, let us bring that light into the public square and fight, if necessary, for the rights of everyone to live in this great land, unafraid.
May the lights of Chanukah bring you faith and joy, and may you have a week of gladness and a Shabbat of peace.
Rabbi Debbie Israel