Hanukkah’s Universal Message
What the light from the Hanukkah menorah is really meant to illuminate.
Hanukkah is supposed to be a minor Jewish holiday that comes in the early winter – a way for Jewish kids to feel better about not having Christmas.
In fact, of all Jewish holidays, it may have the most universal appeal and be the most relevant to the war on religion raging in our culture.
According to the Book of Maccabees, when his army occupied the Land of Israel in the 2nd century BCE, the Syrian King Antiochus IV outlawed Judaism in an attempt to force everyone in his empire to adopt Greek culture and religion. Performing Jewish rituals (including Torah study and circumcision) were punishable by death.
Statues of Greek gods were set up in the Holy Temple and swine sacrificed on the altar. An elderly priest named Mattathias started the revolt by killing a Syrian official and a Jewish Hellenizer and fleeing into the Judean wilderness shouting, “Whoever is for God, follow me!”
When Mattathias died, his five sons carried on the revolt, defeating the Syrian army in a guerrilla war. In 165 BCE, they liberated Jerusalem and cleansed and rededicated the Temple. The miracle of Hanukkah, commemorated by the menorah, involved the candelabrum in the Temple burning for 8 days with enough oil for one.
Contrast Hanukkah and Purim. In the Persian Empire, when the physical survival of the Jewish people was threatened by Haman, Mordechai asked them to pray. When our spiritual existence was at stake, we were told to fight, establishing a hierarchy. You pray for your survival; you fight for your faith.
Not all Jewish insurrections ended nearly as well. The two revolts against Rome (68-70 CE and 133-135 CE) led to the destruction of the Second Temple, the fall of Masada, mass slaughter, and almost 2,000 years of exile.
The Warsaw Ghetto uprising (1943) was an heroic act of defiance in the face of certain annihilation. It wasn’t until Israel was reborn that we once again had a fighting chance.
Today, no one is setting up idols in the Temple – at least not literally. But the conflict is just as real. The weapons are laws and restrictions, rhetoric and politics.
A majority of delegates to the 2012 Democrat nominating convention were so offended by the idea of God, that they tried to remove an innocuous reference to the same from the party platform (an observation that everyone willing to work hard deserved “a chance to live up to their God-given potential”). Imagine what they could have done with the Declaration of Independence. “Whoever is against God, follow us?”
They’ve been so successful in purging religion from the public square, through a deliberate misinterpretation of the Establishment Clause, that in the public schools, even a moment of silence is verboten, because someone might be thinking of God.
COVID gave secularists a golden opportunity to attack religion in the name of disease control.
Last week, the Supreme Court overturned New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on attendance at worship services. In what are designated red zones, attendance of no more than 10 people at a time was allowed, regardless of the size of the hall. In St. Patrick’s Cathedral (capacity, 3,000), 11 would have caused a major outbreak.
The Court’s majority noted that there weren’t similar restrictions on retail establishments and businesses providing personal services (big lot stores and tattoo parlors). During the lockdown, while churches were closed, abortion clinics were open. But that’s progressives practicing their religion.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett was part of the majority in the Cuomo/COVID decision. At her confirmation hearing for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, Barrett was grilled by the secular Grand Inquisitor, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). (“Are you now, or have you ever been, a Catholic?”) Feinstein explained that dogma and the law are two very different things, but “the dogma lives loudly in you (Barrett),” which disqualified her from serving on the bench. Feinstein assumes that American law had nothing to do with 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition.
John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” Democrats believe power should be held only by amoral and irreligious people.
Progressives demand that we all sacrifice to their gods – abortion up to the time of birth, marriage deconstruction, racial justice, and income equality. From this pagan cult, there can be no disagreement, no dissent.
The light from the Hanukkah menorah is meant to illuminate – to help us to distinguish the truth from the lies lurking in the shadows.
Whoever is for God, follow your conscience.