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Happy (PUBLIC!) Hanukkah! -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 12/15/22

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

December 15, 2022

21 Kislev 5783

Parashat Vayeshev

I have to admit that I have always been a little uncomfortable with Hanukkah Menorah lightings on public property. After all, I know how I feel when I see another religion getting promoted by the government above all others. But something has changed in the last few years, and I’ve started to feel differently. It all started when I read a children’s book called “Hanukkah at Valley Forge.” It’s based on a legend that George Washington had a conversation with a Jewish soldier on the first night of Hanukkah in 1777, when things were looking bleak for the Revolution. The young Jewish soldier told General Washington the story of the Maccabees fighting for their religious freedom against a distant powerful king. Despite being outnumbered, the Maccabees prevailed. According to the legend, Washington’s spirits were raised, and he was inspired to continue the fight against the British despite the odds against him. It seems to me that nearly 250 years later, our country once again needs to be reminded of the story of Hanukkah. Once again, we Jews must tell those in power about the importance of religious freedom. I guess the ancient rabbis knew this all along when they made “pirsuma d’nissa”—publicizing the miracle—a central obligation of Hanukkah. So, this year, I will join with members of my community this Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. to light a very large Menorah on public property right here in Summit in order to remind all who see it of the importance of religious freedom—both in the Land of Israel during the days of the Maccabees AND today right here in the US—bayamim hahem bazman hazeh (in days of old and in this time). Happy Hanukkah! Shalom, RAF.

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