Many of us are seething, feeling angry and betrayed by the Obama administration after they failed to veto the anti-Israel UN resolution 2334, and after Secretary of State John Kerry gave a follow up speech essentially placing the blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the settlements. At best, such an approach is egregious and reckless. It is one that emboldens the Palestinians to continue to incite violence, to continue to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, to continue to not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and to continue to promote a BDS movement without any fear of repercussions.
But it’s more than that. This resolution and the United States’ abstention is a wakeup call. It’s a wakeup call to the undeniable reality that America is changing. The movement to create “daylight” between Israel and America is growing. The Obama administration effectively called the Kotel Ha’ma’aravi illegal, occupied territory and placed most of the blame for this conflict on Israel’s settlement policy. Keith Ellison, someone with very dangerous anti-Israel positions, is a real contender to head the Democratic National Committee. It has become a frightening reality that American support for Israel is not a given anymore. It’s a wakeup call that each one of us needs to be a Chanuka Jew.
What is a Chanuka Jew? In מסכת סנהדרין, there is a comment by the יד רמה that distinguishes between two words seemingly referring to the same thing – קדושה and חינוך. Both terms in the Gemara seem to refer to the sanctification of a vessel in the mishkan. The יד רמה clarifies that קדושה is achieved simply by pouring oil on the vessel, whereas “קידוש דאתי על ידי עבודה קרי חינוך” – sanctification of the vessel that comes about through work, through service in the mishkan, is called חינוך – and that is exactly what Chanuka is!
Chanuka is not simply a holiday of holiness – of making the Temple holy again. It’s קידוש דאתי על ידי עבודה קרי חינוך – it is holiness that was achieved through the hard work of the Maccabees. The Maccabees were not content to die על קידוש השם creating holiness at the high cost of their own demise. Instead, they fought, committed to succeed so that we could live על קידוש השם.
Rav Soloveitchik contrasted the פרסומי ניסא (publicizing the miracle) of Pesach and Chanuka. On Pesach, the publicizing of the miracle through drinking the four cups of wine only applies to Jews, but the פרסומי ניסא of Chanuka applies even to non-Jews. He proves this point from a comment by Rashi that one may light candles until the Tarmodai, a nation of non-Jews who go out late at night to collect sticks, are out in the street. Hence, פרסומי ניסא applies even to non-Jews. Why is this so? Rav Soloveitchik explained, “We do not have to announce to the Gentile world that the Jew fights for his physical survival, as we did in the Pesach story. A Jew is like any other person; he has an instinct for physical survival. This is true even in the animal kingdom. However, Hanukkah was a fight for spiritual survival. In Hanukkah, the Greeks did not attack the Jews’ physical welfare, only their spiritual inheritance. For this reason, פרסומי ניסא on Hanukkah applies even to non-Jews.”
It may not be a coincidence that this rude wakeup call by the Obama administration hit us during the holiday of Chanukah itself, and forced us to understand that we are waging a spiritual war in Israel. We are militarily superior to the Palestinians so we can clearly defeat them in a physical war, but the spiritual war, the demonization of Israel in the UN and around the world, calls upon each of us to engage in פרסומי ניסא to the outside world. Each one of us has a responsibility to voice our opinion to our political leaders as to the true causes of this conflict, and what will ultimately be its resolution.
Practically, we all need to join organizations like AIPAC and we need to attend the AIPAC policy conference this year. We need to allocate a portion of our charity dollars to support the state of Israel politically. We have seen how J-Street, who applauded the Obama administration’s stance regarding the UN resolution, is trying so hard to present itself as a legitimate authentic pro-Israel voice, when it reality it causes so much harm to the State of Israel. The way to stop them is by demonstrating with our feet, with our voices, with our presence at AIPAC events, to communicate to our politicians that the overwhelming majority of Jews support true pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and not anti-Israel groups like J-Street. In the spirit of Chanuka, let us all respond to this travesty like Chanuka Jews. Let us not resign ourselves to holy defeat. Let us rise up, as the Maccabees did, and confront the spiritual challenges of our day so that we live in peace, in our Holy Land, על פי קידוש השם.