It has now been weeks since the 2012 United States Presidential Election and going into election night, one thing was clear, regardless of who would prevail: we are a divided nation. Almost three billiondollars were spent on this election with both the Republicans and Democrats trying to sell their candidates and paint the opposition in a negative light. Leading up to election night, it was clear that the country was relatively split. During this time of year, we remember such division and the threat that it causes to a nation and a people.
The miracle of Hanukkah is not the story that we teach our children that we only had one day’s worth of oil to light the menorah and somehow, that oil miraculously lasted for eight days. Historians teach that the miracle is that we won, that the Jewish people were victorious against King Antiochus and the Greeks. The battle between the Jewish Rebels, the Maccabees, and the Greeks was a David versus Goliath battle, but it was also a civil war. More so than a small group of Jewish rebels versus an expansive Greek army, this was one group of the Jewish community in battle against another. This was a civil war between the small sect of traditionalist Jews and the larger Hellinized Jews whom had become acculturated in Greek society and joined the Greeks in battle. This was a war between a divided population of the same people with opposing beliefs, practices, and viewpoints that refused to respectfully talk out their differences. This was a war between brothers and sisters who refused to sit down at the same table with each other.
I believe that the miracle wasn’t even the Maccabean victory. Rather, the miracle was that following the victory, the Jewish people were able to become one again. Following physical and verbal warfare, schisms in homes and families, the Jewish people were able to reunite. The rededication of the Temple that we celebrate during Hanukkah was a rededication of the Jewish community – an appreciation of the ethics and values of our tradition and an acceptance that what unites us as a people is far greater than what divides us. The true miracle that we celebrate then at Hanukkah is the miracle of unity.
Leading up to the November presidential elections, it was clear that there were two different views for the future of this country. These two opposing views between politicians, pundits, and supporters have led to, in this aftermath of the election, a split nation and community. Such a division of belief and practice in the Jewish community ultimately led to the civil war remembered during the holiday of Hanukkah. As a people, we are troubled by the reality of Hanukkah – brother killing brother – so we mask this in legendary tales of miraculous oil. We cannot fathom such division so we focus on the sliver of light that existed at the end of a dark tunnel in Jewish history – the reunification of the community following such a split.
My hope and my prayer is that we too as a nation, rooted in the same ethics and morals of our tradition, will see such a sliver of light and leave the dark and bitter differences of our past behind us. Continued partisan politics, refusing to hear the voice and opinion of another, accomplishes nothing. Working together in a bipartisan effort, allows us to make this world a better place and do true tikkun olam.
Let the flickering flames of the Hanukkah menorah create a spark inside us as a nation so that the miracle of unity that we remember on this festival will lead us to become united once again as a people, as a community, and as a nation.