Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

When seeking freedom, we all celebrate Hanukkah

Are you familiar with the Hanukkah story? Emanuele Ottolenghi, in an important article about freedom, gives a brief summary of the main points:

In Jewish tradition, Hanukkah is the festival of lights, because it celebrates the survival of the Jewish people against the onslaught of a tyrannical regime that denied them the freedom to practice their faith freely. Under the leadership of a priestly family, the Jews rebelled and fought against their oppressors. Eventually, they managed to gain back control of Jerusalem's Holy Temple, which their enemies had turned into a pagan shrine where pigs — that most unholy of animals in Jewish tradition — were being sacrificed to pagan gods. Having smashed the idols, so the story goes, the revolt's leaders sought the oil necessary to light the Temple's candelabra, in order to re-consecrate the sanctuary. This they only found in small quantities, enough to last a day, but well short of the minimum eight days needed to prepare the oil in conformity with the needs of worship. And here's the miracle: The tiny oil quantity, meant to last for just a day, kept the lights on for the full eight days.
(For more information, including the historical context, here's a good rundown.) I'm not mentioning this just because Hanukkah starts in a few days. Ottolenghi's point is much bigger, because she points out that the Jewish battle for freedom 2,200 years ago is a harbinger of the same battle America fought 225 years ago:
The triumph of liberty over tyranny, through the resolve believers who refuse to bow to a brutal regime is the story of America's Founding Fathers and of their ethos of freedom. Their pursuit of religious freedom brought them to unwelcoming shores. There, despite the odds, they eventually built a free society, where belief, however outlandish and deviant from established church doctrine, would never again become ground for persecution. Americans should therefore find no difficulty identifying with Hanukkah lights. Though a Jewish tradition, their message is universal, a powerful reminder that tyranny can be defeated and freedom restored.
Ottolenghi therefore urges all people who believe in freedom, on the night of December 27 (the third night) to gather together to light Hanukkah candles and, especially, to do so if they can in front of Iranian embassies:
This year, Hanukkah coincides with Christmas. On December 27, the third night of Hanukkah, Hanukkah candles should be lit in public ceremonies across the streets, in front of Iranian embassies around the world. Jewish communities should organize a lighting ceremony in all those capital cities where Iran has an embassy, and in New York it should be done in front of the U.N. building, right beside the Iranian flag. According to Jewish law, anyone can light the Shamash, the candle that is used to light all others. Prominent leaders with bipartisan support should be invited to perform this symbolic act to reaffirm the light of freedom over the darkness of tyranny. And other public figures should endorse this initiative as a message to the Iranian authorities. The idea was recently launched by two London activists, and is already gaining support and sympathy elsewhere. Rome may soon follow, and so should other capitals of Europe and the Western world.
And even if you can't light a wax candle, light a candle in your heart to remember that the fight for freedom is a good one, fought at all times and in all places. And if we see God's hand in the miracle of the lights -- that is, that it was God who saw that the oil burned for eight days, not one -- we must understand that God, having given man the capacity for thought, has put his imprimatur on the thoughtful man's struggle for freedom.