The Jewish holiday of Chanukah — that’s properly spelled “Chanukah” and not “Hanukkah,” by the way — began last evening. At some point over the past century, as American Jewry grew in both rank and number and as a politically correct strain of egalitarianism ascended in our culture, Chanukah came to represent for many little more than a commercialized “Jewish Christmas.”
Over the same time period, the once-ubiquitous “Merry Christmas” greeting became largely subsumed into a meaningless “Happy Holidays” salutation. Town squares across America, operating under a Supreme Court-imposed legal regime that has misconstrued the First Amendment, now routinely feature Chanukah menorahs alongside nativity scenes. And so forth.
As a proud American Jew, I of course welcome the long tradition of philo-Semitism that has characterized America since its Founding. But there is also a serious downside to peddling unvarnished American Jewish assimilationism under the guises of inclusivity or radical egalitarianism. Simply put, such a sentiment bastardizes the very message of Chanukah itself.
Every year around this time, I tweet out a link to a terrific piece that former Daily Wire writer Elliott Hamilton wrote for this site a few years ago. Elliott masterfully explained the enduring meaning of our festival of lights:
What most American Jews do not realize about the story of Chanukah is that it was more than just a story of the Jewish people fighting against the oppressive Seleucid Empire. It was also a story of a civil war between two camps of Jews: One who believed that the Jewish people should maintain their Halachic [Jewish law] traditions and the other who wished to assimilate with their oppressors. It serves as a lesson to the importance of Jewish unity in troubling times where the Jewish people’s very existence is threatened by evil. Despite the challenges that the Jewish people fared, the Jewish people managed to prevail not only against anti-Jewish oppressors but also the divisions within their own community. …
[O]ur community remains deeply divided and it will most certainly not change any time soon. … [The lighting of the menorah] should also serve as a reminder that it never helps the Jewish people to side with those who openly seek to destroy us. Instead, we should do everything to fight back against our oppressors and all who wish to submit us under tyrannical rule.
I think back frequently to Elliott’s piece.
There have been three murderous anti-Semitic shootings in America in barely over the past year, and anti-Semitism around the liberalized world is increasingly on the rise like nothing we have seen in decades. Anti-Semitic incidents on the American university campus have risen tremendously. One of America’s two major political parties now has prominent elected officials who traffick not merely in rote “anti-Zionism,” but in the type of outright conspiratorial Jew-hatred that has been the bane of our people for millennia. The man who was on the precipice of becoming prime minister of the erstwhile leader of the free world is an unapologetic, Jew-hating bigot whose would-be reign was passionately warned against by his nation’s own chief rabbi. At this point, mass vandalism of Jewish cemeteries dotting the European landscape barely raises any media attention at all.
Against this backdrop, there are two options for American Jews: (1) Be a Maccabee and defiantly tell the world that, against all the odds, we are still here and that our nationhood will never be extinguished; or (2) be a Hellenized Jew and a fifth column that forsakes the uniqueness of Jewish identity at the sacrificial altar of pseudo-“inclusive” progressive secularism.
The lesson of Chanukah — the tale of Judah the Maccabee’s great military triumph — provides a resounding answer to that question. Against any would-be foe, both “foreign” and “domestic,” always remain proud of both the Jewish people and the Jewish state of Israel. As the light of the menorah provides a light unto the neighborhood, so must you help us all provide a “light unto the nations.” But that light can only shine if we remain proud Jews and Zionists.
Abraham Lincoln, a biblically intimate statesman who viewed Americans as an “almost chosen people,” said the following about America during his famous Lyceum Address of 1838: “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”
The destruction of the Jewish people would similarly never come from “abroad,” but only from within. And such a destruction could only transpire if the Maccabees relent to the tyranny of the Hellenizers.
Always be a Maccabee.
Happy Chanukah to all.