10 December 2020 22:38

Hanukkah has become a happy island of time in the Jewish year.

logo_ddn_tag_Site JN with Tagline logo-sns_tag_Site Our apologies, unfortunately our website is currently unavailable in most European countries due to GDPR rules. 2020 has been a rough year, no matter where you stand. Those with money are bored with nowhere to go. Those who are struggling are struggling more now than ever before. Families are separated, hugs are rare, and kisses are such a thing of the past.

Our politics are paralyzing. We are frightened. Our trust in our institutions has crumbled. To deliberately misquote John Donne, the famous English Renaissance poet, "Each man is an island." We are islands in the stream, separate, lonely and brooding. I am trying to put my finger on the anger swirling about us. All of us feel less secure. The pandemic, the COVID-19 maps, the unemployment numbers all reflect the islandization of our lives. Today we can connect on our screens, but we live alone. Life is hard. This is not what John Donne had in mind during a more hopeful era a long time ago when he proclaimed "No man is an island." We are angry at our neighbors. Someone out there is robbing us of our health, or our liberty, or our prosperity, or our way of life. Instead of celebrating others, we have become resentful of them. Because of them, we are unhealthy. Because of them, we must alter our lives. Our leaders dither over foolishness, and we all suffer. 2020 will be remembered as a mindset, an attitude; a commemoration of the power of resentment. When the First World War erupted in 1914, Adolph Hitler sported a handlebar mustache, quite stylish for his day. When he found himself, like so many other German soldiers, stuck in the trenches on the western front, his commanders instructed their troops to trim their mustaches to accommodate their gas masks. Hitler himself was gassed one month before the war ended with Germany's surrender. Until his death in a bunker in Berlin, Hitler continued to don his fighting man's mustache. It was a powerful badge of resentment symbolizing the common valiant German soldier's determination to carry on for the honor of Germany in the face of those who like him felt that the elites had foisted defeat and humiliation on the German people. Resentment is a powerful motivator. Resentment birthed 65 million deaths in World War II, the Holocaust, and unimaginable suffering. Before the first Hanukkah in 165 BCE, the Jewish people were fractured in the land of Israel. The powerful elites had assimilated Greek culture into the upper crust of Judean society. They fought with each other over their privileges while the more common people suffered from neglect and government abuse. The war against Antiochus Epiphanes and the Seleucid Greeks erupted after he forbad Jewish observance in the Holy Temple and desecrated it with pagan worship and statues. Remarkably, the Jews united under the Maccabees to defeat Antiochus and send his troops packing, back home to Syria. They celebrated by rededicating the Temple and reinstating Jewish worship. But the Maccabees, impressive as they were in uniting the people and achieving victory, were not kind to the future of the Jewish people. Their leadership spawned a century of continued in-fighting, disastrous foreign alliances, and economic hardship. They battled each other, resenting one person's privilege over another. It got so bad between the Jews that in the year 63 BCE, a hundred years after their victory, some of the progeny of these brave leaders invited Ptolemy's Roman legions to lay siege to Jerusalem. The independent nation of Judea was vanquished from within. Judea became a vassal to Rome, and the events that followed led to tragic results. The Maccabees did themselves in. One more century and the Temple was destroyed altogether. The priesthood became irrelevant, and ultimately the Jewish people had to submit to Rome's iron fist. All because Jews first resented each other, and Judeans fought Judeans. Everything they fought for was lost. Such is the power of resentment. Today, Jews celebrate Hanukkah with a spirit of common purpose. For eight days, we conveniently ignore the history which lead to the battles before the rededication of the Temple and the many battles that followed in its wake. We light lights against the darkness, eat food we wouldn't ordinarily touch during the year, sing songs and celebrate with hope for the future. Hanukkah has become a happy island of time in the Jewish year. Hanukkah 2020 (5781) is here, and inside our bubbles it is harder to feel the celebration of our people's historic victory. But our people's victory throughout the ages was not so much to celebrate our moment of power, but rather our unity over resentment, our common purpose over partisanship, and our hope over fear. Let's be hopeful this dark Hanukkah. Let's be hopeful that our lives will return to normal. Let's be hopeful that our resentments will abate. And let's be hopeful that our joys will overcome our sorrows. Let's be hopeful that our faith in God and each other will help us overcome the darkness and the loneliness we feel today. We are one people. We are one nation. Let that be the message we promote this Hanukkah season. Jews have always believed that better times are coming. That is the true miracle of Hanukkah. Better times are coming, and we will come together in unity. There is no other way forward. No man is an island. Happy Hanukkah!