This morning we have lost another House of Worship in our area. Cami was commenting to me the other day about the odd line in a Christmas song (It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year) about “scary ghost stories.” She was saying that Christmas time isn’t a time for being scared. And yet, it is. Ben and I had a talk the other night about Hanukkah and the reality that even though Antiochus died more than 2000 years ago, his ideas are still alive and well. That is why we light the Menorahs – to remind us that light always overcomes dark. That good is stronger than evil. That despite the scary ghosts of Antiochus, we are still here.
Seventy-seven years ago, the USS Arizona settled into the mud of Pearl Harbor. In the ensuing years, the crew members who survived that infamous morning have gathered at Pearl Harbor to remember their shipmates and all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Until today. For the first time in many years, there will be no Arizona survivors at the memorial today.
Human beings are fascinating creatures. As Mazzy, channeling Walt Garrison, would have said, they are “strange critters.”
Even when we know – beyond a doubt – that something is not good for us, we keep doing it. Whether its smoking or Facebook, we keep right on going no matter what. We keep right on giving social media companies the only thing of value that we have – our data. And they keep denying that they are doing anything with it. And we believe them.
Then, when we see something that is in need of fixing, we convince ourselves that it would somehow or another be “bad” to fix it. NASA can give you a HiDef 12 Megapixel picture of the surface Mars so clear you can count the rocks on the ground, but Bank Security cameras can’t give you anything more than a blurred LoFi VGA quality picture of the guy who robbed them of your money. Your bank can track every fraction of a penny you have spent this year, but not a county in this country can count ballots.
George H.W. Bush passed away on Friday. It was a long and well-lived life, that touched mine along the way. His motto: Duty, Honor, Country, led him to a life of service that many of those praising him today criticized when he was President. That’s the way of things in our post-Cold War nation. But for me, George Bush is “my President.” That doesn’t mean that I agreed with him on everything. It means that of the men elected in years that I participated, he’s pretty much the only one I really trusted.
It is the first day of Hanukkah. One of the big errors of society is the constant willingness to equate Hanukkah to Christmas. They are not the same, but the need for equivalence is symptomatic of the lack of understanding of what exactly Hanukah actually is. It is not a celebration mandated in the Torah. And yet it has become the focal point of the Jewish celebrations throughout the year. In some ways, it is THE only connection that most people have with Judaism. So what is Hanukkah and what does it really mean?
The Commanding Admiral of the US 5th Fleet was found dead of an apparent suicide over the weekend. As it stands, suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. I think that number is a bit misleading, but the fact is that 45,000 people a year commit suicide and another 1.125 Million attempt it. Clearly, something is wrong, but what?
There are actually nine candles on a Hanukkah Menorah. Why? Because somebody has to do the dirty work.
And when we look at the darkness around us, with newspaper articles both blaming the victims in San Bernadino and proclaiming that you love guns because you love slavery, it’s so easy to become jaded and forget our purpose and our goals.
But then there is that 9th candle, to remind us of the real ideas of Hanukkah: Rededication.
The story is, no doubt familiar to you, if not, then today I will recount the basic points to you. At it’s climactic moment, is the the small jar of oil, one day’s worth, for the rededication of the Temple, will burn not for a day, but for eight days and nights. Time is gained for the procurement of new and properly consecrated oil.
But when all is said and done, the Holy Temple – the building that Solomon built, but has been used for the past century as a garbage dump and as an altar to the Greek deity. Zeus, has been restored. It has been reclaimed for its true purpose.
The lesson should be clear to us today. In these dark times, against what seems to be insurmountable opposition, we can rededicate ourselves to the true purpose for which we have been called.
As we light each light, we can recommit ourselves, we can rededicate ourselves, to the cause of liberty.