The holiday of Hannukah, also known as The Festival of Lights, literally means “dedication,” and is at its essence a holiday of faith in the power of God’s light. Beginning this past Sunday and lasting for eight days, 2019 is one of the years when Christmas falls in the middle of the holiday (the Jewish calendar is lunar based, so Jewish holidays change dates in the secular calendar each year) and as such is infused with even more commitment to lighting up the world on every level. Although a holiday commemorating the victorious Maccabee revolution against the Seleucids in the 2nd century BCE, it is a commitment that each of us is to make to consciously fight darkness in the world not only through words, but through our actions.
On Hannukah, we are commanded to light a Hannukah menorah (a 9-branched candelabra) and place it in our windows as a symbol of our willingness to combat evil…with each candle enlightening the dark in the world. In 2019, there has been a lot of darkness, but there have also been “candles” in the dark that have brought more light into all of our worlds. In honor of Hannukah (and the light of Christmas as well) it is good to remember some of these candles that have brought more light into this past year.
The menorah has eight specific candles and a “shamash,” an all-important “helper” candle that lights each of the other lights. Below, in no particular order, are some of the powerful moments of light of 2019
- There can be no doubt that the shamash of 2019 has been President Trump. Without the shamash helper, none of the candles could be lit. It is the spark from which each candle comes. His actions have sparked lights around the world to combat the evil and darkness of “the swamp” that has been enveloping the nation over the last number of years. Despite the many efforts to snuff out this candle, his persistence and willingness to fight the darkness has demonstrated what dedication really means.
Eight other candles of light in the darkness of 2019, in no particular order, include:
- Prager University’s fight for freedom of speech. PragerU was started in 2009 to present educational topics through online videos that combat the leftist agenda found in so many universities. But in January of 2019, Dennis Prager truly lit a candle with his lawsuit against Google and YouTube in the state of California. The left-wing bias found in the media had been bullying, censoring, and attacking conservatives for years, and PragerU has now taken the fight to them. Free speech is one of the most important issues in our country, and Prager’s defense of First Amendment rights with this suit is blasting light into the darkness of mainstream media.
- The executive order regarding Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Just a few weeks ago on December 11, the president signed an executive order that establishes that anti-Semitic actions are now considered a violation of Title VI. Facilitated through the efforts of Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz, this order will allow Jewish children to be legally protected against the anti-Semitism of the left, especially in schools and universities. No longer will the followers of Tlaib, Sharpton, Farrakhan, Omar and the like get away with bullying on campuses. This one order has the potential to truly affect the next generation, for as these hate-mongers lose their main fundraising talking point of anti-Semitism, their presence on campuses will be reduced and they will be significantly less influential in their indoctrination of all of our children.
- The election of Boris Johnson. Prime Minister Johnson’s victory in December was a victory for conservatives worldwide. His election was a resounding defeat of the socialist agenda of his opponent, and it demonstrated to the world that the people can still have a voice. It was also a victory for American conservatives, and especially President Trump. His success has been based on the conservative values and success of President Trump and gives us all hope for the president’s reelection in 2020.
- Congressmen Nunes, Collins, Jordan, Stefanik, and the rest of the Republican members of the House Committees on Intelligence and Justice. Across the board, the Republican members demonstrated the real meaning of Hannukah as they shone lights on the darkness of the unfair behavior of Schiff, Nadler, and their followers. Never in the history of this country have we seen behavior that is as dark as Representative Schiff’s inquisition tactics in a cellar of the Capitol. Along with Jerry Nadler, he demonstrated the extremes of darkness in politics that our nation’s founders were most scared of. But like the Maccabees of old, the House Republican leadership dedicated themselves to exposing the darkness of this kangaroo court of impeachment proceedings to the American people. And as every poll since this process started being televised in open hearings has demonstrated, these Republican leaders have shined lights that have let more and more Americans see the corruption of Schiff et al.
- Joe Biden. No one could have shown the world how dark Mr. Biden is better than himself. His continual gaffes, lies, and bragging about his own corruption regarding Burisma is a clearer insight into his darkness than anyone else could ever have done. Keep going, Mr. Biden, you’re writing the very ads that can be used against you.
- Kanye West. Back in the late 1990s, no one could ever have predicted that one of the most successful musicians of all time, the winner of 21 Grammy Awards, and the husband of Kim Kardashian would eventually become a preacher for Jesus and a supporter of Donald Trump. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. But with his found faith and support of the president, Kanye West has opened up countless people of color to the fictions presented in the media, the power of religious belief, and the successes of the president for all Americans. May his candle continue to wake people up to the benefits of our president, and even more importantly, to the importance of anchoring our lives in a spiritual tradition.
- Father Robert Morey. This priest from South Carolina demonstrated how all spiritual leaders need to stand up for their beliefs with action. Despite the pressure, Father Morey refused to give communion to Joe Biden based upon Biden’s stance on abortion. Everyone, especially religious leaders, should always stand up for their beliefs. But sadly, all too many leaders don’t do what they know is right in favor of taking an easier path. Father Morey reminds us all to not just believe, but to act. A true light in a world of darkness.
- The American people. In the history of the world, there has never been a diverse populace with such potential for good. The founders and framers of this nation were truly part of creating a miracle. America can be a force for good as long as we let the light of freedom really shine and stay true to the founding principles of this nation. We are each a candle, and the light that we can shine together as Americans really can manifest God’s presence in the world. As a populace, we need to remember the actions, based upon spiritual beliefs, that the ancient Maccabees did over 2000 years ago. Like those spiritual warriors, and with God’s help, we can make the world a brighter and better place.
Hannukah reminds us all that the best way to combat darkness is not with an opposing darkness, but by shining light. This is only a partial list of the bright candles of the past year, but may we all learn from them and let the lights of each of our own souls make the world a better place. May each of us celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, and all holidays of light in a way that allows the glow of our souls to enlighten the world…creating true peace and joy.
Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas, and may we all be blessed to have a Happy New Year filled with good health, prosperity, peace, love, and light.
Rabbi Michael Barclay is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, CA., and the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together” (Lit. Press). He can be reached directly at [email protected]