Should we be as American as possible?

Thursday, 15 December, 2022 - 2:46 pm

 Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah…  Ahhh, the sweet sounds of singing and the delicious tastes of latkes and doughnuts, the twinkling lights, joy and pleasure all around. 

We celebrate the miracle of the jug of oil lasting eight days instead of one and the military victory of the few over the many. There is, however, another entire component to the Chanukah story, as important if not more so than the things we celebrate today.

Did you ever wonder why the jug of oil, so central to the story of Chanukah had to be “pure” with the "seal of the High Priest"? And if some Greek soldier touched it and contaminated it, so what? It would still light and isn’t a contaminated flame on the Menorah better than no flame at all? 

On a very deep level, the Hellenistic goals for the Jews during the Chanukah story was to have them discard the ancient and fit in, as opposed to the Jewish insistence to maintain our very rich gift, a history and future of spiritual connectedness, despite the challenges that come with that. 

Thus the incredible importance and insistence that the only oil that could be lit in G-d’s home, the only light that we will gift to the world must be pure, holy, spiritual, clean Divine oil. Even the hint of influence from the outside was a threat to the eternal continuity of authentic Judaism. The light we were becoming unto the nations had to be a pure light of holiness and eternality.

This too is what we struggle with today here in America. With the frightening rise of antisemitism and high profile people spouting unabashed hate, often it is simply easier to compromise and try to “fit in” better even at the cost of using a little contaminated oil. Let’s just be as American as possible and perhaps they will finally leave us alone!

Chanukah is a call to recommit to the OG (Original Gangsta) Judaism - to borrow the woke American term. To be a Jewish American, rather than just an American Jew. The lighting of the Menorah is not only to commemorate the miraculous events that were, but the miraculous events that still could and need to be. 

To have pure, untainted, authentic, original oil lighting the night of secularism and assimilation. It is a time to “put on your Yamukah, let’s celebrate Chanukah '' and wear that Kippa loud and proud, light that menorah at home and attend a public menorah lighting telling the world that your pure oil burns for another generation.

Our people have been doing this since time immemorial and as we light the menorah and sing Chanukah songs, while munching on Chanukah delights, we can also remember that we are doing more than just celebrating historical events, we are simultaneously recommitting ourselves to the values of authentic Judaism at the same time. One candle, one menorah, one public display of Jewishness at a time.

Have an amazing shabbos!

Can't wait to celebrate chanukah with you.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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