On these darkest of days of the year our ancestors around the world sought to push away the gloom with holidays of light. This year it seems we need to summon our reserves for this push. The headline today on CNN proclaimed that there was an attack against Jews almost every day this week in New York state. I looked at the face of the rabbi whose son was in the hospital after being attacked by a machete; it could have been my father. What is happening to our country? It was with a sense of some desperation that I read Nicholas Kristoff’s column about how 2019 was the best year ever. I spoke on a similar theme at the High Holidays this year, but that panacea was ineffective today.
Today, instead, I contemplated my baby Itamar, who continues to thrive, and gazed at his smiling face. What kind of world was he going to inherit?
According to the Hanukkah legend, God helped the Maccabees win the war against the Greeks against overwhelming odds and then when they came to purify the temple they found one small jar of olive oil that miraculously lasted for eight days instead of one. In the 20th century, Jewish secularists fought against this telling of the tale. The reasons for the Maccabee victory had nothing to do with God and everything to do with human courage and deft political machination. There was no jar of olive oil; we hewed the rock and what we achieved we achieved for ourselves.
The world my baby is inheriting is one that is full of problems, but it is also full of courageous people acknowledging these problems, and finding solutions. I took a deep breath and kissed Itamar and for the first time today I smiled too.