Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, who is Jewish, released a saccharine video explaining why Hanukkah is one of the couple’s “favorite holidays.”

I’m not sure what the point of the video was. Harris tells the camera that the meaning of Hanukkah “is really about the light, and bringing light where there has been darkness. And there is so much work to be done. And it is a celebration of, always, Tikkun Olam, which is about fighting for justice, and fighting for the dignity of all people.”

I am reasonably familiar with the liturgy of Hanukkah – now in its fifth day – and the words “Tikkun Olam” do not appear anywhere. Tikkun Olam, which means repairing the world, is a Jewish concept, but it has been appropriated by Left in America as a synonym for social justice. But not social justice in any historic Jewish sense of the word, but social justice as defined by the Left.

One example of a decree that was enacted on account of Tikkun Olam was that no captive should be redeemed for more than his value. The fear was that if this was done, it would encourage non-Jews to take even more Jews captive. (This isn’t strictly a historical problem but something the Israeli government, nearly two thousand years later, still has to deal with.) Harris’ idea of Tikkun Olam is posting her pronouns in her Twitter profile. I can’t begin to equate the two.

The more general problem with Tikkun Olam is that it is a blank slate that allows its promoter to project her values onto. Religion is a set of beliefs and laws that dictate how one should act.

The miracle that we celebrate with Hanukkah was a military victory of the Hashmoneans (Maccabis) over the Greeks and Jewish Hellinizers, who wanted to end the Jewish religion. They Hellinizers wanted the Jews to give up their antiquated beliefs and practices and join the modern Greek world. Doing so would have wiped out the Jewish religion.

The Hashmoneans fought back and after they won and reclaimed the Jewish Temple, found a single jar of oil that had not been defiled by the Greeks. It took eight days to produce new oil, but they only had enough oil to light the candelabrum (menorah) in the Temple for one day.  But the oil miraculously lasted eight days. That’s the basis for the celebration to this day.

In the New York Post last week, Rabbi Ari Lamm gave a contemporary spin to the celebration  of Hanukkah:

So what’s Hanukkah truly about?

Simple: It’s about the rootedness of tradition against the imperialism of cosmopolitanism. If you were a Jew at that time, you basically had two choices: You could love the beauty of your ancestral heritage and love it no matter what, or you could watch as the ruling class attempted to recreate the social order in its own universalist image — and hope that your acceptance by the powerful would somehow substitute for the loss of family, community and tradition.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrating a miracle from 2,000 years ago. To use it as a message to further one’s own political agenda is to betray a misunderstanding of that celebration.

[Image: from Kamala Harris’s You Tube ]

 

 
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