Before Hamas committed the atrocious massacre on October 7th, the people of Israel were engaged in a fierce debate about the moral future of the State.
Protestors from all sectors of Israeli society, who disagree about many important issues, agreed that Israel should strive to live up to the ideals embodied in its Declaration of Independence; “Based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex;”
Those ancient prophets of Israel would warn us that if Israel did not live up to the high moral expectations that God had of us, we would surely be exiled from the land. Indeed, that is the story that we tell ourselves about the tragedy of the destruction of the Temple and our very long and dangerous exile in the diaspora.
The yearly celebration of Chanukah was one of the ways we kept alive the notion that we could win with military might. But we’ve always held the power of the sword with the ambivalence that comes with the tragic need to use it. That’s why our ancestors chose to tell a story of victory from the perspective of an oil lamp.
This Chanukah, I am continuing to pray for military victory over Hamas, that their strategy of maximizing Palestinian suffering should completely end, and the people of Palestine can learn a future of dignity, peace, and light without the destruction that war brings.
Israel must defend herself from the forces that seek to destroy Jewish sovereignty in the land, because the Jewish people have a unique story for us to contribute to this world, and the people of Israel in the Land of Israel represented by the State of Israel is the best way for us as a people to make that contribution. I pray that victory will come soon, so that we may continue to Isaiah’s prophecy, where Nation does not threaten Nation, and nobody learns war anymore.
Ari Kaiman is the senior rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel.