Mintz: Fighting darkness with light this holiday season
Winter has arrived and Chanukah, the festival of lights, is upon us.
On Sunday evening, Dec. 18, I will gather around the Menorah with my wife and children, and we’ll allow our souls to be inspired by the illumination. We will spend eight days recalling the triumph of the courageous Maccabees over the brutal Syrian Greeks, refusing to surrender to relentless religious persecution. As we spin our Dreidels and celebrate with latkes and donuts, we will focus on our survival and thank G-d “for the miracles, the redemption, the mighty acts, the saving acts and for the wonders that You have done for our fathers, in those days at this time.”
When reading world news, and even national reports, antisemitism, unadulterated Jew-hatred, is on the rise again. The current round of hatred is being propagated by Ye (Kanye West) and his acolytes, who, with the usual scapegoating and blood libeling, are spewing the vilest falsehoods about the Jewish community.
In 2022, having come so far in our understanding, and appreciation, of our fellow human beings, a resurgence of hate is troubling. I grew up in New York and always enjoyed my visits to the Statue of Liberty. I wonder if some of our fellow citizens have forgotten the eternal words of Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”
How is it that the Jewish people are once again the victims of hate and intimidation? And why are so many seeking to justify the haters?
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Here in Vail, we’ve had a very different experience. In the 16 years we’ve lived in town, we have found our neighbors to be respectful, our leaders to be thoughtful and our community to be insightful and open-minded. Yet, I wonder how we can take the Vail model and replicate it elsewhere. Shouldn’t the Jews in Chicago and Seattle feel as safe as the Jew in Eagle or Fort Collins? How are we to deal with haters?
As I kindle my menorah, I will find the answer to this age-old question while staring into the warm flames and paying close attention to its eternal message. The menorah tells me that the answer to hatred is kindness, not reciprocal viciousness. The answer to darkness is light, not reciprocal division. The answer to intimidation is courage, not reciprocal terrorizing. Darkness is a mindset and can’t be fought with warships; we fight the dark forces with the only tool that ever works against them, and that is the spread of light.
Our response to Ye is to fill Colorado with more menorah lightings, more Chanukah celebrations, more joyous Jewish events, and stronger Jewish identities because there’s nothing that drives antisemites crazier than the sound of Jewish joy. Join us for the Riverwalk Menorah Lighting on the 18, Chanukah on Ice on the 22, Chanukah Shabbat Dinner on the 23, Chanukah at Chasing Rabbits on the 25 and so much more. To learn more about Chanukah in Vail visit JewishVail.com.
The Maccabees fought off the abusive haters in 139 BCE and we can do the same today with courage, determination and lots of holy light.
Rabbi Dovid Mintz directs Vail Chabad Jewish Center. He and his family live in Vail since 2006. He can be reached at info@JewishVail.com.