Holiday of Religious Liberty

The Jews of Western Europe and America gave Hanukkah new meaning--which remains with us today.

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Don't let the light go out!

Let it shine through our love and our tears. […]

Echoing what could be the questions asked by an assimilated Jew who knows that Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting candles but realizes that he or she is unaware of their significance, the song asks:

What is the memory that's valued so highly

That we keep it alive in that flame?

What's the commitment to those who have died

That we cry out they've not died in vain?

The answer provided is no more specifically related to the story of the Hasmonean revolt or to traditional Jewish value-concepts than was the question:

We have come this far always believing

That justice would somehow prevail.

This is the burden, this is the promise,

This is why we will not fail!

Hanukkah in America, like most Jews in America, had come to be identified closely with the values of liberal democracy. While for some American Jews, it seems, any uniquely Jewish message in that holiday had become invisible, we may also say that many Jews were able to envision their own struggle for autonomy as part of a larger, worldwide trend.

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Rabbi Peretz Rodman

Peretz Rodman is a Jerusalem-based rabbi, teacher, writer, editor, and translator. He was a founding editor of MyJewishLearning.com.