Monday, December 29, 2008

Chanukah and Jewish Leadership

As I traveled around Iraq (Camp Victory, Mosul, Taji, Baghdad and Al Khut this trip) I had a chance to talk to Jewish Soldiers about Chanukah and Jewish leadership at each menorah lighting.

In years past, I used to talk about Chanukah as a story of a small band of insurgents defeating the superpower of its day. Somehow that's not exactly the message I want to share with my fellow American Soldiers here in Iraq.

So instead, I focused on the true meaning of Chanukah... on how a little bit of light can drive away a great deal of darkness. That light is symbolized by the Menorah that we light every day of Chanukah, adding one more candle each day. Our sages describe each of us, our souls, as being like a candle. We can be the light that makes the world a better place.

In the words of the Alenu prayer... Tikun Olom, B'Malchus Shadai" [To repair the world in the Kingship of G-d]. Each of us, has that opportunity, wherever we are. And some of those I met with had chosen to take on the responsibilities of being Jewish Lay Leaders, and giving of their time and eforts. That's something that makes a tremendous difference for Jewish Soldiers found on all the camps, bases and outposts in this distant country. Judah Macabee, in his time, stood up and was a true leader. So too, we also need Jewish leaders in our generation. "Where are you, Judah Macabee?"