Chanukah – Isaiah 2:5
The celebration of Chanukah was instituted after prophecy had already ceased from the community of Israel. The religious leadership of the people established this holiday as an expression of thanksgiving to God that is to last through the generations.
This holiday brings to the forefront the question of the authority of the religious leadership of Israel. Who are they to decide on my behalf? Who are they to dictate my personal relationship with God?
In order to answer these questions we need to understand a basic Scriptural concept. The concept I speak of is the entity called “Israel”. This entity is not just a gathering of individuals. It is a community. A community that stands as one before God from the days of the exodus into the future.
This community is human. We have made mistakes and we will make mistakes but this doesn’t change the fact that we stand in a covenantal relationship with God as a community. It is this entity – Eternal Israel, whom God chose to marry. He tied Himself to this community in a covenantal union and it is this covenant that stands at the heart of this community. As partners to God we seek to dispense our duty as a united community before God.
A group of people cannot be united without leadership. Is the leader perfect? Is the leader infallible? Not necessarily, but without a leader there is no community, only a collection of individuals.
How does Israel choose her leaders?
We choose our leaders based on our understanding of our covenantal responsibilities as a community. These are all spelled out in the Law that God gave to Moses. There are various factors that we consider in our choice of a leader. Does this person excel in the grasp of the myriad of details that make up the Law? Does this person embody an understanding of the spirit of the Law? Is this person dedicated to the Law with the fiery love that the Psalmist displayed towards the Law (Psalm 119:97)? Does this person live with an understanding and a vision of the community’s responsibility throughout the ages as did leaders before them (Joshua 22:24-29; Esther 9:27).
We consider these factors and the leaders rise to the top. These are the ones whom God chose to guide this ship of ours through the dark exile. Throughout history various groups jumped ship and made off in their own vessels; some of those may have been larger than the ship we ride today. But all of those deviants went lost in the sea of assimilation.
Yes; there is room for correction and the community corrects itself from time to time. But the process of correction takes place in the context of a community correcting itself. One cannot insist on calling themselves “Jews” while repudiating the entire concept of an Eternal community. Those who join the community must first submit to the concept of Eternal Israel; they cannot expect to be a part of the covenant on their own terms. Ruth; the quintessential convert, first declared: “Your nation is my nation” before she declared: “Your God is my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Chanukah is the celebration of the light that God entrusted us with. The ultimate goal is described in Isaiah 60:3; when the nations will all walk to our light. Meanwhile we carry that light, a light that is larger and brighter than ourselves, but as God’s bride He entrusted it to us to carry through the darkness and we carry it as a community.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal