Netanyahu, Kerry, and the 5th Night of Chanukah

Yesterday, on the eve of the 5th night of Chanukah, John Kerry stood at a podium and lectured the Jews and Israel on peace and peacemaking and how the settlements are an obstacle to that peace. He spoke harshly and bitterly, but don’t fret, because as Kerry put it “friends need to tell each other the hard truths.”

His underlying premise was that as a friend and as a supporter of Israel, how could the administration “in good conscience” stand by as the opportunities for peace were being squandered on the ground. This is what’s in America’s best interests, but it’s also in Israel’s best interests, he argued. And Israel just doesn’t know what’s best for them. If we don’t shine our light for them, they’ll forever remain in darkness.

Today is the fifth day of Chanukah, which we marked last night, the fifth night, by lighting five candles on the menorah.

The fifth night is considered special, and as kids we always got more Chanukah gelt on this night than on any other.

The fifth night is special in that it marks the tipping point where there are now more candles illuminated on the menorah than not; more light than darkness.

Perhaps less known is that the fifth night/day of Chanukah is special because it cannot fall on Shabbat no matter which day Chanukah begins on. It never has and never will.

But what’s special about that? If anything, that sounds like a loss. This is the only night that doesn’t have the potential to ever be coupled with the holiness of Shabbat, with the light and warmth of the Shabbat candles, which were established to bring illumination and peace to the home. That sounds like darkness, not light.

Sometimes in life, we shy away from our light, believing that the only way for us to shine is if we have the permission, spoken or otherwise, of those around us. Or we believe that we are only allowed to shine when our shining is in concert with others. Worse still, we may believe that we have no light independent of the light of those around us.

Often Israel bows its head in deference to our patrons, believing consciously or subconsciously, and sometimes even stating in explicit terms, that we can’t survive without their backing.

The fifth night comes to remind us, that yes, where there is potential to couple your efforts and pool your resources with an ally, just as there is with seven out of the eight nights of Chanukah, you should take advantage of those opportunities.

But never forget that scripted into your DNA, deep in your soul and psyche, is the ability to stand wholly alone, to be the source of your own fuel, and to shine bright, even in the face of the greatest lies and the gravest of dangers

Always remember that you already possess reservoirs of fuel, hidden depots of energy, and that if you reach deep enough, you will be able to access it to multiply your own fire and be your own ally.

It’s time we focus inward and acknowledge that we — you and I — are not beholden to outside forces, but have the absolute power and autonomy to shine light and peace to the world. We can be the change, independent of even the most well-intentioned and brightest luminary (the “superpower” as Netanyahu deemed them in his response to Kerry’s speech).

And in our case, as Chanukah teaches us, even if that ally were to be our greatest luminary — the superpower light –— of the Holy Shabbat.

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn, raised in California, Saadya Notik traveled the world as an ambassador for the largest Jewish organization before founding the Shabbat Society -- an invite-only Friday night dinner group for New York City's least-affiliated and most talented young Jews.
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