US president Joe Biden hosted the White House’s annual menorah lighting ceremony on the fourth night of Channukah on Wednesday. During his speech, Biden referenced the story of Chanukah and the destruction of the Second Temple. Biden compared the holy Temple to the “temple of our democracy.” The comparison struck many as ironic since democracy is a Greek concept, the very people (and ideas) the Maccabees fought against.
Later on in his speech, the US president seemed to be optimistic that the third Temple will be rebuilt saying: “Whether it’s in the temple of Jerusalem or a temple of our democracy nothing broken or profaned is beyond repair…nothing. We can always build back better. Or perhaps, build back brighter.” The speech was not without the president’s signature gaffes including telling Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug that he was “leading the menorah lady.” Biden also welcomed Israel’s new ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog. Following the introduction, Biden recalled his meeting with former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir saying that he was going to be the liaison between Israel and the Egyptians following the Yom Kippur war of ’73 and a meeting with Meir which he described as “so depressing.” On the lessons of the holiday of Channukah, Biden said: “The Chanukkah story provides a powerful lesson and nourishes the wellspring of hope. In darkness there’s light. In cynicism, there’s hope and optimism and an unyielding belief that miracles are possible.” The menorah that was being lit was designed by the late Manfred Anson, an immigrant who escaped Nazi Germany. Biden also gave an honorary mention to one guest named Rabbi Aharon Glatt for “encouraging his congregation to get vaccinated.” Ironically, Biden who champions both mask and vaccine mandates hailed the lessons of freedom and liberty that could be learned from the Maccabees.
“You know when we light this menorah in the White House when Jewish families place menorahs in their windows, we’re proclaiming liberty. We’re exercising the freedom that the Maccabees sought. To simply practice their faith and we’re showing that there is still light. That even the most fragile flame can be sustained in a tradition and nourish the soul of a people. A little bit of light, a little bit of light wherever it is found can dispel the darkness and illuminate a path forward.”