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Archived Message

Sunday, December 9, 2001

Chanukah is an eight-day festival beginning on the 25th of Kislev
 - usually in late December, this year on December 10th.


                   Chanukah, the Festival of Lights fills most Jewish homes with a glow from the light of Chanukah candles.  During this eight-day festival a candle is lighted each night until the Menorah, an eight-branched candlestick, is completely in full glow.

                   The ceremony of the lighting of the candles commemorates one of the most eventful periods of Jewish history.  It goes back some two thousand years, to 165 B.C.E.  At that time all that remained of the Kingdom of Judah was under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes, King of Syria, who demanded that all his subjects worship the Greek gods and adopt the Greek way of life.  This the Jews refused to do.  Judas Maccabeus, a devout Jewish leader, with the help of his four brothers, led the Jews in a victorious struggle against their Syrian oppressors.  Their victory made it possible for the Jews to worship again in their Temple in Jerusalem, and it eventually led to the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Judah.  It was, in fact, the first great victory for religious freedom in the world.

                   Why would non-Jews celebrate Chanukah?  First of all, the lighting of candles during this time of year brings more of a symbol of light in our lives.  Light symbolizes intelligence and therefore understanding.  Secondly, and most important, is that we are celebrating with our brothers and sisters as children of One Father, religious freedom.  Religious freedom or as some may state, freedom from religion is necessary for our harmony, peace and joy.  Just like the Jews of 165 B.C.E. who did not want to be forced to follow a religious practice not of their choice, many today, as we can see from recent events, want to force or coerce others into following "their beliefs" and attempt to take the "free will" that is our Divine Right away.  Many Americans were appalled to learn of the practices of the Taliban an extremist fundamentalist religious leadership.  But, are we aware of the religious injustices that are perpetrated daily in our own country?

                 When we listen to the obnoxious ramblings and comments from Rev. Jerry Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson cast blame and shame on those that do not share their religious beliefs, can't we see what would happen if they were to somehow have greater control over our government?  These ministers are not as aggressive and ruthless as the Taliban, but their personal theologies are just as damaging and hateful.  Unlike the Taliban, they poison the minds of those susceptible to a Devil and evil beliefs in others and in their twisted mentalities commit violence and hatred in the name of Christianity.  In other words, like Judas, they claim to love Jesus, but by their words and actions they betray the very teaching that he lived and taught, thereby betraying him.  "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone," the Radical Rabbi stated.  This lesson was not about sin, but self-righteousness!  But, not only are many of these ministers loud and vocal in their self-righteousness, truly a denial of God, but they are very devious in their attempts to manipulate government policies and especially our public schools.

                 I have been sent messages via email asking that I sign a petition for "prayer in the schools."  I am adamantly opposed to any such legislation.  Now this might surprise some of you but let me explain why.  To me, this proposed legislation is just another attempt to take away our "religious freedom."  Most of those who desire such legislation do not really want prayer in the schools, they want Christian prayer in the schools.  It would be almost impossible in the country that we live in today to administer prayer in the schools.  There are just simply too many varied religious practices and methods of prayer to do this with any respectful way.  Additionally, school teachers are not trained in religious practices nor should they be responsible for the religious/spiritual instruction of their students.

                At the time I was in grade school, "grace" was still said before lunch at the school I was in.  This was in the Bible Belt, in a small rural area in Missouri.  There was only one Catholic family and the teacher, although a wonderful teacher, had a bias against Catholics.  When the only Catholic student in my class said the blessing for lunch, the teacher would ridicule her as she made the sign of the cross, which is traditional in Catholicism.  At the time, I did not fully understand the inappropriateness of  this slight against this student's religion, but it instilled in me, to this day, a conviction, that religious instruction does not belong in the school systems.

               Prayer instruction is the responsibility of the parents and the family's religious/spiritual organization.  I believe most people understand what I have stated and would agree, and further, I believe that those who propose this legislation know this as well.  We must be very careful in what we choose to support and our support should be to honor and respect all religious and spiritual paths knowing that God has given each and every individual "free will."  Free Will is our Divine Right.  We have a Divine Right to choose or to choose-not to have a religious/spiritual influence in our lives and this choice is ours for our children too, until they reach the age of reason and can choose for themselves.

                 "Judge not lest ye be judged," the Master Mind Jesus told us.  We must not judge the religious/spiritual choices of anyone as either good or bad - they are just the choice they have made at that point of their spiritual journey.  Jesus was born a Jew and lived as a Jew his entire life.  The first Christians were called "Jewish Christians" - but what Jesus taught was clearly beyond any religious or spiritual study of his day and most of those today - yet, he did not judge those who did not follow his teachings, but kept teaching, for he knew that "religious freedom" was our Divine Right.  Jesus was well aware of Chanukah and the Festival of Lights and what this celebration commemorates.  As my friend, Harvey Kraus, stated to me, "Jesus celebrated Chanukah too!"!
               

 And So It Is!             

                                                            
Letting Love use me in Its own Good Way,
Henry Lee Bates