Chanukah – Why do we light those candles? Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il

This morning I was musing about Chanukah and the great unprecedented events of our time, the recent death of Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia and Kim Yong Il of North Korea with my Mormon trainer, Steven. Yes, my trainer Steven, is a committed and practicing Mormon. We train and we talk twice a week. This morning it was about the unexpected death of Kim Yong Il, the North Korean “Great Leader”, the starvation and virtual imprisonment of the North Korean people who are dominated by a well fed and well armed military. North Korea is the world’s most militarized nation, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. It is a nuclear-weapons state and has an active space program. (wikipedia) and this led us to think about how the few enslave the many via ideology all over the world.

Jonathon Kay writes, Kim Il-sung knew that the only way to legitimize his repressive, impoverished regime was to insulate subjects from the outside world (the dials on North Korean radios are soldered so as to lock them in permanently to the state propaganda network) and to turn himself into an ersatz deity. Over 500 statues of Kim Il-sung dot the North Korean landscape, and a revisionist history of his days as an anti-Japanese guerrilla fighter have been embellished to the point that they seem like something out of a 1980s-era Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

It seems the pen is mightier than the sword and both sides know it.

So what does this have to do with Chanukah? I share with you this video that lays out the background of the Chanukah story.

Chanukah is the story of the weak and the few against the strong and the many. However there is another important lesson that we learn from this video and the Chanukah story. The lesson of knowing what to fight for. The Macabees were fighting the ideology of the Greeks which conflicted with the human rights articulated by the torah. This is what gave them the courage to fight because they understood that fighting for these principles was more important than life itself.

Vaclav Havel, who fought against the same kind of enslavement as in North Korea by the former Soviet Union, on the other side of the world, and won, understood both of these issues.

And after he succeeded in freeing his people, he is quoted by Irwin Cotler sharing this important truth, “those who would repress the human rights of their own citizens will threaten the rights of the citizens of other countries.” We are seeing this manifesting all over the world, in Syria, Iran, where tyrants are willing to fight to the death to buttress their own power, they endanger all of us with their power and their arsenals.

None of us have crystal balls regarding the future, but the story of Chanukah reminds us to light the candle, and not give up the struggle. Again I quote Vaclav Havel, the only lost cause is the one we give up on before we enter the struggle.

Let’s light those candles, remind ourselves why we are lighting them, and take courage from the victories of those who have shown the way.