Saddams capture offers hope at Chanukah

As the week began, we celebrated a U.S. victory — the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

As the week ends, we celebrate a Jewish victory — the Macabees’ short-lived success against their Hellenized Syrian oppressors and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple after its desecration.

Both victories give us hope. The capture of Saddam lifted our spirits after watching one American casualty after another in Iraq.

Judah Macabee’s victory showed us how a small band of Jews had the ability to overpower a much larger oppressor.

There is light at the end of the chanukiah.

But as we have learned through the ages, there is no such thing as an easy war.

The Macabees got one day’s worth of oil to last for eight, but on the battlefield the extra light did them no good. They were later defeated.

What about our victory in overpowering Saddam? Might that be short-lived as well? How will we feel if Iraqi insurgents increase attacks against Americans in response to the capture of their leader?

Saddam needs to pay for his despotism. But his capture isn’t a miracle, just a battlefield success.

When the rabbis of old spoke of Chanukah, they focused on the miracle of the oil. They recognized the power of gradually increasing light in the midst of darkness, and the pervasiveness of hope.

The story of Chanukah doesn’t dwell on military successes or failures. The Macabees’ battlefield exploits are barely recalled today.

It is hope itself — not the Macabees’ military victory — that we celebrate at this time of year.

So it is that the capture of the Iraqi tyrant brings us hope that peace and democracy can come to Iraq quickly, and that U.S. troops can come home quickly.

Saddam’s horrific deeds serve to remind the Jewish people that evil on a grand scale did not end with the Nuremberg trials — and it won’t end with the undoing of Iraq’s evil regime. Our battle and the battle of all people facing an imposing enemy will continue.

As we light our first candle tonight, let us pray for justice. Let us pray that the flame of democracy can illuminate Iraq and spread to other Middle Eastern countries where oppression continues to flourish.

And let us pray that the coming year will bring us peace. Peace in Iraq, peace in Afghanistan, peace in the Mideast and peace wherever war and discord prevail.