Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot
Biden condemns Antisemitism during Hanukkah holiday reception, Dec. 19, 2022.

The president introduced himself to his guests at the White House Hanukkah reception on Monday, saying, “Hello, everybody. (Applause.) My name is Joe Biden, and I’m Jill’s husband. (Laughter) … Tonight, we’re honored to mark another new tradition we’re establishing tonight. And that is the lighting of what will be the first-ever permanent White House menorah. (Applause.) It will also be the first Jewish artifact in the entire White House collection. (Applause.)”

Biden then said: “This year’s Hanukkah arrival — arrives in the midst of rising emboldenment (it means to impart boldness or courage, I looked it up – DI) of antisemitism at home and, quite frankly, around the world. I recognize your fear, your hurt, your worry that this vile, and venom is becoming too normal. As your President, I want to make this clear — as my dad would say, and many of you have said: Silence is complicity. We must not remain silent. (Applause.) And I made no bones about it from the very beginning: I will not be silent. America will not be silent. (Applause.) I mean it.”


Here’s the thing, though: on Monday, even as the president was lighting his new, permanent menorah, Deputy UN envoy Robert Wood told the Security Council: “The United States expects to see equal treatment of extremists – whether Israeli or Palestinian.”

Wood later clarified he had meant Israel should carry out “arrests, convictions, and punishments, as well as equal allocation of resources to prevent and investigate violent attacks,” creating the obvious impression that Jewish thugs are attacking Arab civilians day and night using firearms – just like those nice Lion’s Den folks are doing.

What a friend we have in Biden (Biden Admin Demands Israel Provide ‘Equal Allocation of Resources’ to Countering Israeli ‘Extremists’ and ‘Palestinian’ Terrorists).

The president then quoted his speechwriters, who said that “the Talmud teaches us we cannot rely on or expect miracles; we have to earn them. Earn them. We know that task is not easy. No one knows better than this audience.”

The Gemara in Shabbat 32a relates that Rabbi Yannai used to say: a person should never stand in a place of danger saying that from above they will perform a miracle for him, lest they not perform a miracle for him. And even if they do perform a miracle for him, they might deduct it from his merits.
Rabbi Ḥanin said the source for Rabbi Yannai’s saying was Jacob, who said: “I have been made smaller (katonti) by all the mercies, and all the truth which You have bestowed on Your servant” (Genesis 32:11). In other words, since You have bestowed so much kindness and truth on me, my merits have been diminished.
The same Gemara relates that Rabbi Zeira would not go out and walk among the palm trees on a day when a southern wind was blowing, fearing that the trees might fall on him.

The president’s writers added another Talmudic citation for the boss, who said wisely: “Just as we light one candle after another, another lesson from the Talmud is this: no matter what challenges we face, we’ve never stopped moving forward. Think about it. Never once have we stopped moving forward. We must rise in our faith and holiness. Never decline. And as we do, let us also hold on the hope, as the Jewish proverb says, even a glimmer of light can dispel much darkness.”

I’m not sure if the Talmud says so in so many words (and would be happy to receive your enlightening emails on the matter), but the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, counts among his 28 teachings, “A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.” And the Rebbe probably cited Hovot Halevavot, a philosophical book written by Rabbi Bahya ben Yosef ibn Paquda (c. 1050–1120), who stated (Fifth Treatise on Devotion 5:13): “Despite man’s weakness, the evil inclination’s eager lust to wage war with a man, and its power to injure him is easily removed because a little truth defeats much falsehood, just as a little light dispels much darkness.”

Charlie Cytron-Walker / United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Also on hand at the reception was Charlie Cytron-Walker, the clergy at Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. On January 15, 2022, Cytron-Walker and three others were held hostage by Malik Akram for eleven hours during the Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis.

As the standoff reached its tenth hour, Cytron-Walker said Akram grew “increasingly belligerent and threatening.” However, Cytron-Walker and the remaining hostages saw that Akram was out of position, knew an exit was nearby and positioned themselves nearby, one by one. Akram then ordered them to get on their knees, and Cytron-Walker got him a cup of juice to drink. As Akram drank, Cytron-Walker yelled at the others to run and threw a chair at Akram while the others fled towards the exit. All three hostages escaped, and no shots were fired by Akram.

Cytron-Walker had taken courses for several years through the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League, the Colleyville Police Department, and Secure Community Network, to prepare for the possibility of an intruder. He credited the information learned in those courses with his saving the hostages’ lives.

Cytron-Walker said at the reception: “A lot of people will ask me about that day, and they’ll ask about the trauma, and they’ll talk about it as a tragedy. And I’ll respond back that we all made it out. Thank God it wasn’t a tragedy. It could have been — (applause) — it could have been so much worse. It was terrible and it was terrifying, and we were able to get out alive.

“And that is the story of Hanukkah — the story where the Jewish people suffered through oppression and pain and loss and war. And despite all the difficulties and all the struggle, we are here today to celebrate because, against all odds, Judaism endured, and Judaism has thrived.

“So, I am celebrating Hanukkah this year with such gratitude. It is so good to be here. (Applause.) It is so good to stand here before you. Last night we said, Thank you, God, for enabling us to reach this season. I meant it. I meant it.”

He then said the blessings and lit the menorah.


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