Music and singing are a big part of my spirituality. I am lifted up by the melodies new and old whether for Shabbat or for a holiday at Chanukah. It my house after lighting the Chanukiyah we always pick a Chanukah favorite to sing. Some nights it is “Chanukah O Chanukah, come light the menorah….” While other nights it is the traditional “Maoz Tzur yishuati…” When my son was little it might have been “Sevivon, sov, sov, sov (dreydle turn turn turn)” or Debbie Friedman’s “I am a Latke”!
Chanukah has lots of melodies including the special Chanukah melody for the blessings–the trope. And this special melody indicates this holiday as does the special trope or melody for each Jewish holiday. The Jewish New Year has its own. Our Festivals have their own. The melody to chant from the Book of Lamentations on Tisha B’av has its own mournful melody.
But the sounds of Chanukah and the songs of Chanukah continue to grow daily. Even among the old favorites are new Chanukah songs being written. That is why it was not really a surprise when Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) wrote a new Chanukah song. Sen. Hatch is known for his musical abilities on the Hill. He is the composer of many songs. But what is striking is that Sen. Hatch is a practicing Mormon. He is an advocate for Israel and even wears a gold mezzuzah around his neck.
But this Chanukah he wrote and recorded a new Chanukah song along with his co-composer Madeline Stone. I don’t think it will displace “I have a little Dreydle” or even Adam Sandler’s irreverant “Chanukah Song”. But perhaps Sen. Hatch ought to think more about the meaning of Chanukah if he is offering this “gift to the Jewish people”. Perhaps he ought to think of what that light represents and the values of the Jewish people!
The light of the Chanukiah is about God’s presence in the world and the freedom to worship as we see fit. And a big part of Jewish values is to see everyone created “B’tzelem Elohim” in the image of God. That is why most of the Jewish world understands that GLBT people are part of God’s beautiful creations and that GLBT people are welcomed in Reform , Conservative, Reconstructionist congregations throughout the world. Even in a some Orthodox communities gay people are welcomed. Perhap Sen. Hatch if he wanted to give a gift to the Jewish people would support ENDA-the Employment non-Discrimination Act that allows all people the freedom to work and support the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell which would end the hypocrisy facing our military at a time when we are fighting two wars one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan and a third one -in the guise of the war on terror.
I love music and I love to sing Chanukah songs. But the light of equality and freedom and liberty matter most as that is what is represented by the lights of the menorah. So on this seventh night let’s sing the song of equality, freedom from oppression and hope that GLBT people everywhere will come to know the joys of liberty and justice.