The Thinking 

The Menorah and the Christmas Tree

December 13, 2017

BOTH THE National Menorah, which as the largest public menorah in the world stands 30 feet tall, and the National Christmas Tree, which is also very imposing (its exact height this year is unclear), currently occupy the Ellipse outside the White House. At the base of the tree, there is also a smaller menorah and a small nativity scene. For all the fanfare about Trump being a staunch Christmas traditionalist, the tree is decorated this year in the unconventional, non-Christmas-y, presidential colors of gold and blue — in keeping with Trump’s nationalism.

The idea that these two symbols — the menorah and the tree — can be reconciled is strange.

More than strange, it is irrational.

According to the Talmud, Jesus was a magician and blasphemer born of a whore. (The average American Jew does not think of Jesus in this harsh way. Most would probably say he was a good man who has been misrepresented by fanatics.) According to the Bible, He was the Messiah long awaited for and prophesied by the Israelites.

The menorah, which objectively is quite ugly, is there not simply because of the militance and political might of a tiny minority. It is there along with Christian symbols because most Americans have long since divorced faith from reason. Faith, they believe, is principally an emotional experience. It is reasonable to honor multiple religions because people have different opinions and subjective experiences. The more the better.

But why not just leave religion out altogether? Wouldn’t that be even more consistent with American-style tolerance? No, to call a truce and recognize no religion would not work on the political level. For religion, however weakly, and the beauty of God’s revelation is in the hearts of the people. To abolish religious displays, as did Soviet Communism, would be to uncover the inherent ugliness of democracy. To recognize none would anger political supporters, who are indeed religious.

Therefore democracy engages in mock religiosity, arguably more dangerous that the blatant atheism of Communism. “Oh, see how Christian Donald Trump is! He said, ‘Merry Christmas’ in Pensacola!!” Some see these token displays of Christian belief — no less token than that of many other presidents — as a sign of a potential return to Christian values. Christians are so often the willing dupes of democracy’s pretenses. Writes Buffin de Chosal in his book The End of Democracy:

Some think Christianity has a vocation to imbue democracy with values. They are right in theory, but they will labor in vain, for democracy is a relativistic system and is hostile to any moral constraints it has not given itself.

The National Menorah is the work of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect Chabad-Lubavitch, to which Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner belong. Most Americans know nothing about the views of the Chabad, a cult which does not believe in democracy, but in Jewish world rule. The Chabad have also placed menorahs in front of Mount Rushmore, Trafalgar Square, the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate and the Kremlin. The campaign was set into motion in 1973 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

The views of the Chabad-Lubavitch are in stark contrast to the views of Christianity, which asserts all human beings are created in the image of God. According to Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad-Lubavitch cult, “there is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life.”  [Quoted by Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg in the Jewish Times, April 26, 1996]

According to Michael Hoffman:

Hanukkah is Talmudism’s principal weapon for injecting the religion of the Talmud into the civic life of our nation during the month of December, at a time when Christianity and its symbols, such as Nativity scenes, are increasingly marginalized or banned completely from the public square, in favor of menorah lightings, “Sanny Claws” and the collective jingle of cash registers.

That may be so, but all should be free to worship as they please.

Not that it would ever be easy, in any political system (even a Christian monarchy), to make pious men out of politicians, but it would be a step in the right direction to institutionalize American tolerance. If our government stopped engaging in phony pieties and dispensed with both the menorah and the tree, that would at least be reasonable.

But that will never happen. Religion in this sense truly is the opiate of the masses. Democracy will continue to feed on and despoil the sublime mystery of Christmas.

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