Three views of liberation, since three is the number of intention.
First, for this fourth day of Chanukah, Judah the Maccabee, the Hammer of Judea. He took a rag-tag band of guerilla warriors, and from the dark corners of the land, he and his band of merry men overcame the superior forces of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, fought them and finally won the day.
Huzzah! Liberated - but still, there was much work to do.
The Temple had been overrun with Assyrians, Greeks and idols (oh my!). The altars had been smashed, or worse, defiled. It was unfit for people and for God. So it was reclaimed, cleaned, made pure and holy again, and finally dedicated before the glorious miracle of the oil: only enough to last a single day, that oil, once lit, lasted for a full eight days, just long enough to get a new supply.
Nes gadol hayah sham - a great miracle happened there.
Huzzah, again. The people rejoiced in their liberation from tyranny and oppression, scrubbed the Temple -- and promptly ushered in one of the most corrupt and oppressive regimes in our history. And as long as we're talking about cleaning - let's not forget the dead, the bodies of various Judeans who were not collateral damage, but the victims of internecine warfare. Apparently, we weren't content with just Antiochus' soldiers.
We jumped from the frying pan straight into the fire. Liberation is a double edged sword. It cuts, no matter which side of the blade you're on.
FLy through several thousand years after the Hammer hit home. Humanity has learned a staggering amount during the intervening millennia, whether learned ex nihilo or some refinement of the original , that allowed civilization to flourish. Here's a list, in no particular order (and I'm not even gonna Google this, and I'm gonna miss a gajillion things here) - the stirrup, the printing press, perspective, language, poetry, drama, fireworks, gunpowder, paper, music, smelting, science, astronomy, philosophy. My God! We went from the Bronze Age to the Age of Reason in the blink of an eye, and with every jump, with every advancement, there remained some spots of darkness and decay.
Let's not even list the timeline of weaponry that paralleled that of music and dance, of art and architecture. We went from rocks to sticks to swords and spears, connon and gunpowder. The holy oil that burned in the Temple could also burn your enemies.
Let's talk about the Jews, still considered the scourge of the western world. If we weren't thrown out of a country (don't cry for me Spain, I'll hitch a ride with Columbus), we were put into ghettos (medieval Italy) or made chattel of the king (hoorray for the Magna Carta)). We were practice dummies for the wonderful knights of the Crudades. We were demonized as money-grubbers and child-killers.
While the Age of Enlightenment and Napoleon seemed to liberate us from the bondage of the past, there were still a few hills to climb, and work to be done. Liberation is a double-edged sword.
Seven or eight years ago, I got an email from a friend. It had a huge distribution list along with a link to a video. The body of the email read "My God, you must watch this!" Normally, I would delete such an email, wise in the ways of phishers and scams. However, I trusted the friend so I clicked on the link. He was right. It was something I needed to watch. You should, too.
Were we ever liberated? Who can retell the things that befell us? Who can count them? Evil arose, covering the world with smoke and darkness. Our people were rounded up like animals. Humanswere rounded up - Jews and Gypsies, Communists and Catholics. It didn't matter. A king arose with the power to strip people of their humanity, of their personhood, so they could be bound and gagged and murdered, one by one by one, fed into the pits of some hell that we don't believe in.
And can you imagine? Truly - having been made a slave, having been starved and beated and worked unto death -- in the very first moments of your liberation, you sing of hope. You sing praiases to God. Can you imagine?
Baruch hashem - blessed is God's name. Nes gadol hayah sham - a great miracle happened there.
We rejoiced in our liberation. There was so much work to be done! We learned from our liberation. "Never again," we cried out. This degradation, this dehumanization will never happen again. We cannot allow it. We learned to be strong, To be vigilant. To be free.
And we dug in our heels, put our backs into building a land that the desert had claimed for its own. And we kept watch and we defended and we sang our "Never again" like a psalm. And we worked to make it so, to make sure we never again felt the boot of the tyrant on our necks.
And we taught the ones who came after - "Never again." And we meant it. And we meant it for the world entire. "Never again." Never let our past become another's present. Let us learn that all of us - Jew and Gentile, Muslim and Sikh, every single one of us - we must all sing the psalm of Never Again, and we must all make sure that our song is true.
And so, the third view of Liberation, for the fourth day of Chanukah, the holiday of light and liberation - liberation is hard, and is a double edged sword, and the work is long.
Sometimes, the hardest lesson of all: failure. From the dead in the Killing Fields of Pol Pot to Bosnia and Herzogovina and Rwanda. From the sex slaves in every city and town the world over to the child laborers that allow us to buy our toys so cheaply. Look at the Women of the Wall. How different are they, really, from the girls stolen by Boko Haram? Only minutes ago, I saw a tweet that read "Only 10 days to #Day1000..."
A thousand days! A thousand! But it's not on tv much, so we can sweep that one under the rug. Right? I could go on, it seems for an infinity - a whiny chunk of infinioty: Flint. Ninth Ward. The African American community. The poor. Women. The differently-abled. Does it matter, which group of oppressed? How can we rest while there is such pain?
We are all human.
Liberation is a double-edged sword. It never means "and then we all lived happily ever after." It means there is work to do, much work. And the work of liberation is difficult. We may never finish the work; neither are we free to desist.