Rahm Emanuel had a serious message about mutual responsibility to make, in a pithy, punchy speech before he helped light the “national menorah” this evening on the Ellipse in front of the White House.
Still, the White House chief of staff being Rahm couldn’t resists a couple of one-liners.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs American Friends of Lubavitch, rushed in a thanks to the performers before calling Emanuel to the stage.
“The U.S. Air Force Band, the Three Cantors and Dreidl Man,” Emanuel said after taking the microphone, “sounds a little like the title of a Fellini movie.”
Emanuel went on to make the lessons of Chanukah a paradigm for the collective responsibility for those not able to defend or care for themselves — Tikkun Olam.
“Standing up for what is right, even when it is hard, is not a job for some other people, some other time,” he said. “It is a job for all of us.”
And still, expounding on the holiday miracle, he couldn’t resist a dig at his former habitat, Congress.
“The oil lasted longer than anyone expected, kind of like the health care debate,” he said.
Chanukah started Friday evening this year, which meant that Rahm was in the unenviable position of having to light three of the candles from the wind-blown crane he shared with Shemtov, Shemtov’s father Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, a secret service agent and a photographer.
This involved stretching to extend the shamas to the far end of the candelabra — Shemtov was ready with a cigarette lighter when the shamas blew out — to the oohs and ahhs of a thrilled and apprehensive crowd.
Well, apprehensive, except maybe for Emanuel’s wife, Amy Rule, who laughed and took pictures while her husband held on for dear life.
The event, dubbed the “national menorah” by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, filled all 4,000 free seats — and then some — despite mud-soaked fields.
And add one more miracle to the Chanukah canon: Drizzling rain, which plagued the DC area over the weekend, stopped just before the festivities started.
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Photos by Israel Bardugo