As I listened today to the stories on WNYC (New York Public Radio) reporting on the memorials at Strawberry Fields in Central Park, NY, on the “yahrzeit” for John Lennon, I wished I had been there. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since John Lennon was taken from us by a deranged assassin. And it’s painful to realize how we have made so little progress toward realizing his dream for a peaceful world. Had I had a chance to go to Central Park tonight, I would have lit a chanukiyah, a Chanukah menorah, in celebration the festival and of Lennon’s message and music.

While Chanukah commemorates the Jewish people’s victory in armed struggle, routing the Syrian Greek army and reclaiming our homeland and our holy Temple, our sages sought to downplay to military victory in favor of highlighting the miraculous. Yes, I know the tale of the oil intended for one day that miraculously lasted for eight. But that legendary story told us more about the values of our sages than it does about what actually happened at the eight day celebration of Dedication/Chanukah. Having missed the celebration of Sukkot (an eight day festival), the band of victorious fighters known as the Maccabees chose to inaugurate an eight day festival in honor of the rededication of the Temple. After all, the Temple was originally dedicated during Sukkot by King Solomon in days of old. And that was 8 days of celebration.

So why the legend of the miracle of the oil? There are several reasons, one being a discomfort with war. To highlight this, the rabbis chose the reading from the prophet Zechariah for the Shabbat Chanukah reading from Prophets, the Haftarah. It concludes with the famous quote, “Not by might but by My spirit, says the Lord.”

This is a future vision of a world filled with the profound lessons of faith that can be so elusive: kindness, compassion, mercy, justice, hope, forgiveness, love and peace. We imagine that someday we will transform the world into a universally shared community of faith. Infused with the spirit of the Divine, the world will be whole.

“Imagine all the people living for today…” What if we imagine a world so filled with the holiness of the Divine presence that no hatred or animosity remains? If we invest ourselves in Tikkun Olam, repair of the world, we are partners with God in bringing about the redemption of the world. No more pain, no more anger, no more violence, no more war. This hopeful belief in the future, this faith in the possibilities, this spiritual intuition for God’s purpose, infuses Judaism.

“Imagine all the people living life in peace…” It’s all about suppressing our selfish instincts, living with a higher purpose. We can do it, our sages taught. This is the purpose of the spiritual life, truly living as a Jew. We are reaching toward and working for a future we can barely even imagine.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.” John Lennon, of blessed memory, understood the power of poetic imagery to capture and express a profound spiritual ideal. His words echo the prophet Zechariah and speak in the idiom of our generation.

Lennon may have been railing against organized religion – but his critique of the use of religion to divide and harm each other came from the heart that imagined unity and peace. What an inspiring voice for a generation that so sorely needs it.

With blessings of hope – for dreams, for imagining a world whole and at peace,

A final “hag urim sameah” for 5771/2010. May this festival of lights bring you joy.

Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

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