May the Father of All Mercies Scatter Light

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge

Credit:Library of Congress/John Ward Dunsmore, 1907

Around Thanksgiving time, we celebrated the friendship to the Jewish people showed by America’s first president, George Washington. And as the Jewish people prepare to celebrate Hanukkah, we remember President Washington again.

In 2006, author Stephen Krensky published a wonderful book children’s book called Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Now, Krensky’s story has not been proven (neither has it been disproven), but it goes something like this:

General Washington, leader of the revolutionaries fighting their British overlords, encounters a Jewish soldier of Polish extraction as he lights a menorah. Curious as to this custom, Washington stops and learns about Hanukkah from the soldier.

Now, as we said, there is no way to prove the historical accuracy of this story. But as we learned last month, Washington did communicate loudly and openly his love for the Jewish people.

In the letter to a synagogue mentioned above, doesn’t President Washington’s message sound a bit like one that would fit with “The Festival of Lights”?

May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

And, looking back at the war Washington and his fellow founding fathers were fighting, doesn’t its story — a small band of ragtag soldiers fighting for freedom, religious and otherwise, miraculously overcome a far larger and better-equipped opponent — sound a bit like that of Hanukkah, where the Jewish band of Maccabees defeated the far greater Greeks? We thought so. Happy Hanukkah to all of our Jewish friends, in the U.S., in Israel, and elsewhere. My God’s light scatter the darkness that might cross your paths.

Tags: George Washington Hanukkah History Holidays Judaism Stephen Krensky United States Valley Forge

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