09/28/2011 10:08 am ET Updated Nov 28, 2011

Rosh Hashanah: Remembrance and Renewal

We have just observed the 10th anniversary of 9/11; in less than three months, we shall mark the 70th year since Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt referred to December 7th, 1941, as a "date that will live in infamy." Both solemn occasions call for more than memory; they cry out for renewal of our purpose as a freedom-seeking people who pursue peace and justice for all.

It occurred to me that the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, also falls in this ninth month of September and is also named Yom Hazikaron, "A Day of Memorial." We remember the creation of man, his milieu and his mission in life. We pray for righteousness, repentance and return unto His divine commandments. Recalling all the beneficence shown by our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we vow to try to be as faithful as our ancestors who sacrificed and sanctified their lives for the sake of their progeny.

Less than three months after our High Holy Days, we celebrate the festival of Hanukkah, the eight-day holiday that commemorates the victory by the Maccabees over the Graeco-Syrians. In 334 B.C.E., Alexander the Great conquered Israel in his quest for world dominance. The rabbis and leaders of the holy land greeted him with dignity and reverence. In turn, he permitted them to retain their worship rites and their Temple in Jerusalem. One hundred sixty-six years later, Antiochus, the Syrian tyrant who replaced the Greek, desecrated the Temple and forbade traditional customs, including circumcision (note: voters in San Francisco). Mattithias, an aged priest of Modiin, then a little village west of the capital (now a large, modern city), led his five sons in a rebellion against the mighty foe and defeated them. Without that victory, there would have been no Judaism, and, consequently, no Christianity two centuries later, and no Islam six centuries after that. In short, it was the first major battle for religious freedom that determined all Western religions today.

How do we observe this holiday? By kindling a candelabrum consisting of eight lights, one for each night that a little cruse of undefiled oil rescued from the Temple remained lit, burning brightly. We do not parade military might even though it was a three year war. We quote Zechariah, the prophet, who said, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."

Today, the free world faces a religious battle with Jihadist Muslims who want to deny all non-Muslims the right to worship any God but Allah. They desire to spread Sharia law wherever they dwell and force all inhabitants to bow down as they do. They respect no person's right to differ: Allah, or the sword. Much of Europe, Asia, and now the Americas are being overrun by these extremists who encourage suicide bombings of innocent women and children. "9-11" was the opening salvo: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria maintain the war against "the Great and small Satan," the United States of America and Israel. Al Qaeda did not end with the death of Osama bin Laden. More "martyrs" have sprung up over all continents, including Africa; recruitment continues in America; some have infiltrated our armed forces and wreaked their havoc upon our citizens. If we are to live up to our destiny, we must remember and renew our commitment to world freedom and pursue peace in every just way. Remember 9-11 and remember Pearl Harbor, but insist upon renewal of our pledges to fight for liberty and freedom.