Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of an American president or vice president. Earlier this week, he posted a picture on social media showing him and Vice President Kamala Harris lighting a menorah.
The caption detailed what he called the “story of Hanukkah” – except the tale he told in the since-deleted post was not historically accurate.
On Wednesday’s show, Megyn was joined by Rabbi Steve Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple to discuss what Emhoff got wrong and the true meaning of the holiday.
Emhoff’s Revisionist History
On Monday, Emhoff posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) about Hanukkah. The post included a picture of him and the vice president lighting a menorah alongside a brief ‘history’ of the Festival of Lights.
“The story of Hanukkah and the story of the Jewish people has always been one of hope and resilience,” Emhoff wrote on X. “In the Hanukkah story, the Jewish people were forced into hiding. No one thought they would survive or that the few drops of oil they had would last.”
“But they survived and the oil kept burning,” he added.
“During those eight days in hiding, they recited their prayers and continued their traditions. That’s why Hanukkah means dedication. It was during those dark nights that the Maccabees dedicated themselves to maintaining hope and faith in the oil, each other, and their Judaism. In these dark times, I think of that story,” the post concluded.
The only problem? That’s not the “story of Hanukkah.” The post has since been deleted and no explanation has been provided as to the source of the error. “That’s like a game of telephone and you’re the tenth guy to hear the story,” Rabbi Leder quipped. “He was not well-prepared and he was ill-informed or ignorant or both. I don’t know.”
The Real Story of Hanukkah
Today, most people understand the eight-day celebration as a commemoration of the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem some 2,200 years ago after the Jews rose up against their oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. When the Maccabees gathered to light the temple’s menorah, they found only a days-worth of oil. Once the oil was lit, however, it miraculously lasted eight days.
As Rabbi Leader explained, there is more to the story. “When the Jews won this kind of guerrilla war against the Hellenized Assyrians, who defiled their temple and forbid them to be Jews… it was a triumph of tenacity and right over might,” he shared. “It was a military triumph.”
That is not, however, what most people learn these days. “About 600 years later, the rabbis of the day under horrible oppression and occupation created this myth about the oil for the rededication of the temple being only enough for one day but lasting eight,” he explained. “They created this myth to transform the Hanukkah story from a story of right over might, and tenacity, and zealousness for your people… to the miraculous nature of of Hanukkah in the vessel of this oil.”
The leaders of the time “became uncomfortable with the actual narrative – the idea and the exercise of Jewish power,” he said, “so they they flipped the script and made it a story about God’s miracle.” It was an effort to not “provoke” or “lionize bravery and courage in that way,” Rabbi Leder added.
A Message to America’s Jews
Given everything that has happened in the wake of the October 7 terror attacks and the rise in antisemitism seen in the U.S. and around the world, Rabbi Leder has a message for America’s Jews. “Let’s tell the real story of right over might, of tenacity, and let’s make it clear that it’s not as easy to kill Jews as it used to be,” he shared. “We do have power and we are going to exercise it.”
He said that is not just “military power” but also “the power of the court system in this country,” “the power of our platforms,” and “the power of moral clarity and moral authority.”
More than ever, Rabbi Leder said it’s important to remember what “chosen” means. “When we talk about Jews as the ‘chosen people,’ we don’t mean chosen for privilege,” he explained. “We mean chosen for responsibility – to be morally clear and responsible for the values by which our entire Western Civilization has been created.”
Ultimately, his takeaway is simple: “Be loud; be proud; be brave; be courageous.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Rabbi Leder by tuning in to episode 685 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.