We Jews have our own WWJD: What Would Judah Maccabee Do?
Judah lived at a time much like our own. A large number of Jews spent their days enjoying the pleasures of modern (for them Hellenistic) society, not really caring about the decisions being made for them by politicians and the people ‘on the Hill,’ the power elite, somewhat like today’s big business, who had bribed their way to control over the Temple Mount.
But Judah and his family were not content just to sit back and let events unfold because they knew the dangers of silence. That is why they rose up not only against their Seleucid overlords, but the politicians and big business interests who had sold out their people. They fought not only to win the freedom to observe their ancestral traditions but so that future generations could flourish. Indeed, if not for the Maccabee uprising, Judaism, and the monotheism it introduced to the world, would have been snuffed out and we would not be celebrating Hanukkah today.
Judah and his family continue to be an inspiration for religious tolerance and dedication to the faith and traditions of our ancestors.
But they are also an inspiration of another sort: for Judah and his family also teach us the importance of becoming engaged in the political process and not remaining silent when we see injustice or danger occurring.
That is why I think, if Judah were here, he would protest a little discussed provision, championed by the Republicans, hidden in the recently passed Senate energy bill that gives away the store to the nuclear energy lobby. The provision allows the Energy Department to give unlimited loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors, even those using conventional technology, and would remove congressional budgetary oversight on their funding.
There are several problems here: the bills represent a misplaced trust in nuclear plants as a “clean” or carbon-neutral alternative to coal and oil, even though the problems of containing and disposing of their radioactive waste, their vulnerability to attack, and their high costs have not been solved. Removing congressional budgetary oversight is disturbing as well, particularly because the Congressional Budget Office projected that the utilities would default on half of the loans offered in this program. What a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars which could be better spent on stimulating loans for truly safe alternative energy uses (like solar) 3and for conservation incentives.
I agree with Rabbi Waxman that we must all do our part to help conserve energy. However, I think that, if Judah Maccabee were here, he would want us to all do our part to stand up against big business and convenient expediencies and stand for solutions that are consistent with the long term well being of the Earth, so that future generations can live in freedom and peace.