Most Distinguished Rabbis, headed by Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of the Republic of Poland,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank you very much that once again the joy, prayers and blessings of the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, are also flowing through and from the Presidential Palace – that's the first thing. Because for us, believers, here in the Republic of Poland, this connection with God, the prayer and co–presence are very important indeed.
Hence, I thank you, Rabbis, as representatives of the Jewish community in the Republic of Poland, and abroad, for being with us once again today at this Hanukkah time, during the Festival of Lights, to light the Hanukkah candles here, to say a blessing, to pray.
But I would also like to thank you for a personal and unique experience connected with your presence here today, on the 15th anniversary of the first Hanukkah celebration held in the Presidential Palace in the history of the Republic of Poland. Back then, at the invitation of President Lech Kaczyński, the Jewish community arrived here in order to share the joy of Hanukkah together with the President of Poland, his Spouse and his team, to share the joy of the Festival of Lights, the joy of the exceptional grace bestowed by God upon His Chosen People in 164 B.C. – a long, long time ago, veiled in the depths of history; when Israel – as a nation, as a people – was already connected and united with God.
That event and the Hanukkah holiday – as a festival of joy – has in fact, in my personal opinion, a very profound spiritual and symbolic dimension. Because let's consider those historical events, when the rebels led by the Maccabees defeated the Hellenistic armies, driving them out of Jerusalem and recapturing, reclaiming from their hands the previously occupied Jerusalem temple, expelling the pagan deities from there, thus restoring the presence of the Lord God in that holy place.
All of a sudden, they found themselves in a dramatic situation. They had only one cup of oil, which would normally suffice for one day – by normal human measure. Whereas, it would have taken eight days to obtain new oil and consecrate it – to prepare it in the proper, religiously prescribed manner.
And what happened? That one cup of oil lasted for the eight days it took to prepare the oil. What does this actually mean? It not only means that the Jews wanted to be with God, that they wanted God to be present in their temple, that they wanted to be able to worship God in their holy place, to pray. But above all, it meant that it was the Lord God who wanted them to do this, because He had chosen them. And He showed that he had chosen them by the fact that they had enough oil. And that is the most remarkable part of the story.
Looking at it, it is fair to say: yes, the Lord God showed that this was His chosen people because He gave them the grace, the miracle, ensuring that there was enough oil to symbolize the presence of God in the temple, among them. In an absolutely supernatural way. That's why it's a festival of joy, that's why it's a festival of pride, even in the most difficult of times. It has always been, it has always given encouragement and strength to the nation, instilling its faith in the extraordinary, unique protection of the God.
That is why it is a great joy for me and also for my colleagues that today we can extend our warmest wishes to the Rabbis, to the entire Jewish community in Poland and abroad: wishes of a happy Hanukkah, wonderful holidays, joyful, full of cheerful reflection, and full of pride – pride in who you are and what you are like.
I would like to stress that Lech Kaczyński invited the Jewish community here, to the Presidential Palace, 15 years ago, because he considered its co–presence in the Republic of Poland for a thousand years to be extremely important, extremely strongly inscribed in the history of the Republic of Poland – an element co–creating the Republic of Poland today, also in its cultural dimensions, which I would like to emphasize very strongly.
It is not only about the one thousand years of coexistence of the nations, a thousand years when people met and frequently married each other. Actually it is hard to say, after a thousand years, how much Jewish blood each of us has in them, because it is simply there, it flows in our veins. But above all, it is a part of this land, which I want to underline very emphatically.
It is also a specific historical coincidence that the first privilege, which was granted to the Jewish community here, in the then Kingdom of Poland – although there was no king at that time – in 1264, by Boleslaw the Pious, came exactly 1300 years after that very 164 B.C., after those great and important events in Jerusalem, which somehow shaped history and, in a sense, shaped the further fate of the Chosen People.
This privilege is a symbol of the Jewish presence in Poland, their place in Poland, and the role that the rulers of the Poland [attributed to the Jewish community] – because later this privilege was confirmed many times, by King Casimir the Great to quote just one example. The role of the Jewish community over the course of a thousand years was very important for Poland, and I want to underline that explicitly. This is Polin, this is a place for all of us, shaped by history and cemented by culture, where we want to continue to live together, in tolerance, mutual understanding and respect. In my capacity as President of the Republic of Poland, I would like to stress this very strongly, wishing you a Happy Hanukkah once again.