Just steps from the White House, Rabbi Shemtov criticized the Obama administration's sneaky decision to allow the United Nations to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and portions of Jerusalem as illegal.
He turned Adam Szubin's speech about "fighting darkness with light" on its head, evoking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and urging Jews not to despair about the "darkness" cast by the UN vote. Szubin is acting treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Szubin delivered a short speech that focused mainly on the significance and symbolism of candles and light as they pertain to Chanukah. He later helped light a 30-foot menorah.
But Rabbi Shemtov didn't allow the moment to be lost: "Secretary Szubin spoke before of fighting darkness with light. I remember those words being spoken to a particular man by the Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson-head rabbi of the Lubavich] many many years ago on Simchat Torah," an annual Jewish holiday marking the conclusion of one reading of the Torah and beginning another.
"The Rebbe told him you are working in a place where there is great grief and darkness, but remember that in that place of darkness, you can only counter it by lighting a candle. By creating light," Shemtov said. "That man was Benjamin Netanyahu, and he was at the time the ambassador to the United Nations."
Then Rabbi Shemtov brought up Friday's 14 - 0 U.N. Security Council vote, which the Obama administration abstained from voting, thus allowing the measure to pass and marking a major shift in U.S. policy.
"So as I know that some of us are so sad at what happened there with regard to Israel," Shemtov said. "We must remember that the way to counter any darkness, any disappointment is not with harsh rhetoric, not with anger, but when we create light, the darkness dissipates."