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Thought for the Day: This World is a Tool for Our Perfection

I was reading about the Chanuka story with two of my grandchildren.  "The Greeks made three g'zeiros: No Shabbos, No Rosh Chodesh, and no Bris Mila."  Hmm... I thought, but no problem davening, eating matzah on Pesach, sitting in a sukkah, or even learning Torah!  So as I was reading the story, I was wondering how to explain what they were trying to do to us.  I know, you're thinking, just read the story and enjoy your grandchildren.  This is me, remember?  Ok; glad we cleared that up.

So what did the Greeks want to do to us?  The most famous part of the Chanuka miracle, of course, is the one jar of tahor oil that was enough for one day but miraculously lasted for eight days.  Why was there only one jar of tahor oil?  Because that one jar was in a hole in the ground and so the soldiers missed it and couln't make it tamei.  If there intent was to stop us from lighting the menorah, they should have dumped out the oil, no?  In fact, while they were in there they could have easily broken down the walls and destroyed all the vessels (as the Romans would do centuries later).  Instead they carefully punched 13 holes in the wall around the heichal.

The Greeks were not interested in stopping us from learning Torah; in fact, they wanted to add it to the curriculum in the philosophy and wisdom department at the university.  They also didn't want us to stop davening.  Even the Greeks realized that davening is good for people; no worse than any other kind of mediation, after all.  And that is the point: they wanted for us to mix with them. Be leaders, teachers, good citizens of the commonwealth.  Be a greek who is jewish; just don't be a Jew living in Greece.

What I actually told my grandchildren, though, was geared their level.  Shabbos says the world was created and didn't exist forever (there is a Creator); the Greeks believe this is all there is, ever was, and ever will be.  Rosh Chodesh says we are in charge of nature and not just a part of nature; Greeks believe that we are just part of the system.  Bris mila says this world is a place to perfect ourselves; Greeks believe we already live in a state of perfection.

I know some of it went it because my granddaughter looked at me seriously and said, "Zaidy!  We don't live in the state of perfection; we live in the state of New York."  No truer words were ever spoken.


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