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Thought for the Day: Mai Chanuka!

Imagine the passion as Antiochus's messengers come marching into cities across Eretz Yisrael with his new decrees.  The tension is already high.  First decree: "Jews are forbidden to circumcise their sons!"  The crowds roars, "Bris mila?!  The sign sealed into our flesh of the covenant between the Creator and his beloved nation?  We will never capitulate!"  Second decree: "Jews are forbidden to observe the Sabbath!"  The crowds is livid, "Our nation testimony that HaShem created the world?  The beautiful and precious gift from our beloved Creator?  We will give our lives rather than violate the Holy Sabbath!"  The crowd is getting uglier by the moment and even the messenger, who is surrounded by the king's own guard, is getting nervous.  Final decree: "Jews are forbidden to observer Rosh Chodesh!"  The crowd's mood changes from angry mob to... "Ummm.... What?"

The gemara (T.B. Shabbos 21a) asks, "mai chanuka?"  Rashi explains that the gemara is clarifying precisely for the commenoration of what miracle was Chanuka established.  Conclusion: for the miracle of a single flask (one day's worth) of tahor oil lasting for eight days.  Now let's think about this.  If the Greeks didn't want us to light the menorah, why didn't they just dump out all the oil?  Instead, the commanding officer charges his soldiers:
Έχεις τις διαταγές, οι άντρες σου! Κουνήστε κάθε φιάλη του πετρελαίου, αλλά μην χυθεί μια σταγόνα!
For those of you don't understand Greek (sigh...), that's, "You have your orders, men!  Wiggle every flask of oil, but don't spill a drop!"  Seems odd, no?  Not when you understand the goal of the Greeks.  They had a single desire: to destroy k'dushas Yisrael.  Jews want to practice Judaism?  No problem, as long as it's Reform Judaism.  Avoda in the Beis HaMikdash is not a problem, as long as it is inclusive; Jew and Gentile alike.  Learning Torah is no problem; they just wanted to teach Torah along with Aristotle in the universities, Plato along with gemara in the yeshivos.

What about those three decrees?  Bris Mila separates Klal Yisrael as the am s'gula (treasure nation), Shabbos testifies that HaShem created the world and therefore the world has a purpose above nature.  Rosh Chodesh?  That puts Klal Yisrael in charge of time itself; that makes nature a vehicle for k'dushas Yisrael instead just a place where we all live.  Those three mitzvos testify that every moment has meaning and purpose; every event is part of a plan.  Klal Yisrael stands apart, executing that plan.

Our job is to be a light to the nations; their job is to extinguish that light.  The miracle of oil -- pure, unadulterated oil -- testifies that they cannot succeed.  Mai Chanuka!


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