Skip to main content

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!


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…