Our view of the Galile

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chanukah without a Prefix- Mikeitz 2013/5774

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

November 29th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 9 -26th of Kislev 5774
 Parshat Mikeitz/Chanukah
Chanukah without any Prefixes

It's the word of the season. You've all heard it. Thanksgivukah. I don't like it. I think it's wrong and there probably aren't too many things that are further apart than those two days. Yes, it's certainly better than Chrismukah. But hopefully not many of my readers ever think that's a good idea. But it still stinks. It's wrong to celebrate it as such and probably the only thing to give thanks for is that it won't happen again for another 79,043 years. There, I said it and got it off my chest. Now we can move on and have some latkas and jelly doughnuts.

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy turkey as much as the next guy. Probably even more. Cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie, the whole carving thing and even celebrating and giving thanks to God for miraculously providing the Jewish people with a true safe and friendly harbor where many of our people have prospered and flourished and can practice our religion with total freedom, (despite the fact that many feel even too comfortable and actually have fooled themselves into believing it is our real home..but that's another E-Mail). I liked Thanksgiving and even since moving here still miss it. Even the football part, and I'm not a fan. My problem is more about the combining of the two. The news articles, special "Jewish events" surrounding this weekend and even the weekly Parsha E-mails that  I receive from Rabbis that are trying to connect the two."Chanukah is a holiday of thanksgiving". This is true and I agree. It's just not a holiday of Thanksgiving (with a capital T).

Let's review the story of Chanukah for a second. We have the Greeks that come to Israel. Before them the world is pretty much in the "dark ages". Persia and the Babylonians were rough, uncultured and pretty backward pagans. With the advent of the Greeks the world became civilized, beautiful, cultured, worldly. Stadiums, art, philosophy, mathematics, architecture, to quote Aladdin it was "A Whole New world". It was a shiny one, and in fact the Jews according to our sages where the only country that Alexander the Great allowed to retain its autonomy and it's independent government. And like all things shiny and new and whenever we meet Gentiles in our history that pretty much don't want to kill us (we have a very low standard of what it will take from us- "hey they don't want to wipe us off the map-this is really great, they must really love us....") we start to assimilate. We become Greeks, Hellenists, patriots that almost certainly celebrated the Greek equivalent of Thanksgiving. I'm  sure we used glatt kosher turkeys and we even recited words of Torah as we went around the table and asked everyone to say what they were thankful for. Most probably said, Thank God for the Greeks.

But we were wrong. We weren't wrong just because later they turned on us and persecuted us and took away our freedom and tried to quash our faith. We were wrong because they weren't really the light. All the culture and the advancement of society, the glitter and shiny gold was really, our sages teach us, darkness. We are taught that when Hashem  created the world the verse says
"And the world was empty and bare and darkness on the face of the depths." Each one of the above adjectives our sages teach correspond to each one of the exiles of the Jewish people. Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish explained that it refers to the Exiles. "Empty" is Babylonia, "bare" is Persia/Medea, "darkness" is Greece and the final exile which goes on and on like "the depths" is "the wicked kingdom" (Edom/Rome).

The truth is you knew that Greece represents darkness, because we celebrate our victory by doing one thing and one thing only. We light candles. We light them for our house, for our family and for the world. We are the light. They are darkness. This is not an easy thing I think for many of us to really wrap our heads around. How can it be? How can so much culture, and so much advancement, so much wisdom and so much beauty be dark? How can they be the symbol of darkness? The Darth Vaders of world history (sorry I couldn't resist the Dark Lord connection was too much)?

The answer is that we really don't understand what darkness is and what is light. Our sages tell us that there really is no such thing as darkness. Darkness is merely the lack of light. What is light? Light is totally clarity. It was the first thing created. "And Hashem said 'Let there be light'. The world has a Creator. The world has a purpose. The world has one truth. We are meant to uplift this glorious universe and our souls to appreciate and develop a holy, loving and eternal relationship as we connect with our Creator. We the Jewish people were chosen to be the intermediaries that will shine that light to the world. As much as the world does not see that light, as much as the world feels that there can be light by the mere existence of culture, art, "democratic values", freedom and liberty all without a connection to Hashem, than there is no greater darkness than that. When the world was full of bloody and uncouth pagans, murderous romans and uncivilized nations it was clear that there was a light that was missing. The realization in itself being a light. It was when the Greeks came and offered an alternative light that contained no real God or truth, when the world said this is "light enough". When the Jewish people the possessors of the real true light, stopped trying to shine it and picked up that shiny fluorescent at the local Greekmakolet (grocery store) for his Thanksgivukah dinner. It is then that real darkness fell on the earth.

But then there were a group of Jews that stood up. They had the audacity to stand up against the Greek's decrees which seemingly were not so extreme. They just wanted us to stop maintaining that we were the only ones with the truth. They were fine with us being Jewish and worshiping God. Lots of people under the Greek empire had gods. They just said stop with the circumcision thing that makes you different than us that says your truth is the real covenant. Stop with your Shabbos that states you were created with a purpose to reveal to the world that Hashem is truly the Creator and running the world. Join us at our parties, sacrifice to our gods too.  Throw up another idol, another "holiday" in your many Jewish holidays as well. We are all right. There are many paths to God or gods. It's really just an irrelevant cultural thing. Eat your latkas with a ham sandwich and light your candles and eat a turkey. It's all really the same. It's all light and its really all dark. Happy Thanksgivuka.

But the Maccabees said no. They put their lives on the line, because they understood that the whole purpose of our life is to get our message out there. To get Hashem's message out there. There is a real light in this world. It is in each ones soul. It is as pure and untainted as a small little vial that was found in the Temple that the Greeks had not succeeded in defiling. We can light a menorah and unabashedly stand up and tell the world that there is really only one truth. Hashem our Creator, loves each and every one of us. He is one. There are no other gods. He never fathered any children and then killed them on a cross. He never told any prophets that they should commit holy jihads. He never told Buddhist's or Hindus to bow down to cows or any other idols. There is no need for nonsectarian prayers that don't offend any religions, because there is only one real light. Chanukah is our celebration of that one point in our history when we were able to bring our message to the world. We didn't need big trees with glitter. We didn't need fancy thanksgiving dinners to share that with the world. All we needed was a few brave Jews and a small little candle and oil.

We read this week and every Chanukah, the Torah portion of the story of Yosef our forefather in Egypt and there is truly no more appropriate Parsha to give us that inspiration. For as we read the story, we read of Yosef the sole Jew in the land of pagans and idolaters that are ruled by a king who declares himself a God and yet time and time again at great risk and sacrifice. Yosef stands up and says the truth. He refuses the never-ending seduction of the wife of Potiphar "How can I do this act and sin to Hashem". He is in prison and all recognize "that Hashem is with him. and all that he does Hashem has made successful". He is finally brought to Pharaoh himself perhaps the most impossible person in the world to ever convince of the notion of one true God. Perhaps the one person that Yosef should have been most politically correct with. And yet Yosef tells him that only "Hashem will grant the peace of Pharaoh". And lo and behold this most dramatic statement to king of darkness shines a light so a powerful in which Pharaoh in all his glory in awe and in a moment of total light says "Can there be found someone like this who has the spirit of Hashem in him".  Now that is what I call a true Chanukah experience. It is why Yosef is called the Tzadik, the Righteous one, the restorer of Justice and the revealer of secrets. For he revealed to the world what the true light is really about.

It is interesting the word in Hebrew for Greece is Yavan (Yud, Vav, Nun). Greece has all the beauty of the world we are told yet they are dark. They are missing the tzadik, the righteous one to give the soul and light to the world. If one adds the letter Tzadik to Yavan the word that is spelled is Tziyon, Zion which is of course Jerusalem, the light of the world. As we light our candles, spin our draydles, eat our doughnuts and tell our children the story of Chanukah. Let us tell them that we are thankful on this special day that we have this light, we have this gift to share with the world. They should never be scared or frightened or too politically correct to share our truths with our fellow brothers and sisters (although one should certainly responsibly weigh and never in anyway offend those that don't yet have the wherewithal to "handle the truth and the light") . We should never sell ourselves short. We don't need to adopt or adapt our incredible heritage, traditions or birthright to fit in or to participate in any darkness. The light is all here...in our Torah...in our menorah...in our souls.
Have miraculous Shabbos and a Chanukah that lights up the world,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

(answer below at end of Email)
What is the origin of the name Golan?
a)      Mounds of rocks, such as Rujm-el-Hiri
b)  A settlement from Talmudic times
c)  The Golani Brigade
d)  A city from Biblical times

Chanukah is never complete without a new Maccabeats song of the year- here it is "Burn")

In honor of the beginning of the rain blessing in the Diaspora
The classic and hillarious Frisco kid
God makes Rain clip


Mitzpeh Ramon  visitor center- The south is and particularly the Negev is the place to visit during the winter, when the weather is pleasant and beautiful. Mitzpeh Ramon the largest of the Makteshim craters in Israel has always been an inspiring place to appreciate the beauty of Hashem's creation. Now it is even better with the recent opening of the visitor center which has 4 great films to inspire you. Dedicated to Ilan Ramon the first Israeli astronaut and hero that took out the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and who died in the fatal 2003 Columbia space shuttle crash, one can see films and moving footage of himfrom space with his family as well as his life story. There is also a great multimedia film on the formation of the crater and a great film on the wildlife of the maktesh. It is nice to see when tourist sites in Israel do a great job and the visitour center in Ramon is certainly one of those.
 "Every Jew has a spark in his soul from the light of God above that illuminates
his way during difficult times. And when it seems that to him that he is lost and that
there is no way out, the spark flares and lights his way. This is the little jug of oil that is revealed in time to save the Jew in times of despair and to light up his life in desperate times" -Nesivos Shalom of Slonim


It was Hanukkah and the tiny village was in fear of not having any latkes because they had run out of flour. 
Rudi, the rabbi, was called upon to help solve the problem.
He  said, "Don't worry, you can substitute matzo meal for the flour and the latkes will be just as delicious!"
Sheila looks to her husband  and says, "Mortey...you think it'll  work?"
and Mortey says, "Of course!    Everybody knows..............Rudolph, the Rab, knows grain dear!"

Answer is D: The Golan is mentioned as being a city in Tanach in the borders of Israel on the other side of Jordan in the portion of Reuben. The city was one of the cities of refugees that an unintentional murderer would flee to that was under the jurisdiction of the Levites. It did have many cities in the times of the Talmud and Rujm El Hiri are a bizzare rock formation that is there, kind of like Stonehenge. The golani fought many battles there but of course the only correct answer is D.

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