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Posts Tagged ‘Chanukah’
Many people think that in lighting gigantic Chanukah menorahs in places like Manhattan, Paris, Melbourne, and Berlin, we are “a light to the nations.” However pretty and moving this may be, the light of these solitary and scattered menorahs gets swallowed up by the surrounding darkness of foreign gentile lands. It’s a little like lighting a match in a dark alley. For a few seconds, there’s a flickering of light, and then it vanishes, engulfed by the blackness of the alley. Even if matches were lit in alleyways all over the world, the light would shine for an instant then disappear in the dark.
The only way of sustaining the light is by lighting all of the matches into one great bonfire, and this can only be accomplished by bringing the matches together and kindling them in one place – the Land of Israel.
When all of the scattered exiled Jews are gathered in the Land of Israel, a great Divine light goes out to the world like a towering beacon, illuminating the darkness of the nations. This is the meaning of the prophecy, “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim.” The light goes out from Yerushalayim, and not from Times Square or Beverly Hills.
We become a “light to the nations” precisely when we are living together in Eretz Yisrael, and not when we are scattered all over the world, minorities in foreign lands, stripped of our Israelite nationhood and our pride, needing the permission of the gentiles to light our Chanukah candles in public.
During the long exile, the lighting of the Chanukah menorah had meaning in reminding the Jews in faraway gentile places, that we were still connected to an eternal light, to a national Jewish valor, and a Land of great miracles – but now, with the re-establishment of Medinat Yisrael, and the ingathering of Jews from all over the world, we no longer need the menorahs in Times Square and Sunset Boulevard. The time has come for each and every Jew to take his little light and join in with the great light that is shining forth from Israel.
For example, even in this early stage of our Redemption, when millions of our outcasts are still shrouded in the darkness of alien lands, even though we still have a way to go before we reach our full Torah power in Israel, still, even in our temporary secular state, all of the world’s attention is focused on what the Jews are doing in Israel. Pick up any leading newspaper from the capitals of the world and chances are you will find a front-page story about Israel. When a settler lights a small menorah on a hilltop in Judea, the whole world goes crazy. The United Nations rushes to condemn it. The White House issues an immediate warning. And the Europeans protest at the top of their lungs, like a Sunday church choir in unison.
No one cares about the giant menorah in Berlin or Boston. But a tiny menorah lit by a Jewish settler in Beit-El, Elon Moreh, Yitzhar, Migron, or some deserted and unnamed hilltop, causes an international raucous. Why? Not because the settler is infringing on Palestinian rights. No one really cares about the Arabs. And in most cases, there aren’t any Arabs living close by. The uproar comes because, in their unconscious psyches, the rest of the world senses that with each Jew who returns to the Land of Israel and sets up his home on a Biblical mountainside, the one and only God of Israel is returning with him, to establish His rule in the world, the coming Kingdom of God, and the nations cry out, blinded by the light of this tiny menorah – tiny in size, but world-shaking in its spiritual import and influence.
Even in our present interim stage of Redemption, when our incredible Torah power is still hidden, and when prophecy has not yet reappeared, the sons of Esav and Yishmael sense the great light and they tremble, knowing deep in their hearts that their religions and doctrines are false, that God has not abandoned the Jews as they claim, and that the Biblical prophecies regarding the day when Israel will be lifted up above all other nations will surely come to pass. So they try everything in their power to stop it, so they can continue on with their falsehood and whoring.
Based on Jewish Sages
1. Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday which commemorates a Land of Israel national liberation struggle, unlike Passover (the Exodus from Egypt), Sukkot/Tabernacles & Shavouot/Pentacost (on the way from Egypt to the Land of Israel), Purim (deliverance of Jews in Persia), etc. Chanukah is the longest Jewish holiday (8 days) with the most intense level of Light (8 consecutive nights of candle lighting).
2. The key Chanukah developments occurred, mostly, in Judea and Samaria: Mitzpah (also Prophet Samuel’s burial site), Beth El mountains (Judah’s first headquarters), Beth Horon (Judah’s victory over Seron), Hadashah (Judah’s victory over Nicanor), Beth Zur (Judah’s victory over Lysias), Ma’aleh Levona (Judah’s victory over Apolonius), Adora’yim (a Maccabees’ fortress), Elazar & Beit Zachariya (Judah’s first defeat), Ba’al Hatzor (Judah defeated and killed), the Judean Desert, etc. Unified JerUSAlem was the Capital of the Maccabees. Chanukah is not a holiday of “occupation.” Chanukah highlights the moral-high-ground of Jews in their ancestral land.
3. Shimon the Maccabee - who succeeded Judah and Yonatan the Maccabees – defied an ultimatum by the Syrian emperor, Antiochus (Book of Maccabees A, Chapter 15, verse 33), who demanded an end to the “occupation” of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Gaza, Gezer and Ekron, Shimon declared: “We have not occupied a foreign land; we have not ruled a foreign land; we have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation.”
4. Chanukah’s historical context (Books of the Maccabees and the Scroll of Antiochus)
Alexander The Great – who held Judaism in high esteem and whose Egyptian heir, Ptolemy II, translated the Torah to Greek – died in 323BCE following 12 glorious years. Consequently,the Greek Empire disintegrated into five, and thirty years later into three, kingdoms: Macedonia, Syria and Egypt. The Land of Israel was militarily contested by Syria and Egypt. In 198BCE, Israel was conquered by the Syrian Antiochus III, who considered the Jewish State as an ally. In 175BCE, a new king assumed power in Syria, Antiochus (IV) Epiphanies, who wished to replace Judaism with Hellenic values and assumed that Jews were allies of Egypt. In 169BC, upon his return to Syria from a war against Egypt, he devastated Jerusalem, massacred the Jews, forbade the practice of Judaism (including the Sabbath, circumcision, etc.) and desecrated Jerusalem and the Temple. The 167BCE-launched rebellion against the Syrian (Seleucid) kingdom featured the Hasmonean (Maccabee) family: Mattityahu, a priest from the town of Modi’in, and his five sons, Yochanan, Judah, Shimon, Yonatan and Elazar. The heroic (and tactically creative) battles conducted by the Maccabees, were consistent with the reputation of Jews as superb warriors, who were hired frequently as mercenaries by Egypt, Syria, Rome and other global and regional powers.
5. The Hasmonean dynasty
*Mattityahu son of Yochanan; the priest-led rebellion – 166/7BCE
*Judah the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 166-161BCE
*Yonatan the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 161-143BCE
*Shimon the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 143-135BCE
*Yochanan Hyrcanus son of Shimon – 135-104BCE
*Mattityahu Antigonus – 40-37BCE
6. The name Maccabee (מכבי or מקבי) is a derivative of the Hebrew word Makevet (מקבת), Power Hammer, which described Judah’s tenacious and decisive fighting capabilities. It could be a derivative of the Hebrew verb Cabeh (כבה), to extinguish, which described the fate of Judah’s adversaries. Another source of the name suggests that Maccabee, מכבי, is the Hebrew acronym of “Who could resemble you among Gods, Jehovah” ( מי כמוך באלים י).
7. The origin of the term – Chanukah – is education-oriented.
According to the first book of Maccabees, Judah instituted an eight day holiday on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, 165BCE, in order to commemorate the inauguration (Chanukah, חנוכה, in Hebrew) of the holy altar and the Temple, following Syrian desecration. A key feature of Chanukah is the education/mentoring of the family (Chinuch חינוך and Chonech חונך in Hebrew), commemorating Jewish history. The Hebrew word, Chanukah, consists of two words, Chanu חנו in Hebrew (they rested/stationed) and Kah כה in Hebrew (which is equal to 25, (referring to the Maccabees’ re-consecration of the Temple on the 25th day of Kislev. Some have suggested that the timing of Christmas (December 25th) and the celebration of the New Year 8 days later (January 1) have their origin in Chanukah, which always “accompanies” December.
8. Chanukah is the holiday of light, commemoration, optimism and liberty. Chanukah celebrates the liberation of JerUSAlem. The first day of Chanukah is celebrated when daylight is balanced with darkness, ushering in optimism for brighter future. Chanukah is celebrated in Kislev (כסלו), the month of miracles (e.g., Noah’s Rainbow appeared in Kislev) and the month of security/safety (the Hebrew word Kesel-כסל means security). The first and last Hebrew letters of Kislev (כסלו – כו) equal 26 (in Jewish Gimatriya) – the total numerical value of the Hebrew spelling of Jehovah - יהוה. Moses completed the construction of the Holy Ark on the 25th day of Kislev, as was the date of the laying the foundation of the Second Temple by Nehemiah. The 25th (Hebrew) word in Genesis is Light (OR, אור), which is a Jewish metaphor for the Torah. The word which precedes “light” isיהי (“let there be” in Hebrew) – 25 in Gimatriya. The 25th stop during the Exodus was Hashmona (same root as Hasmonean in Hebrew). Chanukah commemorates one of the early Clashes of Civilizations: the victory of light (Maccabees) over darkness, the few over the many (scarce light can penetrate darkness), liberty over slavery and remembrance over forgetfulness. The Hebrew spelling of darkness – חשכה – employs the same letters as forgetfulness - שכחה.
There’s an inherent problem in the rabbinic commandment that we may only watch the Chanukah candles but not use them. It works fine for stopping oneself from re-lighting a Shamash candle whose flame went out with one of the lit candles – everybody knows you’re not supposed to use the Chanukah candle for that, you have to strike a new match and light the Shamash anew (gone are the day when everyone around the Menorah had a useful, little Bic lighter in their pocket).
But what about the light – can it be used to illuminate an otherwise dark room? Can we only watch the Chanukah candles with all the electric lights on in the room, lest we see by mistake an object other than the Chanukah candles which is lit by those same candles, and thus be using them for something other than pure sight?
Like these two young women in the picture – or us, watching the picture for that matter, are we in violation of Rabbinic law by also spotting the ponchikes (sufganiot, jelly doughnuts)?
One quick solution would be to swallow up those lovely, fried dough balls and then there will be nothing left to see other than pure Chanukah lights, in memory of the miracle.
In the Torah portions during Chanukah, we always read about Yosef, or Joseph, as he is known on Broadway. Yosef is called “Yosef HaTzaddik,” meaning the Righteous One. The Holy Zohar teaches that Yosef earned the esteemed title of Tzaddik because he guarded the Covenant of sexual purity. This is what brought him to kingship over the world.
“Rabbi Shimon said, ‘It was only after Yosef withstood the test of temptation with Potifar’s wife that he was called Tzaddik. Since he guarded the holy Brit, he was called Tzaddik’” (Zohar,Bereshit 194b).
The Midrash says that Potifar’s wife wasEgypt’s most beautiful woman. Day after day, dressed in immodest outfits, she would approach the young Hebrew slave and beckon him to her quarters. She would whisper seductive things in his ear. Yosef’s test wasn’t just a one time thing. She kept after him for months on end, doing everything in her powers to cast her spell over him. On that fateful day when she threw herself at him with all of her charms, she made sure that no one else was in the house. The only thing standing between Yosef and the forbidden act was his fear of God. His father and family were hundreds of miles away, he was in the prime of his strength, she was the most beautiful and seductive woman inEgypt, and still he resisted.
In praising Yosef’s achievement, the Zohar emphasizes that guarding the Covenant of sexual holiness is like observing all of the Torah, “guarding the Brit is equal in weight with the whole Torah” (Zohar, Bereshit 197a).
In our time, each of us is tempted every day with the very same test when we sit down at the computer. Thousands of seductive women are just a quick click away. Today, the Internet is Potifar’s wife.
We who don’t have same exalted the fear of God that Yosef had, where will we summon the strength to overcome the temptation? For us, Divine assistance comes in the form of an anti-smut filter. Thank God, there are many on the market. Many can be downloaded for free. So grave is the danger of Internet watching that Torah authorities have ruled that Internet surfing without a safe filter is a violation of the Torah commandment, “Thou shall not put a stumbling block in front of a blind man.”
Erotic pictures on the Internet, whether they be in ads, in fashion pages, or in adult sites, cause a person to violate a long list of Torah commandments, including:
* “You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy!”
* “Thou shall not turn astray after your hearts and after your eyes which lead you astray.”
* “Therefore shall your camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in you and turn away from you.”
* “And you shall guard yourself from every evil thing.”
* “Do not turn astray after their gods!”
* “You shall not walk in the customs of the gentile.”
* “Thou shall not bring an abomination into your house.”
Recognizing the terrible danger of unsupervised Internet viewing has extra significance now, at the time of Chanukah. The article, “The Secrets of Chanukah,” posted on my www.jewishsexuality.com website, explains how it was precisely the Covenant of sexual holiness of the Jewish People that the Greeks sought to pollute. The Covenant between the Nation of Israel and God is sealed on our bodies, by the brit milah, emphasizing that God also has dominion over this part of our lives. The hedonist Hellenist culture sought to stamp out this holiness and give sensuality and bodily pleasure free reign. Instead of covering the modesty of the body, they celebrated its total exposure, in their promiscuous culture, their bathhouses, bawdy cabarets, their art, and their nude Olympics. Their goal was not to wipe out the Jewish People, but rather to wipe out our holy connection to God. And the method they chose to do this was to force us into adopting their immoral philosophies and ways. For, like the wicked Bilaam before them, they knew that the God of the Jewish People despises immorality. Their hedonist culture could not tolerate the existence of a competing Jewish culture that championed the holiness of life, so they set out to destroy our attachment to Torah. Therefore, they outlawed brit milah, and decreed that every Jewish virgin before her marriage be brought to the Greek ruler’s palace to be despoiled.
The first night of Chanukah marks the beginning of a holiday that for many of its celebrants has no identity, that celebrates ‘celebration’, with no thought to what it is celebrating. For many Americans, Chanukah appears to overlap with Christmas, but there is no similarity between the two other than the season. The more appropriate analogy is to the 4th of July overlaid with Thanksgiving, a celebration of divine aid in a military campaign against tyrannical oppression.
The overt militarism of the Chanukah story has made it an uncomfortable fit for many Jews who have found it easier to strip away its dangerous underlying message that a time comes when you must choose between the destruction of your culture and a war you can’t win. In those dark days a war must be fought if the soul of the nation is to survive.
There are worse things than death and slavery, the fates waiting for the Maccabees and their allies had they failed, the fates that came anyway when the last of the Maccabees were betrayed and murdered by Caesar’s Edomite minister, whose sons went on to rule over Israel as the dynasty of Herod.
Nations can survive the mass murder of their bodies, but not the death of their spirit. A nation does not die, until its soul dies, and the soul of a nation is in its culture and its faith, not in the bodies of its citizens.
Tonight that first candle, that first glimmer of flame over oil, marks the night that the Maccabee forces entered Jerusalem, driving out the enemy armies and their Jewish collaborators, and reclaiming their people’s culture and religion.
The light of the flame was a powerful message sent across time, that even in the darkest hour, hope was not lost. And Divine Providence would not abandon the people. Time passed the Maccabees fell, Jerusalem was occupied and ethnically cleansed over and over again, and still the menorah burned on. A covert message that still all hope was not lost. That Israel would rise again.
Israel had used signal fires and torches held up on mountain tops to pass along important news. The lighting of the menorah was a miniature signal fire, a perpetuation of the temple light, its eight-day light a reminder that even the smallest light can burn beyond expectation and light beyond belief and that those who trust in G-d and fight for the freedom to believe in Him, should never abandon hope.
That divine signal fire first lit in the deserts by freed slaves has been passed on for thousands of years. Today the menorah is on the seal of the State of Israel, the product of a modern day Chanukah. The mark of a Jerusalem liberated in a miracle of six days, not eight. Six as in the number of the original temple Menorah. And the one on the seal as well.
For those liberals who believe that Jewish identity should be limited to donating to help Haiti, agitating for illegal aliens and promoting the environment; Chanukah is a threatening holiday. They have secularized it, dressed it up with teddy bears and toys, trimmed it with the ecology and civil rights of their new faith. Occasionally a Jewish liberal learns the history of it and writes an outraged essay about nationalism and militarism, but mostly they are content to bury it in the same dark cellar that they store the rest of the history of their people and the culture that they left behind.
Holidays aren’t mere parties, they are messages. Knots of time that we tie around the fingers of our lives so that we remember what our ancestors meant us to never forget. That they lived and died for a reason. The party is a celebration, but if we forget what it celebrates, then it becomes a celebration of celebration. A hollow and soulless festival of the self. The Maccabees fought because they believed they had something worth fighting for. Not for their possessions, but for their traditions, their families and their G-d. The celebration of Chanukah is not just how we remember them, but how we remember that we are called upon to keep their watch. To take up their banner and carry their sword.
The first night of Chanukah, in the neighborhood of Nachlaot in the center of Jerusalem, December 8, 2012.
The idea of the Chanukah candles is to announce the miracle, make it as public as possible, kind of the visual equivalent of screaming it from the rooftops: We were stuck with only one little jug of oil and it lasted 1-2-3-4-5-6-7- and 8 days!
In Jerusalem they take these things very seriously, as you can see, literally publicizing the miracle in the streets.
Let’s get this out of the way up front; I’m a shredded potato latke man. Ground up or processed potatoes have their loyal following, but for me, it just doesn’t taste the same. And frankly, fried baby food sounds nasty.
Latkes have a reputation for being messy, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. I have a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you keep your latke-making adventures, quick, clean and simple.
Latkes should be enjoyed at least once during the holiday. They’re not the healthiest, but they’re certainly among the yummiest. As my friend Fred defined them, calories are a unit of measure of flavor.
The hardest part about making latkes is keeping your family’s hands off of them while you’re cooking them.