I write this column with my bags packed. I’m lighting four candles in Israel and my fifth I will light Wednesday evening at about 9 p.m. in the lobby of the Avenue Plaza Hotel in Boro Park. I’ll have my guitar in hand, and everyone is invited.
As I gaze into the light of the holy Chanukah candles I can’t help but note that we begin this festival at the darkest moment of the year, and as we add candles nightly, the days actually begin to get longer; there is a parallel increase of light.
The two Torah portions (Vayeshev and Miketz) pre-Chanukah and during Chanukah follow this same pattern, spiritually.
Yaakov is 108 years old and wants a serene retirement. Instead, he finds himself in his darkest hour, as his sons present him with a bloodied jacket and lead him to believe that their brother Joseph had been ripped apart by a wild animal. The portion ends with an innocent Joseph in jail for thirteen years.
But with each succeeding Chanukah candle, the next portion, Miketz, shines forth. Joseph is brought from jail to the king. He interprets Pharaoh’s dream and is soon declared second only to the king.
This darkness-to-light period extends for 22 years, but the ending is so beautiful, with Yaakov living his final 17 years in extreme happiness in Egypt.
Let’s shift our focus to our darkest hour here in Israel. It’s nineteen years since the signing of the Oslo Accords. The Palestinians have clearly violated that agreement, which called for negotiations. Hamas controls Gaza. Its terrorist leaders launched an assault of rockets aimed at our civilian population centers. We agreed a to cease-fire with Hamas, which only heightened its legitimacy. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, without condemning Hamas, went to the UN and won a giant upgrade of the Palestinans’ status at the world body. Mashel, Hamas’s leader, visited Gaza for the 25th anniversary of the founding of his organization and declared that peace will only be possible with the destruction of Israel. Abbas had no problem with this.
The peace process is, therefore, nonexistent.
Israel reacted by declaring it would now proceed to build in the area called E1 and add 3,000 homes in contested territories. The possibility of a third intifada looms over the region. All this while Iran continues to work on a nuclear bomb. In Syria the race is on to see who will grab control of that country’s chemical weapons arsenal.
And with all this going on, the European Union has chosen to discuss only the “serious” problem of Israel’s decision to build those new homes.
So this is certainly a time for God’s Charming Nation to do some serious praying that a new Israeli government be formed – one consisting of a center-right–religious bloc capable of making very important decisions for Israel’s future.
This, I think, is the type of government God would prefer, and I base this on the popular pasuk in Psalm 19 – “I have placed Hashem at my center [in front of me] and since He is at my right, I shall not fall.”
Now, if Hashem is at my center facing me, then how is He is also at my right? The answer, I once heard, is that the verse is referring to two levels of consciousness. It is best if we can hold a vision of God’s Will in front of us, to be at the “center” of our decisions, but if not, we at least keep Him at our “right,” always standing close beside us.
My father, zt”l, liked to say that the Rambam explained the biblical verse “And the tree of life is in the center of the garden” (Bereishis 2:9) as meaning: The way to live your life is in the center, not at the extremes.
In that vein I want to congratulate my fellow Jewish Press columnist Moshe Feiglin, who received my vote in the Likud primaries, for succeeding in placing high enough on the party list to become a Knesset member following the upcoming election.
It was interesting to hear him say, on Israel television, that he stands by the policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The moderator warned him, “You are being videotaped – are you sure you want to state this, since you’ve always differed with Bibi?”