GOOD MORNING! Happy Hanukah! The first candle is lit before sunset (and before Shabbat candles) this coming Friday, November 29th. I thought you might enjoy a perspective article written by my friend and colleague Rabbi Nachum Braverman, Aish HaTorah Los Angeles, to enhance your appreciation of Hanukah.
WHAT WERE THE MACCABEES FIGHTING FOR?
It is ironic that Hanukah is so widely observed in America, because it's not clear that Jews today would side with the Maccabees. The Jews didn't battle the Greeks for political independence and Hanukah can't be recast as an early-day version of Israel against the Arabs. Hanukah commemorates a religious war.
The Greeks were benevolent rulers, bringing civilization and progress wherever they conquered. They were ecumenical and tolerant, creating a pantheon of gods into which they accepted the deities of all their subjects. Their only demand was acculturation into the melting pot of Greek civilization and religion.
The Jewish community was divided in response to this appeal. Some believed assimilation as a positive and modernizing influence and they welcomed the release from Jewish parochialism. Led by Judah Maccabee was a small group opposed to the Greek ideal, and prepared to fight and die to preserve the exclusive worship of Judaism. (The name "Maccabee" is an acronym for the Torah verse "Who is like You amongst the gods, Almighty?")
This was no war for abstract principles of religious tolerance. It was a battle against ecumenicism fought by people to whom Torah was their life and breath. Would we have stood with the Maccabees or would we too have thought assimilation was the path of the future? Would we fight for Judaism today, prepared to die to learn Torah and to keep Shabbat?
Today we face a crisis of identity as serious as the one confronted 2,500 years ago. Will we survive this century as a religious community or merely as a flavor in the American melting pot? Hanukah calls to us to combat assimilation and to fight for our heritage.
WHY SHOULD MY HANUKAH GIFT TO MYSELF BE TO ATTEND A DISCOVERY SEMINAR?
What if there were a program to probe the important questions of life using the techniques of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency? It would intrigue you to check it out, wouldn't it? You could ask all of your questions about God, Judaism, anti-Semitism, the Jewish people and the purpose of existence.
The Discovery Seminar was created in conjunction with a member of the Israeli Mossad who was asked the question, "How do you verify a message you receive from a spy?" Using the same 5 categories, this team of experts examine the questions of "Is there a God?" and "Is the Torah really from God?"
Over 150,000 American Jews in over 200 U.S. cities and tens of thousands more in 79 cities around the world have thrilled to this seminar. 97% leave the seminar prouder of being Jewish. Perhaps most important is the comment of a 67 year old man who said, "For the first time in my life I had an intelligent discussion with someone about religion."
The Discovery Seminar is a fabulous opportunity for Jewish young people to appreciate why they would want to choose a Jewish mate. Many young people come with their non-Jewish intendees to check out the issues and find out how important the Jewish question is to their relationship.
It is one of the best investments you will ever make for yourself and your family! To find the date and time of a Discovery Seminar near you (or to book a seminar for your organization), check out the website www.discoveryproduction.com or call 888-88DISCOVERY (888-883-4726) or 212-921-9090. A one day intellectual adventure into the "why" of being Jewish. Come home one day older and 3,500 years wiser!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's portion includes four stories:
- The selling of Yosef (Joseph) as a slave by his brothers - which eventually positioned Yosef to be second in command in Egypt and enabled him to save the known world from famine.
- The indiscretion of Yehuda (Judah) with Tamar (Tamar)....
- The attempted seduction of Yosef by Potifar's wife, which ends with her framing Yosef and having him imprisoned.
- Yosef interprets the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the wine steward (who was reinstated and forgot to put in a good word for Yosef) and the baker (who was hanged).
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
After the brothers threw Joseph into a pit and were deciding what to do with him, the Torah states:
"And they sat down to eat bread, and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and behold, a company of Yishme'alim came from Gilad with their camels carrying aromatic gum, balm, and ladanum, going to carry it down to Egypt." (Genesis 37:25).
Why did the Torah deem it necessary for us to know what the camels were carrying?
Rashi teaches us that the Torah is extolling the reward for the righteous. This was the caravan to which they would sell Joseph and which would transport him to Egypt. Usually caravans to Egypt carried kerosene and resin used for fuel - which had unpleasant odors. However, this caravan which carried Joseph to Egypt had pleasant smelling spices; because of his righteousness, he was not subjected to the unpleasant odors on his journey to Egypt (which was part of the divine plan to save the Jewish people from the upcoming famine).
This seems to be little consolation for Joseph. He was being sold as a slave by his brothers. How would something as minor as pleasant smelling merchandise on the caravan taking him to Egypt make a difference? The answer is that this was a subtle hint from the Almighty to Joseph. It was a message to Joseph that all was not lost - that he should appreciate the hand of the Almighty that is guiding his life and supplies him with minor pleasures to enhance his life. This is a sign that all the Almighty does is for his - and your -ultimate benefit.
This is an important lesson for anyone undergoing a difficult life situation. Upon facing painful experiences one is apt to become lost in self-pity and despair. It is easy to focus solely on what is going wrong with one's life. However, one needs to keep his eyes open! Be aware of any positive aspects. Don't ignore anything that you can possibly appreciate. These minor pleasures are messengers from the Almighty. Appreciate them for themselves; and what is more important, allow them to change your evaluation of your entire situation. Learn to see every situation as a means to help you reach your ultimate potential in this world!
PIRKEI AVOT 2:12
"Let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven."
- Rabbi Yose
CANDLE LIGHTING - November 29:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:12 Hong Kong 5:20 Honolulu 5:29
J'Burg 6:25 London 3:38 Los Angeles 4:24
Melbourne 7:02 Miami 5:11 Moscow 3:48
New York 4:12 Singapore 6:37
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Problems are only
opportunities in work clothes.
-- Henry Kaiser
Dedicated in Honor of