Thank G-d!

Friday, 16 December, 2022 - 8:41 am

As Chanukah approaches, we get excited about the spirit of the holiday. After all, Chanukah is a fun holiday. We don’t need to sit in Shul fasting all day. Nor do we need to go on a strict diet and stuff our face with matzah in record time. Who could complain about latkes, donuts and Chanukah gelt? Beautiful Candles and decorations bring the festive spirit to life.

There are two miraculous events that we are marking on Chanukah.

The miracle of Chanukah is the miracle of oil. The menorah burned for eight days instead of one. It’s also the miracle of the few versus the many. The tiny Maccabee militia defeated the huge Greek-Syrian army.

But more importantly, it’s a miracle of faith and spirit. After all, what were the Maccabees fighting for? It wasn’t for the right to cook gefilte fish and chopped liver – they likely did not exist then.  Nor was it simply the opportunity for self-governance – they were happy subjects of others for many centuries.

The key problem the Greek-Syrians had with the Jews was their observance of Torah. In fact, they readily tolerated Jews maintaining a Jewish culture. After all, the Greek-Syrians considered themselves sophisticated and cultured people. They embraced diversity – so long as G-d was not part of the picture.

If you want to study philosophy – go ahead, they declared. If you have a unique ethical code – embrace it.  If you want to maintain the rich culture of your past – be our guests. But don’t keep Shabbat – a mitzvah performed solely for the sake of G-d. Don’t circumcise your children – creating a covenant in the flesh to the Almighty. Don’t keep kosher – a diet designed by G-d.


When Yosef (Joseph) was sold into slavery in Egypt, the Torah relates in this week’s parsha Vayeshev that “his master saw that the L-rd was with him, and whatever he did the L-rd made prosper in his hand.”

How did Yosef’s master know that Hashem had brought success to Yosef? Why didn’t he assume that his idols had brought success to his slave? After all, Yosef was toiling on his master’s behalf, and his master was an Egyptian steeped in idolatry.

Rashi explains that, “The name of Heaven was frequently in his mouth,” meaning that Yosef constantly thanked Hashem for everything he did. In every conversation he proclaimed, “Boruch Hashem!” (Blessed is G-d). So it became obvious that Yosef was unique and his unique success must be attributed to his beliefs, not his master’s.

Imagine: Yosef is the only Jew in the entire country. Yet he proudly displays his belief and commitment to Hashem. Like the Maccabees, Yosef realized that Judaism and G-d are intertwined and interdependent. We cannot be good Jews without having G-d as an active and proud part of our lives.

Jewish culture, Jewish ethics and Jewish cuisine do not exist in a vacuum. They are all derivatives of a Torah that has our Creator at its center.  The reason they survive to this day is because they are animated by a devotion and enthusiasm to Hashem.

We sometimes do mitzvos because they make us feel good, simply because that’s what our parents did, or because they line up with our internal value system.

But mitzvos need to be G-dly. We must be proud of the fact that these acts are sacred. Otherwise, let’s face it, they simply aren’t Jewish.

This is what the Maccabees and Yosef fought so hard to achieve. By emulating them, our actions will shine like the lights of the menorah.

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