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Thank G-d!

Friday, 7 December, 2012 - 1:00 pm

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?

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 Macabees 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 – indeed, they allowed the Greek-Syrians to rule them after the military victory.

The key problem the Greek-Syrians had with the Jews was their observance of Torah. In fact, they agreed to 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 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 (Joseph) 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, he 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 Macabees, 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.

We sometimes do mitzvos because they make us feel good, or simply because that’s what our parents did or our friends are doing.

But mitzvos need to be G-dly. We must be proud of the fact that these acts are sacred.

Indeed, then our actions will shine like the lights of the menorah.

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