G-dless Judaism?

Friday, 7 December, 2018 - 10:37 am

After the Maccabees successfully drove the Greek-Syrians out and retook the Temple in Jerusalem, their first call of duty was reestablishing the rites of the Temple. They found lots of oil in the Temple, but only one jug that had the seal of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) still intact. We are familiar with the miraculous ending of the story – the oil lasted not one day, but eight. Hence, the eight days of Chanukah.

But, if the Greeks were aiming to prevent the Jews from practicing the Temple rituals, why not steal all the oil altogether?


A Rembrandt piece of art is auctioned for millions of dollars and original classic cars are sold for several hundred thousand dollars because of their unique quality and limited availability. But if it’s a fake painting or a replica car, it’s virtually worthless in the collectors’ universe. Authenticity is what adds a few zeros to the price tag.


The Greeks were not bothered by the rituals of the Temple. A candelabrum is elegant, meaningful and useful. In fact, their issue with the Temple was not Jewish might or racism. They openly embraced Jews – but only Jews who had adopted the Hellenistic lifestyle.

In breaking the seals on the oil containers, the Greeks were making a statement: “You can light the menorah. But don’t tell me there is anything extraordinary about this sacred oil.”

Ironically, to the Greek champions of art and culture, if the authenticity of an item was taken away it remained the same!


In this week’s Parsha, Miketz, Yoseph meets his brothers. They had sold him into slavery. Yet, he did not take revenge. Even before he revealed himself to them, he declared, “I fear G-d,” pledging not harm them – so long as they brought their brother Binyamin.

Yoseph could have easily used his authority as the tool to demand whatever he wanted form his brothers. Instead, he reassured them that it was his awe of G-d that inspired his behavior.

Yoseph is heralded as the master of reconciliation and pardon, refusing to retaliate for the horrible treatment at the hands of his brothers. But, he does not do so simply because he is driven by logic and compassion. Logic and compassion are powerful tools – which can also be abused.

Yoseph was devoted to a higher cause. It was his Fear of Heaven, his immutable subjugation to G-d’s will and his passionate love of and faith in G-d that compelled him to behave in the most honorable fashion.


Ritual without G-d, and mitzvot without spirit, are like fake paintings and plagiarized books. And, ironically, G-d is priceless but readily available.

As we kindle the last lights of the menorah, let us remember what the Jews fought for. Let us rededicate ourselves to bringing G-d into the mitzvos that we already perform.

That will certainly lead to more mitzvos. And to a bright future for the Jewish people.

Comments on: G-dless Judaism?
There are no comments.