A Shabbat teaser
To be a Jew means to live with a question. To be a Jew means to never rest or sleep until we either get an answer to that question or remove the floor beneath which the question lies. So, for this week’s message, I seek to share with you just a question.
Here it is. Imagine it is mid-June, 1967 and the world has just witnessed the miraculous victory of the Six Day War. In fact, I am sure many of you remember it well. Jews the world over thought that Israel and its population of 3 million Jews would be wiped off the map as six Arab armies advanced and threatened to exterminate Israel. I know of many Jews here in Sydney who, at the time, gathered at the Zionist agencies and volunteered to make their way over to fight only to find out that the war had already ended.
Now imagine that during this extraordinary victory a soldier had witnessed a candle burning in nearby Jerusalem Synagogue for six days. Sure, this would have been a nice touch. It would have added to the incredible euphoria that was being felt at the time. But would this, rather than the extraordinary military deliverance from a second holocaust, have been the cause of celebration?
Which is why it is startling to hear how the Talmud (Shabbat 21b) describes the festival of Chanukah :
“What is Chanukah?” asks the Talmud. It answers:
“When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, the contaminated all its oil. Then, when the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious over them, they searched and found only a single cruse of pure oil that was sealed with the seal of the High Priest – enough to light the Menorah for a single day. A miracle occurred, and they lit the menorah with this oil for eight days. The following year, they established these as days of festivity and praise and thanksgiving for G-d.”
But hang on a second. What about the incredible military victory that took place that granted life and liberty to all of Israel’s Jews at the time? All we get is a fleeting reference – “the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious”. But let’s not forget that had the Jews been defeated by the Greeks, there would be no Jews today. Yet had the oil not burned for eight days, what difference would it have made? I don’t get it.. do you??
I look forward to discussing this further with you over Shabbat.
Mount Sinai ELC and Preparatory Shabbat service
I look forward to welcoming to Shule this friday night all students and parents in the earlier years of ELC and Prep! They will assist me in leading a few parts of the service and I will share with them a special Chanukah message.
I wish a hearty Mazal Tov to the Kerner and Weisz families on the wedding call-up of Daniel and Sophie this Shabbat day in Shule! Can’t wait for the wedding!
Blessings of long life
I also use this space to wish ‘arichut yamim’ and send our deepest wishes of comfort to the Platt and Symonds families on the passing of Jaqueline Alexander and Monica Symonds this past week. May we only share in future Simchas and celebrations.
Wishing you all an incredible Shabbat and brilliant Chanukah! (I hope to see you at all of our Chanukah celebrations, see below!)
Rabbi Yossi and Chana R. Friedman