Chanukah, Meaning of Life and Israel
Today, I went to buy my oil for lighting the Chanukiah. The salesman in the shop wished me a Happy Chanukah. And I thought, what’s there to be happy about?
And today, circulating on social media was this testimony, or interrogation, of the presidents of these IVY league universities who couldn’t condemn that hate speech against the Jews is against their standards and said repeatedly “It is dependent on context” Really — they could not answer a simple Yes or No. How sic!!
“I cannot believe what I am watching. Please someone tell me this isn’t real. But it is. It is real. It is very real. I have no words left. I cannot believe this happened in 2023 in America.” Quoting Hillel Fuld.
And I’m trying to now look for inspiration, going into Hanukkah. Not only am I down by what’s going on in the world — The UN, The lies, The media, the double standards etc, , but every day there are another few more soldiers, young men, who have died to defend our country and the right to be a free country.
I looked at what I wrote last year.
One view of Hanukkah is that it’s a triumph of religious freedom against the Greek philosophy of hedonism. And I think today, Hanukkah, and especially the day before Hanukkah, when you see these videos floating on social media, we are having Hanukkah all over again. This is a fight for religious freedom, a fight for morals, a fight for the truth, a fight against evil.
And in the timing of this, this could not be more appropriate. So maybe when I light the Hanukkah tomorrow night, I’ll think just this one thought. I’ll think that we are in a fight for religious freedom, a fight for morals, and a fight against evil. And that should give me hope, that little flicker of flames in the light of Hanukkiah. That should give us hope. And that’s all I’ve got to say now.
I’m going to share what I wrote last year, and I think it’s always relevant to see the context.
Only after October 7th are the battle lines clearer.
One view of Chanukah is that it is a triumph of religious freedom against the Greek Philosophy of hedonism.
I recently learned about Socrates, the great Greek Philosopher from Athens, in an essay called why I am living? By Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan z”l in his book Encounters. Socrates realised that everyone around him spent their lives the same way. They sought fame, riches, and pleasure yet never asked whether those things were important. Socrates felt it was his duty to try to lead men to a more dignified, meaningful life.
What shocked me about Socrates’ life was that he was brought to trial for his efforts and was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.
I cannot help comparing our times when people are slandered to death for expressing the truth.
In one of the more noble speeches of all time, Socrates, in his trial, said,
“I cannot keep quiet, for that is to disobey God. Discussing virtue and other things in life is the greatest good for a man every day. Life without inquiry has no meaning. The unexamined life is not worth living.”
So, this is one aspect of Chanukah. The fight against Darkness
However, quoting Rabbi Wein “Here in Israel, Chanukah has essentially returned to its original format and meaning.”
The Hasmoneans fought against foreign oppression (interference) of Israel and paganism and for Jewish sovereign independence and Torah observance. And that battle has not ended.
Ironically, the ICC decision to challenge the Jews’ right to Israel was issued just before Chanukah. What further proof of our history and connection to our Land do we have if not for the Chanukah story? Fact Check — The story of Chanukah took place where? It took place in Israel and is only the only Jewish Festival that we Jews celebrate that took place in Israel. This was made clear by prime minister Netanyahu at the candle lighting at the Kotel in Jerusalem, the ancient capital of Israel.
The truth of Chanukah is expressed so clearly by a new Facebook friend from Pakistan.
“Hanukkah is a #Zionist holiday that celebrates the military #victory of the Maccabees who liberated #Jerusalem and restored it as the capital of #Israel, I would like to wish #Jewish people in #Pakistan, and across the #world a very happy #Hanukkah, my new name is #David_Ariel, I am #muslim_Zionist, I want to the friendship between Pakistan and Israel, Shabbat Shalom from Pakistan Islamabad, I believe on God, God protects me always.”
Time to light up the Light of Truth
Let us have a deeper look at Chanukah.
Sivan Rahav Meir, in her weekly shiur, talks about how Chanukah is not just about children, Gan Chanukah parties, doughnuts, candles, and halakhot. If we just focus on this, then we are missing the plot.
We need to look at the historical story of Chanukah. It started as a rebellion against the Syrian-Greek government’s oppressive regime, which outlawed religious and personal freedom.
It was a grassroots revolt for religious and personal freedom.
This battle of government vs the individual has been going on for eternity, and we see this battle around the Covid restrictions.
If I left the discussion at this level, I would not be doing justice to the message of Chanukah and Judaism.
We have the halacha of adding light, pirsuma (publicising) and spreading the light of Chanukah. Spread the light on a dark.
The Mitzvot of Chanukah is at home, not the Chabad public lightings.
We can only influence with a strong foundation in the home. This is the place where our values are moulded. Start with yourself and your family.
Tikkun Olam starts with repairing yourself.
Covid forced us to be at home and focus on family. Unfortunately, we have forgotten this message as we return to the new normal.
Today, we have the battle of values — the universal moral message of Judaism vs the world of liberalism on social order and a new Secularism which is a religion,
With all respect, there is a distortion of the roles of men and women. We are equal, but we are different.
Yes, we will still have separate sports; physically, men and women are built differently.
So, even though the term batsman has been replaced with batter, you can not change the facts on the ground.
So, today’s battle is preserving the institution of marriage — the family unit and a proven model of bringing successful people into the world.
There is a battle to rewrite history — especially regarding the Jews’ historical connection to the Land. There is a battle to inverse good and evil and accuse the Jews of being evil — racist, practising genocide, or apartheid. This is such a mistruth. By attacking Israel and the Jews, humankind feels that it can justify or hide their barbaric past and despicable behaviours of the past — crusades, holy wars, Holocaust, wars for economic purposes, and raping of countries in the name of colonialism. This, too, is a message of Chanukah — another striving for the truth.
Another universal theme today is mindfulness.
We have meditation, being in the moment, and taking time out from the weekly work pressure. We subscribe to the Daily Calm App. Yesterday, our Jewish host Tamara Levitt spoke about having a regular time out. She tried to give examples from some other cultures. God forbid she would talk about Shabbat — the oldest, most successful mindfulness — in the most moment experience the world has ever known.
So, let us call a spade
Man is Man
Woman is Women
Shabbat is Shabbat
In the new secular religion, they give thanks to the Universe. We Jews give thanks to the creator of the world — God.
Let this be the real message of Chanukah. Moral clarity and truth.
To light up the truth in a world of evil and lies.
Another murder in the name of God.
How can one murder in the name of God? How is that a holy calling?
This is sic! Perverse and misunderstanding the purpose of God and his world. Indeed, God is merciful. How did God allow the Holocaust to happen? Why does he let man be so evil? Freewill?
The cold-blooded murder of Eli Kay is just one example. Unfortunately, this year of 2022 had too many murders of Jews in Israel in the name of Allah.
Indeed, we are all children of Adam or Abraham. Indeed, there are different paths to finding God and purpose in life. Killing in the name of God is such a…..
Unfortunately, war since the cradle of civilisation has not ceased. I wrote last week that Judaism has struggled to become a religion of peace. I also have asked the question, is man inherently good or evil? Each of us has tendencies for both — The challenge of the individual, the community, and the country is to strive to be good. Most of them strive to be good and have meaning. I did not know Eli Kay, who was shot and died in cold blood in his hometown of Jerusalem; I did not know his family despite our common country of my birth South Africa. South African Jewish ethics is characterised by being a mensch, striving to be good, being a proud Jew and being a strong supporter of Israel. Eli inherited all these characteristics and developed a passion for Life, Torah, and Israel,
I want to highlight five areas in which we learn from the life cut short of Eli. This is an inspiration and example that all our Kids should try to emulate — Let this be one of Eli’s Legacy and message to our Youth — follow your dreams and passion.
This should inspire us, our children, and our fellow Jews.
Eli, in the big picture, ticked five significant boxes.
- Made Aliyah
- learned on Yeshiva
- served in a combat position in defence of Israel
- worked the land as a farmer, strengthening his connection to the Land
- worked as a guide at the Kotel, sharing his love of Jerusalem and our Jewish heritage.
-Died a martyr and reminded us of the struggle of our land, what is essential in life, and what can be achieved.
He was only twenty-six, but his life was an inspiration.
He was an idealist and dreamer and embraced the opportunity and call to come live in Israel.
My fellow Jews sitting in London, Johannesburg, New York, the Torah’s central message is about Land. That is the blessing of Abraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov. The return and longing for Israel was the calling of Moses. The Bible is the most incredible Zionist book ever.
It is only when the Jews live righteously in her Land that we can share the Torah of peace from Jerusalem.
Eli did his part and looking at his achievements is a wake-up call.
· Come home
· Make Aliyah
· Contribute to the Jewish story
It is achievable. It may be challenging, and there are tremendous spiritual and material growth opportunities. Yes, Israel is now the Golden Medina, becoming an impact Nation, and there are so many opportunities to become millionaires spiritually, and materialistically, and do good deeds.
Let us take this opportunity, in Eli’s memory, to make changes.
Live a more connected life, send your kids to Israel, and make Aliyah.
It may have challenges, but it will be a life of purpose, a common goal of shining God’s light in this broken world.