Kislev and Chanuka

TONIGHT IS THE FIRST NIGHT OF CHANUKA.

One lonely flame tonight on the Menorah. It corresponds to Abraham, one lone voice of G-dliness in a world of paganism. Don’t worry about being a lone voice, for many candles come thereafter. You see, the one light of tonight will be joined tomorrow by another, and the next night by another… Never be afraid to blaze a path alone, for there will be others who join in later.

[Here is the Chanuka story/customs in a wrap-up, quick-telling version.  Enjoy!]

The astrological sign of Kislev is a bow.  The first rainbow (that Noach saw) was seen in Kislev.    A bow is also an example of how people should teach the next generation.  The archer has to concentrate when fitting the arrow into the bow.  The more he prepares and the more he pulls back the bow, the straighter and further the arrow will fly.  The more parents think beforehand how to raise a child and the more they prepare, the better the children will end up.  The holiday in Kislev, Chanuka comes from the word Chinuch (education).

Kislev can be read to say Kays Loh – the Throne is His.  That was the theme of the Chanuka story – that the few really religious Jews fought to put G-d first in their lives.

Brief history of Chanuka story:

The Greeks (the Yavanim) worshipped body and mind, but refused to believe in the soul.  Everything in their culture was about human power – sculpted bodies, artwork, gyms, and science and literature.  G-d was out of the picture for the Greeks –they were too busy worshiping themselves.  A group of Jews called the Misyavnim fell in love with the Greek way of life.  In the beginning they tried showing other Jews how the two cultures actually complemented each other – that you could have Torah and Greek culture.  Glatt Kosher Gyms.  Colleges with a little of Judaism sprinkled in.  Then, as people became more and more into the movement, Judaism became less and less and Greek influence became felt even more.  For example, first they had gyms that catered to Jews – then they began having plastic surgery to “cover up” the brisim (signs of circumcision) of the guys going to the gym so that no one could tell they were Jewish.

One Kohain family who lived in Yerushalayim worried their children would lose their Judaism being surrounded by these Misyavnim and their ideas.  So this family, whose father was Mattisyahu, moved to a small town called Modi’in where they thought the next generation would be safe from Greek influence.  But the Greeks were out to destroy Judaism so they decreed Jews could keep all Mitzvos except Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and Bris Milah.  They also began passing other decrees, such as no girl could get married without sleeping with a Greek general.  Idols were put into the Bais Hamikdosh and in every town square.

The person who started the war:  the daughter of Mattisyahu got up and said, “are you going to let that happen to the Jewish women”.  Mattisyahu and his five sons started an army, and there were just a handful of people on their side, but they took on the Greeks who were then the world power.  They fought long, they fought hard, some of Mattisyahu’s sons got killed.  But eventually they won.  And they then went to Yerushalayim and cleaned up the Bais HaMikdash.  They wanted to light the Menorah but could not find oil that had been kept pure – they only found one small jar enough to last one day.  They needed 8 days to produce more oil.  They lit the Menorah using the jar of oil – and the jar of oil’s light lasted the full 8 days.  That was the Chanukah miracle.

The last day of Chanuka, on the 8th day, is called Zohs Chanuka – THIS is Chanuka.  Why?  The simple explanation is that the reading on that day begins with those words.  But then you have to ask yourself, why is the reading of those words saved for the last day of Chanuka?  Okay, so listen carefully.  Seven is the number that belongs to the physical world.  Seven days of the week.  Seven primary colors.  Seven planets.  Seven notes in music.  Seven continents…  The Greeks said, what you see is what you get – you guys can keep any Mitzva showing connection to this world, to physicality.  However, don’t come and talk to us about spirituality, about souls and things beyond this temporary world.   Eight is beyond this world.  We are told that there will be an 8th note in song, more beautiful than all previous seven notes of song, when Mashiach comes.  In other words, 8 tells us there is something beyond our physical world, something greater than the sum total of our intellect and body – and that greater thing is called Olam Ruchanee – the world of spirituality.  The Maccabim fought for the right to live their lives focused on the Olam Ruchanee.  Therefore, when the Menorah stayed lit for 8 days, it showed what they knew – that with G-d everything goes beyond the physical world.  The 8th day of Chanuka is the actual embodiment of the lesson of Chanuka so we call it ZOHS Chanuka – this is what the Chanuka story is all about.

The name Chanuka is based on several words:  Chanu Kaf-Hay – The armies who fought against the Greeks got to rest on the 25th day of Kislev when the war was over and they had purged the idols from the Temple.  Chanuka from Chanukas – the dedication – they rededicated the Bais HaMikdosh in this month.

Chanukah from the word Chinuch.  Many of the stories of Chanuka is about bringing up children the right or wrong way.  Some stories:

For the good:  Chana and her 7 sons.  By the age of not-yet-3, her youngest son was able to be Mekadesh Shem Shamayim (stick to the right thing and die for G-d).

For the bad:  When the Greeks came into the Bais Hamikdash, there was a Jewish woman there from a Kohain family who had intermarried.  She was wearing strappy sandals, and when she passed the Mizbayach [altar], she took them off, slapped the Mizbayach with her sandals and screamed, “Mizbayach, you are just a fox eating the sacrifices of the Jews and giving nothing in return.”  The Greeks thought it hilarious entertainment.  When the Maccabim took back the Bais HaMikdash, one of the first things they did was find out what family this girl came from.  Each Kohain family had cubbies in the Bais HaMikdash, but the cubbies of this girl’s families were then blocked up and they had no personal space in the Bais Hamikdash.  The reasoning was this way – the Maccabim knew that if she went so far off and against her people, she must have heard badmouthing of the rabbis and of the service in the Bais HaMikdash at home.  You want to have good kids, make sure you don’t speak badly about the Mitzvos.

In the olden days, they began teaching kids to read on Chanuka.  The custom of “chanuka gelt” came about because they would ask the children to show how well they were learning on Chanuka and would reward them with money for learning well.  That is why it is also a custom to “tip” teachers of Torah on Chanuka.

Chanuka is hinted at in the Torah She’biksav (written Torah).  Where?  Count 25 words from Braishis and the 25th word is Ohr (when Hashem said there should be light).    Then, when it lists the different places where the Jews camped while traveling in the desert, the 25th place they camped was called Chashmona.

Mitzvos of Chanuka:  adding Hallel to the prayers, adding Al HaNisim in the Amida and in Grace after meals, having good meals, and, most important, lighting the Menorah.

Customs of Chanuka:  playing draidel.  The draidel has four sides and one top piece that spins it.  This is to show us that the four corners of the world (everything that happens) is spun by the One above!

Eating things fried in oil – to remember the miracle that happened with oil.

Eating dairy foods.  There was one Greek general that needed to be killed.  A Jewish woman named Yehudis (daughter of Mattisyahu) packed herself a picnic basket with good foods, dairy ones especially, and went to the Greek army camp.  She was very beautiful and she told the soldiers she had come to meet their general.  He was thrilled and invited her in.  She fed him dairy, and when he became sleepy, she lopped his head off with a sword, put it into her basket, covered it up with her cloth and left the camp.  That was the end of that battle – won by a brilliant woman.

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Elul – Spatial Bend Brings Heavens Closer

Heavens touches earth this month, beginning today.  Think of a tall father bending over his small son and thereby allowing the son to reach his hand easily, letting his son see into his face.  There is a spatial bend whereby spiritual becomes a bit closer, a bit more attainable, where G-d makes Himself a bit nearer to us.

This time of love between us and G-d has been etched into existence by the fact that G-d forgave our sin of the Golden Calf and allowed our nation to recapture that which we had lost by giving us a second set of Luchos (tablets).  Today, Rosh Chodesh Elul, is the anniversary when Moshe ascended on high again to begin anew the process of getting us the Torah from on high.

A sad story: young girls coerced into relationships they did n0t want and then told they were prostitutes and pressured into that line of work.  One such girl is a mere fourteen years old, throwing up her hands in despair, telling her mentor that whatever she will do from now on won’t count anymore as “I’m a prostitute, anyway.”  Painted into a corner psychologically first by the predator and then by an unsupportive/judgmental family and community.  And I texted the mentor to tell that young girl thus:  “Rachav Hazonah married Yehoshua and merited to have many Nevi’im be her descendants, including Yirmiyahu Hanavi.”  Texted back the mentor, “Cool”.   It is way more than cool, my friends, it is downright awesome to have a reset button that ensures mistakes and sins don’t stay a stain upon us.

No past precludes any of us from being royalty.  No smallness of stature blocks our relationship with G-d in this month.  For G-d Himself bends down to us.  And if we but lift up our hands to Him, we get lifted up toward the waiting spiritual heights.

———–

and for those who want a musical interlude:  Shuli Rand does his soul-searching Ayecka — a cry out to G-d — and the answer to that cry is this month – -G-d would answer Shuli, don’t ask where I am, I’m right here – -where are you?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oo2JskBPgA

Gutten Chodesh, everyone.

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Written Torah Definitely Got an Oral Torah Alongside It

There are various times in the written Torah that it is quite obvious that what was written was merely the tip of the iceberg and myriads of detailed Torah law was given alongside it.  This is the proofs to those naysayers who do not want to buckle down and live according to our Oral Torah traditions.

An example would be in this week’s Torah portion, in a verse that talks about the Tefillin, the adornments that Jewish men wear between their eyes.

The proof of oral Torah being from Sinai is that certain mitzvos don’t tell the details—obviously details were given and we keep them.  So the verse in this week’s portion says, “you should tie them for a sign on your hands and be as a decoration between your eyes…”  What is the passuk referring to when it says tie “them”?  How should you tie them?  Which hand?  Decorate between your eyes – temporary tattoo or an inset jewel?  But every Jew worth his salt, since the time of Sinai has been wearing very exact Tefillin.  Color, size, what is written, how it is wrapped, etc. has been given and done through the ages.  No one has red Tefillin that is wrapped with tzititis strings around the palm.  No one ever questioned that the Oral law that we have is “Toras Moshe mee’sinai” that we were told, along with these verses exactly how to keep the verses.

 

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The Levers Called Prayer

If ever you want candies galore
The place to head to is a candy store
Rows and rows of jars and bins
All with yummy candies withinBut, wait, my friend, how do you go about
Making sure the candies slide out?Look below the bin and you’ll see a lever
To get to the candies you don’t have to be cleverAll you need to do is give it a push or pull
And soon your waiting bag will be candy-full!

Up in Heavens there are blessings galore
Waiting in Hashem’s treasure store
The lever we use to get things from Above
Is to daven to Hashem with extra loveDaily prayers get things moving from high to low
The sun and the rain that allow things to grow
Personal prayers work wonders, too
Which bring us the gifts needed for me and you.

There are times when a lever gets quite stuck
And it seems those who want candy are out of luck
But then along comes a mighty man of muscle
And with the lever he begins to tussle
This way, that way, pound and squeeze
Until the stuck lever he manages to unfreeze
So, too, great people are often in pain
But their pain is what gives us our gain
Because when from pain they pray with passion
They flood the world with blessings in free-flowing fashion
With their spiritual muscles they get the levers going
And to all of us, not just them, all the blessings then come flowing.
So my friend, if you have pain in your life right now
G-d thinks you can unstuck a lever of blessings, somehow.
Pray nonstop, pray with all your spiritual might
Because YOU are probably the one to set blessing chutes just right.

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We’re the Future of the Past, and the Past of the Future

You can meet your past going toward your future or try to travel to the future and end up in your past.  That, dear friends, is a premise of non-linear time and the theory of Godel. 

Within Torah thought, past actions impact future and vice versa.  In this week’s Torah portion, we see the Jewish nation told to go even out the score with the Midianite nation for their role in trying to get us to sin.  Yet, the Moav nation which had instigated it was left unscathed.  The reason for allowing Moav to continue onward at this point of time was that the holy Ruth would come from the King of Moav. 

Here we go into the age old philosophical question that had seemed unanswerable until applying these concepts, namely, if G-d knows the future, how can there be free choice?!  Predetermination vs. Bechira. 

The answer can be that with non-linear time, all time is happening at the same time. 

Ruth was making a free decision to convert to Judaism and do kindness for her mother-in-law.  Her predecessor, the King of Moav, who had plotted to have the Jews annihilated by G-d, he merited life based on the merit of his future descendant. 

But, wait, there is more to the narrative.  He brought sacrifices, didn’t he, in an attempt to “bribe” G-d to curse the Jews.  Even a wrongly-motivated sacrifice has a spark of holiness.  And our sages say that spark of holiness stayed alive to make its way to Ruth, his descendant.

Ah, but wait, there is even still more to the narrative.  You see, Moav is from Lot, the nephew of Avraham.  Father Abraham poured lessons, love, guidance and even risked his life for his nephew Lot.  It seemed all that nurturing went nowhere when Lot moved to the corruption of Sodom.  Yet, even in that corruption, some of Avraham’s goodness remained with Lot, for we see him welcoming in the angels to his home and trying to feed them.  Hence, the spark lit by Avraham, stayed dormant in Lot, flickering occasionally in his soul.  That spark, carried generations later through descendants, burst into full-flame of Ruth’s majesty and holiness, eventually sparking the Davidic line.

Which epoch of time period influenced which?  Will the deeds of the future Messiah, who will be from the Davidic line, mothered by Ruth, impacting the past?  Or is the past dictating and shaping the future of the world?  With non-linear time, both can be happening simultaneously.

The “original sin” of man eating from that forbidden tree  shouldn’t, in a linear time frame, be that relevant to us as his descendants, other than the sad fact that we are being punished for his sin with death, hard childbirth, the difficulty in making a living, etc.  Yet, none of us has righted the sin.  If we go with the non-linear time thought, each time we do the same sin of Adam, which is what almost all of us are guilty of doing in our own lives, we are doing it at the precise moment he is doing it.  And, if in the future, we set it right, it might even set the past right.

Yup, folks, I believe in something more important being gained from the study of non-linear time than time travel.  I think we can learn that if we, the future of the past, set a sin wrong by rectifying a flaw in mankind’s nature by overcoming that rebellious nature, we can undo the past.  This is why in an esoteric view of Jewish history, world history is depicted as a full circle, with the Messianic age bringing us back to Adam in the Garden of Eden.

 

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This World = Camera Obscura. Next World, Right Side Up.

When inside it is inky dark and outside there is bright light, and if there happens to be a small chink in the obscuring darkness through which some light can enter, well then life gets a bit interesting. The image of what is outside will filter into the room, but in an inverted fashion. Up will be down and down will be up. You will see a tree on your wall, but an upside down one. That is the facts of what is often known as the Camera Obscura.

A brilliant artist using this method Abelardo Morell [1] uses this technique to blend upside-down outdoor panoramic scenes on right-side-up indoor ones for images that are both haunting and mystifying as you try to tease apart what belongs where. He also rights the images, as do our modern day camera, to give you right-side panoramas in some of his photos.

In the Talmud (Bava Basra) there is the story of Rabbi Yehoshua’s son who had what we might call a near-death experience. He was sick, his soul left his body, and then he was revived. Upon his revival, his father wanted to know what he saw during his out-of-body experience. And the patient said, “Olam Hafuch Ra’eesee – an upside down world I saw.” ‘Those who sit at the dais here in this world are relegated to back seats there. Those who are downtrodden here are placed up front there. Up is down and down is up.’ To which Rabbi Yehushua responded, ‘you saw with clarity, ‘tis true.’

A person living in a dark room with very little light coming in will think all of the world is upside down. That person, on emerging from the dark room, will be flabbergasted to find the actual objects that cast the image are stationed right-side-up on the outside. We, living here in Olam Hazeh, in the temporal world, are sitting in a dark world, where spirituality comes sneaking in through chinks in the physicality. Therefore, all we see is inverted panoramas (unless we have outfitted ourselves with special lenses to right-side-up the images). In the next world, where all is light and spirituality, that is where the right-side up actuality is found. That is why in this world we often value aggrandizing pontificators and shun the plain G-d fearing simpleton. Upside down views we have, until we will be surprised to find out that in realms of light, those who we shun here might be the kings there. After all, isn’t that the story of King David, the upright man, not valued in his generation, but beloved by G-d?


[1] see the upside down one at

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/05/camera-obscura/morell-photography

To read another explanation of the upside world, read Rabbi Ciner here:

http://www.neveh.org/ciner/parsha58/shmini.html

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Creator of the World – Analysis Rather than Blind Faith Recommended by Chovos Halevovos

There are three premises from which you can see that the world has a Creator.

  1. A thing does not make itself.
  2. Things are caused by things (chain reaction).   Somewhere up the chain there must be a first cause.
  3. Anything finite was created

Or as Rav Amnon Yitzchok says it, you are proof Hashem exists.  How?  You exist.  Now there are two possibilities.  Either you created yourself or you were created.  If you created yourself, then that is an untruth, because then you already existed before you existed in order for “you” to create yourself.  So that is not possible logically.  Which means you had to be created.  Period.  That means there had to be a Creator.  And if you take the argument that life is about cyclical infinity, my mother created me and her mother created her, etc. (perpetual existence), at a certain point you have to go back to the second premise of Rabbi Yehuda, which is that somewhere in that chain you will have to say, but who created the first person who created the second.  Another way to say it is in a math way – anything finite has an end and a beginning.  People have an end, they must have a beginning, which means something must have “begun” them.  At a certain point, you have to concede there is an infinite Creator.

Now, since we live in a time where folks think the theory! of evolution is truth, then let us take that angle and take it to its end.  There was a big bang.  Okay, if I’m stupid enough to believe that, I still have to ask, what banged.  Oh, some gas (a great big burp created the world).  Then I’m back to a Creator, because where did the gas come from.  If it existed, it had to have been put into existence, which means, even if I buy into evolution, I have to admit there must have been a Creator somewhere in the beginning to have created the gasses that bumped into each other during the big bang.

Let us do another analysis.  We are made up of components, which had to be put together intelligently.  This shows there is a Being of Intelligence who designs and put together the components.  This, by the way, is why many physicists do not believe in evolution, because there is “intelligent design” in the way the world is set up.  Even more, there is a delicate balance in those components, a harmony and symmetry.  If a child sits by a piano and bangs on the key, there is no song.  Someone who learned that chords and notes express music, can put together music.  When you hear a sonata, when you hear a few bars of classical music, you know without a shred of doubt someone composed it – music doesn’t bump out like that when a kid bangs on the keys.  There is such beauty in the way the world is running, there is no doubt, when you study physics, that there is a “composer” of the world.   In fact, says Rabbi Yehuda, what is more amazing is that composite materials that should not be able to exist together, do so in nature, which means that beyond seeing the intelligence of putting together the composite materials into structures supporting life (which proves G-d), the way they are put together in ways that make no physical sense, underlines the “Hakol Yachol” anything is possible with G-d aspect of G-d.

 

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