Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Almost Chanukah! Get Ready!

So, I've already recommended this great weekly newsletter to you. It's written by Chabad here in Toronto and what I like about it is that it always has a very interesting personal essay in it, and then some Torah tid bits along with some of the writings of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z'l who was a very interesting, learned great man.

The thing about it is that there are lessons in there and historical and philosophical nuggets not just for Jews, and this week is certainly no exception.

The personal essay is by a Jewish woman who escaped from Iran in 1986, it is really a tremendous story-do read it.

Then there is a nice little explanation of what a Macabee is-meaning what the Hebrew letters M/C/B/E stand for and here it is:

"Judah the Maccabee (Yehuda HaMaccabi) was one of the five sons of Mattathias the Priest (Mattisiyahu the Kohen) from the city of Modiin in Israel. Judah was called "Maccabee," a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words "Mi Kamocha Ba'eilim Ado-shem - Who is like You, O G-d." On his deathbed, Mattathias enjoined his sons to follow the advice of their oldest brother, Shimon in general matters and Judah in waging war. Judah was considered one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history."

I found this outstanding acapella version of "Mi Kamocha"-who is like you oh Lord? This is gorgeous.

And then, I think most of you know the story of Chanukah, and the victory of light over darkness, but I actually hadn't really thought about the fact that all other Jewish holidays are celebrated with lighting candles before it gets dark. You cannot light Shabbat or other holiday candles when it is already dark.

So this explanation is really helpful, impressive and lovely:

"The special Mitzvah [commandment]pertaining to Chanukah is, of course, the kindling of the Chanukah Lights, which must be lit after sunset - unlike the Shabbos candles which must be lit before sunset; and unlike also the lights of the Menorah that were kindles in the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] even earlier in the day."

"The meaningful message which this emphasis on kindling the Chanukah Lights after sunset conveys is:"

"When a person finds himself in a situation of "after sunset," when the light of day has given way to gloom and darkness - as was the case in those ancient days under the oppressive Greek rule - one must not despair, G-d forbid, but on the contrary, it is necessary to fortify oneself with complete trust in G-d, the Essence of Goodness, and take heart in the firm belief that the darkness is only temporary, and it will soon be superseded by a bright light, which will be seen and felt all the more strongly through the supremacy of light over darkness, and by the intensity of the contrast."

"And this is the meaning of lighting the Chanukah Lights, and in a manner that calls for lighting an additional candle each successive day of Chanukah - to plainly see for oneself, and to demonstrate to others passing by in the street, that light dispels darkness; and that even a little light dispels a great deal of darkness, how much more so a light that steadily grows in intensity."

"And if physical light has such quality and power, how much more so eternal spiritual light."