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Parshat Vayigash - Blue lights

"A few years ago I was invited to the Sandton police station to attend the police parade and address the SAPS on the festival of Chanukah," writes Rabbi Wineberg
by Rabbi Dovid Wineberg | Dec 03, 2013

Harry’s having a midlife crises and goes out to buy the fastest sports car that money could buy. Zooming down the N2, a police car pulls out and waves him over.

Harry’s having none of this: he puts the pedal to the metal and before he knows it the police car is a little dot in the distance with faint lights flashing.

Finally the police officer pulls him over and sees a respectable looking gentleman behind the wheel. So he says to him: “If you give me a good reason why you were fleeing a police officer, I’ll let you off.”

So Harry says: “Last week my wife ran off with a police officer- and I thought you were bringing her back!”

A few years ago, I had my own incident with the police, having spent a morning in the Sandton police station. I know what you’re thinking: they finally caught the rabbi! In fact this wasn’t even crime related - I was invited to the station to attend the police parade and address the SAPS on the festival of Chanukah.

Chanukah commemorates the miracle that enabled the Jews to once again light the menorah in the Temple. Considering that the menorah was lit during the day, and indoors, one has to wonder at the centrality of an act with no purpose. How are you supposed to illuminate the world if no one sees the light?

So there I was addressing 100 cops who were fighting a losing battle. Even their chief of police was on trial for corruption! Whatever they do is a drop in the bucket.

I saw proud people but tired uniforms. And I could imagine that’s how the Maccabees felt: they weren’t only fighting the enemy outside - the enemy was sometimes within!

The Hellenists betrayed their people and their faith for progressive thinking and embracing the modern ideals of the times. I imagine that Yehuda the Maccabee was simply overwhelmed.

And if you’re a Jew today and you look at the globally rising Jew hatred; if you look at Israel’s futile attempts to forge peace; if you wonder about your kid’s future when even the United States was recently on the verge of default, you get overwhelmed.

Along comes the Temple and teaches us that if you wish to illuminate the world, you don’t start by lighting up the universe - you first light inside of yourself. Each individual is a mikdash me’at, a mini sanctuary, and the same lesson applies.

You want to make a difference? Light your own candle. “Maccabee” stands for mi kamocho ba-elim Hashem, no force measures up to G-d. This wasn’t just a motto or a slogan - a warrior cry - it was their candle burning within.

And when the Maccabees were victorious and reached the Temple, there could be nothing more important than rekindling the Light Within. And that’s what I told these policemen and women: be that candle. Burn brightly with your motto to “serve and protect”.

And if enough of us are walking talking candles, then we eventually reach the Festival of Chanukah where we light a menorah specifically at night and facing the street. We begin to illuminate the world around us- and that is the greatest miracle of all.

 

Rabbi Dovid Wineberg, Green & Sea Point Hebrew Congregation

 

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