Parshot Festivals

Living in a time of miracles

  • RabbiMasinter
One had to both amused and dismayed at the way world leaders took pot shots at the so-called “leader of the free world” during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit last week. Is this what leadership has come to?
by RABBI DAVID MASINTER | Dec 12, 2019

The United States is continuing to polarise along dangerous political fault lines as the Democrats seek to impeach their president, only the third such attempt in US history.

England appears to have been put on pause as it wrestles back and forward with Brexit and an upcoming general election, the outcome of which could have far-reaching consequences for its Jewish citizens, about 300 000 strong.

For the first time, a United Kingdom chief rabbi has warned Jews and the public at large to vote with conscience, not to vote for a leader who refers to Hamas as his friends, has failed to stop the rampant anti-Semitism within his party, and refuses to apologise for his indifference towards it.

In Israel, the political process is facing another deadlock, with the threat of a third election on the horizon, all while Iran and its proxies are trying their very best to encircle the Jewish state from all sides.

Here at home, we are dealing with the economic aftermath of state capture as virtually every state enterprise threatens to collapse under the weight of unrestrained looting and mismanagement.

Global warming and weather change loom over the future of our planet like nothing we’ve ever seen or known in recorded history (barring the flood, of course).

So, what should our response be?

As concerned human beings and citizens, we need to get involved and contribute towards positive change in whatever way we can. As Jews, however, we have an added duty and responsibility.

The Torah tells us clearly that it’s the task of every single Jew to bring light into the world by performing mitzvot (good deeds). Whether in the US, UK, France, Israel, South Africa, or Myanmar (where a Chabad House has just opened its doors), when a Jew fulfils the mitzvah of lighting the menorah, light is created.

Bereishit Rabbah 68:5 explains that when it comes to the light of G-d, geography makes no difference. “He is the place of the world, and the world is not His place.” G-d is not found in any particular location, rather, G-d is inherent in all places.

Performing a simple mitzvah, like lighting a menorah candle, literally dispels darkness, confusion, and even hatred wherever it exists.

The great Jewish sages teach us that when we fulfil a mitzvah with focused intention, we create a “special space” that invites in divine intervention. By performing a mitzvah, we participate in an act of divine transformation.

When the Gemarah, the classical text of Jewish law, discusses the miracle of Chanukah, it asks: “What is Chanukah?” The answer given is, “When the Hellenists entered the sanctuary, they contaminated all its oil. Then, when the 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 [eight days] as days of festivity and praise and thanksgiving for G-d.”

According to the Gemarah, the festival of Chanukah is not about the military victory of a small band of Jews against one of the mightiest armies on earth. It’s about the miracle of the oil. The Gemarah makes only a passing reference to the military victory (“when the Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious”) and focuses exclusively on the story of the oil as if this were the only significant event commemorated by the festival of Chanukah.

The miracle of the oil would seem of minor importance relative to the military victory, which appears to have re-established Jewish sovereignty. The story of the oil seems to have mere symbolic value without having any consequences of life, death, and liberty. And yet it is seen and remembered as the essence of Chanukah.

If the oil would have not burnt for eight days, so what? The menorah would have not been kindled.

In truth, the sages chose the candles because true Jewish victory is the light we bring into the world. The light of Torah and mitzvot is what defeats the darkness from where all hatred emerges and gains strength.

Through our fulfilment of the mitzvah of lighting the menorah over Chanukah, may we merit to witness the lighting of the menorah in our holy temple with the revelation of our righteous Moshiach, may he come speedily.

  • Rabbi David Masinter is a rabbi, founder, and director of the Miracle Drive annual charity drive, and Director of Chabad House in Johannesburg.

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