Chanukah: The Newness of Chanukah

My home is situated on a pathway that comes off of a main road.  On this pathway, there are five other homes, all of us right next to each other. One other home is religious and the rest are not.  Thankfully, we have a good relationship with our other neighbors and everybody respects each other and gets along fine.  In fact, one of them stopped me a few months ago and 'gave it to me' about the behaviour of my children and how much she appreciates seeing them behave so well and treat her well (it seems my daughter was on the way to school with some friends, walked past her, and wished her a good morning… amazing what one small thing will do).

 On Chanukkah, my boys and I light our menorahs outside, as is the custom here, and when I say the brachos, I make them louder than usual.  And when we sing Ma'otzur, I sing it louder than usual. I don't usual do such things, but on Chanukkah, in Eretz Yisroel, surrounded by Jews who would unfortunately support the Greeks before they support the Maccabees?  Well… I make an exception to my personal comfort level

 This year, on the third night, my kids saw one of our neighbors watching and smiling through the window as we lit our menorahs.  Last night, she made it a special point to come outside and say 'amen' to all of them and listen to the singing.

 Ah!  We did the mitzvah of Chanukkah in the best way possible!

 It's also an important lesson.  You don't need to be an outreach professional to 'reach out'.  You can just to do mitzvos properly with proper intention, and sometimes that lights a spark in a Jewish soul.

 In Hebrew, the word for Greece is Yavan.  It's spelled Yud-Vav-Nun.  On the other side, is Zion, which is spelled Tadi(k)-Yud-Vav-Nun.  What's the difference between the two?  Simple, Zion starts with the letter Tadi(k), which of course represents … a tzaddik!

 The Navi (prophet) Chabakuk said (2:4), "A Tzaddik lives with his Emunah (his faith)".  Rav Pincus defines this as "living".  Being that there could be a difference between two people who learn the same Torah, daven from the same siddur and do the same mitzvos.  One has faith that there is Hashem.  The Hashem created the world.  That Hashem put him in this world for a reason.  That Hashem watches over the Jewish people, etc… And not only does he know that… he LIVES it.  The other person might know it… but he doesn't LIVE with it.  One can be a big talmid chacham and still not LIVE with this Emunah.

 The definition of this LIFE, says Rav Pincus, is that such a person is not bound by boundaries.  He doesn't think, "Oh, I can't learn that, that's too hard… I can't reach that level, it's not for me…".  A person with such thoughts will never move up (if it's true in the working world, how much more so in the spiritual).  However, a Tzaddik will always be pushing those boundaries, always seeking new (spiritual) "frontiers".  To him, every day is a NEW day, and not just a continuation of the previous one.

 In the times of Chanukkah, we were already under Greek rule for 180 years.  Life was life.  Things continued.  We failed to grow.  When the Maccabees took arms and said enough is enough, they introduced this "newness", this freshness in life.  We know that they were not fighting for political independence, but to break the spiritual bonds the Greece had us in.

 And what happened?  Clear miracles occurred. Why?  Because they took upon themselves to be Tzaddikim, to push themselves to newness everyday.

 In the past, the Jewish people have either: 1) been in a good physical situation, but not so much of a spiritual situation or 2) been in a good spiritual situation, but not so much of a good physical situation 3) were not in a good physical or spiritual situation.

 But now? We are in an excellent physical situation.  We have food and home and health.  We are not hounded by corrupt governments trying to kill us.  Spiritually speaking, every major cities have schools for boys and girls, yeshivos, mikvaos, kollelim, etc… Most places in the United States actually have a better spiritual and physical setup than where I live in Eretz Yisroel!

 But this comes with a downside.

 When we have what we need, things tend to get stale.  Specifically, our relationship with Hashem.  We no longer turn to Him, because why would we?  Anybody who has eyes in the religious community, whether in the United States, England, or Israel, will be able to see the cracks occurring within the younger generation.

 When we continue through life, without newness, things get stale.  When things get stale, we look elsewhere for something new and refreshing.  It's human nature.

 When a person looks at what he has and recognizes on a daily basis, that Hashem has put him in this world for a specific reason, and LIVES with that… then his day, and his life, take on new meaning.  If a person is not satisfied with what he has and drives for more, then every day is a new mission.

 When a person LIVES with Emunah, he will see miracles, some open, some not-so-open, in his every day life.  When a person is satisfied with his stale life, going through each day doing his mitzvos as if he was paying off some debt to keep him alive… without any desire to be a tzaddik… well… he ends up joining Yavan in the end.

 The difference between Yavan and Zion is not if a person is good or not.  It's simply how does that person move through life.  A person who has a constant desire to grow, will always be counted as part of Zion, even in times when they fail, simply because they are LIVING life with Hashem.

 Have a wonderful Shabbos and Chanukkah.