We can each bring a little light into the world in our way. Hanukkah is coming soon so let’s get out our Hanukkiahs and get our candles ready. It more than just a holiday where we eat foods with oil. It’s about remembering that our God is and always had been and always will be faithful.
Here’s the story of Hanukkah right out of the book of Maccabbees.
I know it’s still early but I wish you Hanukkah Sameach – Happy Hanukkah
Last month during Pesach we read that Moses took our people out of Egypt after the Ten Plagues hit the world of that day. Those of us who were obedient and put the sign of blood on our doorposts were safe in our little shtetel called Goshen, watching as one plague after another hit the world. Today we live in our modern shtetels and we are watching modern-day plagues hit our world. Both Egypt the Hebrews were being reminded that there is a Creator and He is in control. Whenever humanity gets out of control, He is forced to take over. The world has lost its sense of decency and morality. Those who speak up for honesty and just policies find themselves drowning in the noise of political correctness. Our health has been taken captive by an industry that forces us to take their pills and their vaccines, which they promise are for good for everyone but for the most part, turn out to be deadly.
So, a virus, smaller than the eye can see has put a stop to all the noise. We can’t fight or hurt each other when we have to keep a safe distance. We can’t go too far from our homes and quickly have to return to them. Suddenly we want to go out. I have not seen so many people on the streets since I played outside in the early 60s. The kids are playing outside again, and their parents are with them.
Right after Pesach, Moses took our people to Mt Sinai out of Egypt where my people Israel were becoming entranced with their gods of power and gold and were forgetting the God of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Is that happening to us again today in America? How is it that, so soon after the Holocaust, we are looking at a tremendous rise in anti-Semitism. No one can destroy Israel from the outside; we, however, can destroy ourselves from within.
It took ten plagues to set us free from Egypt. How many will it take now? How many Holocausts have we seen in our history; when will it be enough? Our exile to Babylon for 70 years was because for 490 we didn’t give the land its Shabbats. This was followed by Medes, Persians, Greece, Rome, Spain, Eastern Europe, Germany, Austria, Russia…and now we are in America. Our Western society has been falling into moral decay and it’s taken a tiny virus to bring the world to its knees. While we’re on our knees, let’s look up and thank God for His beautiful earth and all that is in it, which is finally getting a chance to rest from our pollution.
I peek into the world once in a while, as I am sure the Jews in Goshen peeked in to see their world being destroyed. I don’t know how many of us will come out of this unscathed, but I do hope that we are using this time for good and inner growth. If we knew that we had only 30 days to live, what would we do with our life? Isn’t that how we should live each day? We could all memorize the Ten Commandments, the single most important gift to humanity by the Creator; we repeat them every Shabbat so that we can remember His constitution for us to make good decisions, to have human kindness and goodness. They may be simple but they are not easy to do. If we forget every other rule and regulation and just focused on these, how our lives could change! It would be a Paradigm Shift for humanity.
Terumah begins in Exodus 25: 1-7 to Moshe to tell the Israelites “Set aside a contribution for me; you will accept a contribution from everyone who gives it willingly with his heart”. The offerings were then described. They were things that were mined or dug out of the earth, like gold, silver, bronze and precious gems that required hard work to obtain, skins of various animals that required work and sacrifice, wood and oil, all required skills and had a special purpose – they would be used to build the Mishkan. They were not frivolous gifts like we would give on valentine’s day. They were well thought out and were a necessary part of what the Creator wanted us to achieve.
Terumah continues in verse 8, with “Make me a sanctuary so that I can dwell among them.” “Each week we meet in our various sanctuaries. The exciting part about this verse is that no matter where we are, the Creator is dwelling among us. The Mishkan was moved many times during the 40 years that the Israelites were in the desert. According to the descriptions, the Mishkan was not very glamorous from the outside so as not to attract attention from their enemies but was decorated intricately and lavishly on the inside. It was filled with everything that the Israelites had taken with them when they left Egypt. That is showing me that our “external show” is not what is important to the Creator rather it is what we have on the inside which shows in what we do. Our neshama, our inner being is filled with all the things that were given to us. He placed His characteristics within us when He breathed His Ruach into us at conception. What are these characteristics? First, “Free will” the ability to choose good over evil….to choose life over death. We can make decisions. I decide to give or not to give. I decide to help my neighbor or to turn a blind eye. I decide to use my talents to serve our community or to bury them and live an unfulfilled life. I decide whether to be willing to hear the truth about myself so that I can grow, or I can choose to be offended when someone tells me the truth, to bury it and remain in the same miserable state. I decide to love rather than to hate, to speak kindness rather than to insult. I decide whether to ask for advice from those who are wise or to continue on a stubborn path which leads me on a downward spiral. It’s my choice and the reason it’s my choice is because I have free will, so I have no one to blame but myself and I will be tested!
The wonderful part of this is that the Creator goes with me everywhere I go like the cloud by day and the fire by night. He dwells with us wherever we go, either individually or as a community. Are we willing, with an open heart, to go with Him? If He tells us not to collect the manna on Shabbat, will we decide to do it anyway even if it ends us stinking in our tents. If He tells us to bring to the Mishkan and this is our Mishkan, will we say, I am not responsible, someone else will do it? Yes, someone else will do it but we all suffer; we are all responsible whether we like it or not, especially if we say, “all that you say we will do.”
Giving is something that comes from our hearts. I have heard people say that they don’t have enough to give but I don’t believe it. The reason that I don’t believe it is that I know what it is to have nothing, less than nothing and I still gave. I have spoken about being willing in the past and this which of course, stems from having free will something that we all have. It begins with a decision, very much like the decision to be faithful to one’s spouse. There are many temptations in this world. If you are a man, there are women everywhere who may think that they will could be a better wife to you than the one you have now. But if you have “decided” that no matter what happens, you will remain faithful, then the willingness becomes easier. It is the same with giving, if you decide that you want to be faithful to the Bore Olam who gives us everything that we can then take back to Him, and if decide to follow His instructions and principles, then giving becomes a matter of the willingness of the heart. The results are in God’s hands. Once it is given, it no longer belongs to us.
I know the blessings that come from being a willing giver and a thankful recipient of those blessings. We all need to question our motives in everything we do, which makes the walk with our God such a struggle. If we didn’t have a conscience we wouldn’t struggle; everything would just be straightforward…”do as you please”, to heck with the rest. However, we are God’s people and so we have choices to make about how we live our lives daily.
I belong to a small community which has a place in this world, and I believe a very important one. We are not looking to be accepted by the world; we are looking to be accepted by the Bore Olam.” That’s not easy when it is easier to get praise from those who we see than from the One we cannot see.