Rabbi Berel Wein
Chanuka represents a triumph, in the words of the al hanism prayer recited during this holiday, of “the weak over the strong.” There is no doubt that the words “weak” and “strong” that appear in the prayer refer to physical, military strength. The Syrian-Greek army that waged war against theHasmonean rebels was far larger and better equipped – elephants, et al – than was the Jewish force. Yet even though on paper the Jews were weaker militarily they somehow persevered and triumphed against their foes.
Now we all are aware that the highest devotion to duty and greatest moral commitment are not enough in the course of natural normal events to overcome tanks and machine guns with horses and spears. Thus the physical definition of “weak” and “strong” always remains in place. Yet there is a dimension of strength and weakness that Chanuka clearly illustrates for us. And that is the power of self-confidence, faith and belief. For though it does not per se stop machine gun bullets, it does give those who possess it the ability to outwit, outfight and outlast a heavily armed enemy.
The French army in 1940 outnumbered its German adversary in numbers and equipment in World War II. Yet it collapsed in weeks because it was demoralized, defeatist in attitude and without any belief in itself as a fighting force. The Hasmoneans triumphed after heavy losses of their own because of their belief and faith and self-confidence, their moral commitment if you will. They were fighting for their Temple and their religion, for the God of Israel and the justness of His cause. This gave them moral strength that helped overcome their physical weakness and shortcomings.
The modern Haman of Iran/Persia proclaimed last week that Prime Minister Olmert’s unfortunate reference to Israeli nuclear weapons is only further proof of the weakness and desperation of Israel. He is encouraged in this painfully erroneous assessment by the presence throughout the Jewish world of the self-hating Jews of Leftist academia and the fanatical lunatics in their treacherous Jewish garb who claim to be religious and who echo his calls for the dismantling of the Jewish state here in Israel.
What can be better proof that this modern version of Haman is right when he is only quoting Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Satmar and Neturei Karta? Do these disparate Jewish bed-fellows not illustrate the moral bankruptcy of the State of Israel and the Jewish people? Truly to his warped mind they show that the Jewish people are weak – physically, morally and religiously. What results is his confidence in defying everyone in the world in pursuing his mad game of terror and destruction.
He feels himself strong and has decided that his opponents are weak. Well, the strong usually triumph and conquer the weak so he apparently has the odds on his side. But he is sadly mistaken in his assessment of us and of the situation. He has not done his homework with due diligence and hás avoided learning the lessons of history. It is he that is weak for he is embarking on the road to his appalling disaster. The Talmud teaches us that anti-Semitism is a shortcut to fame but eventually it is a long road to Hell and destruction. Ask the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Germans.
Chanuka symbolizes this great inner strength of the Jewish people and its firm attachment to Torah and its values. Jews as individuals may waver and weaken but the Jewish people – klal yisrael – never falters. There is a strength and resilience placed within us by our history and faith that makes the weak physically strong morally and eternally. The little lights of Chanuka still shine in the Jewish world long after the bonfires of our enemies have been extinguished by even greater conflagrations that overcame them.We have to continue to strengthen ourselves in the justice of our cause and the faith of our traditions and observances. They are truly the “security of our lives, the length of our days.” Our road is never na easy one and Chanuka marks only the beginnings of victory and not the ultimate triumph. But it points the way for us and warms us in the cold winter of our problems and discontent. Chanuka may be sufganiyot and svivonim, latkes and gelt. But it is more than that. It is the affirmation of our strength of purpose and determination to live and succeed. That is what makes it such a meaningful and joyous holiday.
Weekly Parsha 1 Teves 5767 / 22 December 2006
Yosef’s actions towards his brothers are accompanied by much weeping on his part. We can well understand the emotional stress that he undergoes in confronting his brothers decades after they sold him into bondage and abandoned him to his fate. But Yosef weeps not only for himself and his own pain and angst. He weeps just as much for his brothers who also have had to live with their awful torturous secret for so long. And he also weeps for his beloved father, made old and bent by grief and travail.
Tears are seen as a precious commodity in Jewish thought and writings. The Lord, so to speak, counts every human tear and stores them in His eternal container. Tears are not forgotten. They are the true stuff of human memory. Eisav’s claim against Yaakov is validated in the eyes of theTalmud because of the tears of anguish that he shed in the presence of his father Yitzchak. Yosef can wash his face and control himself from weeping in public before his brothers but he can never control the weeping of his heart and soul.
Life is truly a vale of tears. Yosef’s private tears, more than anything else, are the focal point of his staged reunion with his brothers. When he can no longer control his outward tears and weeps in front of his brothers, the inner tears of his soul are revealed as well. When one’s inner tears are also apparent to others, then reconciliation and harmony in a family can be achieved.
Tears do not always signify sadness or tragedy. At moments of supreme joy, happiness and satisfaction, copious tears flow from the eyes of humans. Yosef’s tears are thus not only a product of sad memories and tragic situations but are also tears of hope and achievement as he begins to see the realization of his long lost dreams.My grandfather, a distinguished Lithuanian rabbi in Chicago in the first part of the twentieth century, visited the Land of Israel in the 1930’s. Upon his return to Chicago he was asked by one of his congregants whether the chalutzim who were farming the land wore kippot on their heads while working. He replied, “When I saw the Land of Israel being tilled by Jewish farmers after two thousands years of exile, my eyes welled with tears. I therefore was unable to see clearly what was worn on the heads of those farmers.”
Tears of hope can erase from our vision scenes of trials and tribulations, failures and weaknesses. Yosef’s tears will eventually blur the sight of his brothers in a bad and adversarial light and allow him to see them as brothers who made a mistake and have paid in full. Tears are therefore not only the weapon of bitterness and recrimination. They are also the médium of compromise, harmony and reconciliation. And they can be the harbingers of hope and accomplishment if we will them to be that. Yosef’s tears have washed the soul of Jews over millennia. They continue to influence our lives even today.
Postagem by André Veríssimo
Presidente Koah, Director CEIMOM