The Victory of Hannukah – Building Yourself with Light

King Antiochus was notorious for conquering countries with a strong hand. When conquering Israel – his objective was not just physical subjugation – but mental subjugation. His war  wasn’t just a war against nations – but a war against spirituality. Spirituality is basically connecting with the Creator of the Universe – Hash-m.

He outlawed Circumcision, Rosh Hodesh / the New Month, and Shabbat. The Jews fought back and after a war lasting almost 25 years – Hash-m gave victory in their hands – they won the war. The major miracle was the Jews’ victory over the superpower of that time – Greece.

We know that in the end – when the Jews come to purify the Holy Temple / Beit HaMikdash -they find one jug of oil with the seal of the Cohen Gadol / Chief. This oil, that is supposed to last one day, lasts eight days.

G-d Loves the Sincere Efforts of the Common Man

The Rambam says that if the Mizbeach / Altar is broken – one is not required to light the Menorah. The Greeks broke the altar  So why did they want to light it? There was no Mitzvah / commandment to light the Menorah. It was just a commemoration – to remember the Mitzvah. So why did G-d make a miracle if they weren’t even doing a Mitzvah? Apparently, G-d appreciates even the small, sincere efforts that a person makes to establish a connection with him.

My friend told me a story of a woman who ordered a “Kosher” Hot Dog for her son in Manhattan on Passover. On Passover we are forbidden to eat bread. She was very adamant that the vendor not put the Hot Dog on the bun. “Don’t Touch the Bread with the Hot Dog!” I am sure that Hash-m had satisfaction from that woman’s sincere effort to avoid allowing her son to eat Hametz – leavened products on Passover.

Build What Others Want to Break

I was listening to Rabbi Shaked Bouhdana. He mentioned an interesting point. Antiochus outlawed Circumcision, Rosh Hodesh / the New Month, and Shabbat. The Jews fought hard to have the freedom to do these Mitzvot and others. It turns out that Hanukah Lasts 8 days – the same amount of time a child born waits to be circumcised. Since Hanukah lasts Eight days – it is sure that at least one Shabbat will fall during Hanukkah. There is always a New Month that falls on Hanukkah. When we fought for a Mitzvah that others wanted to outlaw – we won by having a greater level of sanctification for these three Mitzvot.

If we use our forces for the positive growth spiritually we gain in a greater way than what we originally had.

Building Your Personality

Some people are fragile. Send one word out of place – and here comes the fire. Someone asked me how to deal with difficult people. I said – we shouldn’t look at people who upset us as our enemies. Ultimately – our deeds that we sent out are boomeranging back to us.

The Boomerang Principal – Midah Keneged Midah / Measure for Measure

If we got angry at a spouse – this anger will find it’s way back. So the smart thing to do is to recognize this principal and when someone lashes out at us – realize that that might be the fruit of our previous misdeed. So if we lash back at them – it is akin to a (pardon the comparison) dog biting a stick that was thrown at him. We bite at the stick – the person who lashed at us – but we forget that we were the one who initially threw the stick.

Fight fire with water – not fire. Calm the situation. Don’t fuel the fire.

 

Take 2 for a More Productive You

People procrastinate. It isn’t always the work they shun. It may be that they have more interesting things to do. So they’ll put that “maintenance” chore on the side to do more creative work.

I am not into filling out forms. I am not into routine work. But you have to do them.

Should I take ten minutes to do them? Ten whole minutes? How about Five? Five – not bad. Two Minutes? That’s doable.

Take the two minutes to start the “push off” task. Once you start, it’ll be more easy to continue. One way to get you to start the task is to make starting the thing seem doable. Once you start – continue.

Apparently the same applies to advancing in Judaism. Learn Torah for two minutes. Learn Two Halachot / Jewish laws a day. Learn Two Mishnayot a day. Do 2 new Mitzvot a day.

I now understand why it says “One who learns Halachot / Jewish Laws daily – is promised a place in the World to Come.” The minimum of a plural is two. Get started – go far.

Are People Really Insulting You? – the Woman Who Beat Up Her Husband

A friend came up to me on Shabbat. “I am really upset – This person treated me like a bum. My aide and I were sitting quietly and he told me that we don’t sit here like a bum.”

What am I to do? Tell him that he didn’t do it. He did it.

I said – maybe the person who complained thought you were someone else.

I told him a true story.

Once a rabbi with a beard was peacefully walking down the street. A woman walked up to him and started yelling. “How dare you come to my neighborhood! After all the pain you caused me when we were married! You have no shame?!” Her anger turned violent. She started hitting him with her purse. “take that!”

“Excuse me lady. I am not your ex-husband.” She took a good look and apologized. Oh I am sorry – I thought you were my ex. He caused me so much pain. Forgive me.”

A friend asked him – were you upset at her after what she did to you? He replied “No. She wasn’t beating me up – she was beating up her ex-husband.”

At times a person insults you. He might not be angry at you – perhaps he or she had a bad day and you happen to be in the way of that person’s anger.

You can take it personally. You can use it to change for the better. Or you can say perhaps the anger is directed at someone else or something else I did at another time.

Gratitude to the One Who Gives

This week’s parasha – Ki Tavo – talks of the first fruits / Bikurim. Farmers bring the first fruits that blossom – of the 7 species special to Eretz Yisrael / the Land of Israel – to the Beit HaMikdash / the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim / Jerusalem.

He says a text and he gives the fruits to the Cohen. The rich people who would bring fancy baskets of gold and silver – the Cohen would return the basket. Yet the Cohen would not return the baskets – made of reeds – of the poor people. Why?

  1. The poor people worked hard to make the basket – Hash-m appreciates the hard work of the common man for a Mitzvah.
  2. The poor people – may have put the best fruits on top and the lesser quality fruits on the bottom – thus we didn’t want to embarrass him by taking out the fruits.
  3. The Cohen was sending a message that I’ll take this basket – so that, with the help of G-d – you will return next year with a gold basket.

The Mitzvah of first fruits is to show that all that we have we owe our first and foremost gratitude to Hash-m. We also do the redemption of first born boys and first born animals showing our gratitude that all we have is a Gift from G-d.

A Tale of Two Tailors

The King’s Banquet

Once upon a Time two Jewish tailors were having a hard time making a living in their town. Their solution : to go from town to town searching for tailoring jobs. They were traveling for several years. They arrived at a town and saw the governor of the town was troubled. They asked what is bothering you. He replied – he needed to prepare clothing for royal family for the king’s banquet and he could not find qualified tailors.

Family in Jail

“We could do the job!” they assured him. He tested them – finding that they were qualified. After about a year the king had his banquet and was very satisfied with the clothing. The king thanked the tailors and gave them a large sum of money. The queen whispered to the king – “should we tell them about the Jewish family is in prison because they did not pay their taxes?” The king mentioned it to them. They asked how much money do they owe. He said “300 Gold Rubles.”

Redeeming Captives / Pidyon Shevuim

One tailor said to the other – let’s do the mitzvah / commandment of redeeming captives. The other tailor replied “I have to bring money back to my family.” The tailor who suggested helping the family counted his money he earned and found he had just enough to redeem the family.

The family was so thankful. The praised him and blessed him.

The Rich gets Richer – the Poor Remains Poor

The tailors returned to their town. One with much money –  the other poor. The poor person came home and told his wife of the story. The man was forced to go from door to door to ask for money to support his family. The other tailor became wealthy.

Discovering a Concealed Blessing

Once a person wanted to give him a valuable coin. He asked him what will you give me in return? The poor man said I’ll give you a blessing. The man needed a blessing because he had an important meeting with wealthy people that evening for a business deal. That evening he noticed that the deal went unusually smoothly.

He thereafter – searched for this poor man before doing a business deal to receive a blessing.

The Power of Blessing

People found out his power of blessing. They started lining up to receive a blessing. The Baal Shem Tov – a great Rabbi – asked his students to ask the man to come to him to talk. At the meeting – he inquired what special deed he did that gave him this power of blessing. He said I don’t know. Finally the Baal Shem Tov told him – the fact that he redeemed the Jewish family – Hash-m gave him the power to bless others and have the prayers readily answered.

I heard this story from Moshe – with whom I learn Torah. He told me he heard it in French from Rabbi Avi Assouline.

We think that blessings are only those that give us material benefit – really there are many blessings for which we can be thankful – good health, children, healing, wisdom, the ability to give blessings, etc.

At times we receive blessings – but we take them for granted. Or someone does something good for us and thank the other profusely – but do not take into account that it was Hash-m who ordained that we should recieve the blessing. The person who helped us get a job or gave us that business deal – was an agent of Hash-m. So really we should first thank Hash-m then thank the person who was the agent.

Malki Tzedek / Shem made that mistake. We can learn from him to give the thanks in the proper order. First thank G-d – then thank the agent.

I think that thanking G-d is appropriate at a personal event – like a Brit / Bris / Circumcision, a Bar Mitzvah or a Wedding. I thought it might be proper for a person to take upon themselves a new mitzvah – as a thanks for G-d that he allowed us to have a new child, to marry off a child, etc.