Friday, December 21, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayigash
8 Teves 5773/December 21, 2012

The Jewish people always have the last laugh. Sometimes it takes a lot of patience to recognize it, but it never fails.
Pharaoh tried to control our population by forcing us into extreme slave labor, but the more he oppressed us the more our population exploded. Haman tried to destroy us and plunge us into national melancholy, and his efforts resulted in Purim, a deeply joyous celebration of our national survival. Antiochus tried to eliminate our spiritual Avodah, including stopping the Menorah from being lit in the Temple, and as a result there is a menorah lit in every Jewish home for millennia throughout the world for over a week. Hitler tried to eradicate us and all of Jewish life, and here we are, with more quantitative Torah study than ever before in our history.
I would like to add an additional ‘last laugh’ to the Chanukah holiday. It is well known that the ancient Greeks had great respect for the external human body. Spartans prided themselves on their might as fierce soldiers, and Greek culture placed great emphasis on the gymnasium and being trim and fit. So we spend eight days of Chanukah eating latkes and jelly donuts fried in oil so that by the time Chanukah is over we all resemble a Jelly donut, much to the chagrin of our Greek adversaries. Take that you silly Greeks! 
Whenever a holiday comes to an end we have to question what we are taking with us from the holiday. What indelible impression has the holiday made upon us that will continue to inspire us throughout the year? Is it merely added calories and a bulging waist that we take with us (a waste indeed), or have we nourished our soul as well?
Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook zt’l wrote (Arpilei Tohar) “The pure and righteous – don’t complain about wickedness, rather they increase righteousness; they don’t complain about heresy, rather they increase faith; they don’t complain about foolishness, rather they increase wisdom.”
When Chanukah ends the fast of Asarah B’Teves is not far behind. The gemara states that on the eighth of Teves when the Septuagint was created “darkness descended to the world for three days”. The only way to counter that darkness is with the symbolic light of Chanukah. Chanukah is a celebration of light – of courage to stand up for our mission to serve Hashem and remain steadfast in our unyielding dedication to unadulterated Torah observance. The dark days of Teves mourn our loss of that dedication. 
Our world became darker this week. It is appalling and frightening that a person can be so narcissistic that he can mercilessly snuff out the lives of multiple children. Our response must be to add more light. Ultimately discussing the horror that occurred will not change anything. But another good deed, another prayer, another few moments of Torah study, another mitzvah, another kind word, that will return some of the light we have lost.
Even as we return our Chanukah menorahs to their shelves, we can hardly afford to allow its light to darken. It must continue to illuminate our lives and our world. That is the only way we can fight the darkness.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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