Thursday, December 17, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayigash   
7 Teves 5776/ December 18, 2015

One morning this week one of my fellow rabbeim chided me for eating a Greek Yogurt during breakfast. He wanted to know how I could eat anything Greek during Chanukah. I continued eating my yogurt without replying. When the container was empty I turned to him and said “See, I have consumed the Greek!”  
The truth is that Greek Yogurt has nothing at all to do with Greeks, and eating Greek Yogurt is not much of a Chanukah victory. There are far better ways to ‘consume the Greeks’.
Perhaps no one personified the essence and message of Chanukah in our time more than the late Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l. Rav Nosson Tzvi grew up as a regular American kid, attending Day School in Chicago, playing sports, and eating pizza. During a visit to Eretz Yisroel with his parents during his high school years he met his great-uncle, the then Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Lazer Yudel Finkel zt’l. Rav Lazer Yudel prevailed upon him to stay in the yeshiva, and Rav Nosson Tzvi agreed. It was a decision he deemed “the greatest siyata deshmaya (divine assistance) of my life”. He joined the yeshiva and lived in his great uncle’s home.
After returning to America to complete high school Rav Nosson Tzvi came back to the Mir and lived in the yeshiva dormitory. Some time later he came back to America for a brief visit. Upon his subsequent return to Yerushalayim, Rav Lazer Yudel asked him to sleep in his home that first night. By the time Rav Nosson Tzvi arrived Rav Lazer Yudel was already sleeping and Rav Nosson Tzvi went to bed in his great uncle’s home. When Rav Nosson Tzvi awoke the next morning he saw Rav Lazer Yudel standing by his bed waiting for him to awaken. As soon as he opened his eyes, Rav Lazer Yudel kissed him on his forehead.
Rav Nosson Tzvi recounted that Rav Lazer Yudel’s kiss remained with him his entire life.
Rav Nosson Tzvi himself grew into one of our generation’s foremost Torah leaders. Had he been healthy, he would have been a leader and role model for his incredible love of Torah, love of Jews, sterling character, and radiant personality. But the fact that he suffered terribly from Parkinson’s disease, and yet accomplished more than most healthy people is staggering and incredible. He was moser nefesh for Torah, for the honor of Heaven, and for his people. It was to defend those very ideals that the Maccabees placed their lives on the line.
Contrary to popular understanding, the Maccabees never achieved complete victory over their enemies. Shortly after the Chanukah miracle they returned to battle. In fact, four of the original five Maccabees were killed in subsequent battles, and the fifth, Shimon, was murdered by his son-in-law.
The period after the Chanukah miracle was similar to the period preceding it – dark and difficult. Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l explained that the Chanukah miracle was a symbolic kiss that G-d planted on the collective forehead of the Jews who remained loyal to Torah. It was a passionate sign that G-d was behind them and guiding them, that he was aware of their selfless efforts and desire to defend the honor of G-d.  
The kiss was fleeting. Eight days is a mere blip in comparison to years of struggle and bloody battles. But that kiss gave them the encouragement to forge on and maintain their quest. It was enough to allow them to feel that G-d was with them even behind the veil of darkness and pain.
The holiday of Chanukah each year is a celebration and a re-experiencing of that kiss. That emotional connection must stay with us throughout the dark and cold moments of life. Its light must radiate well beyond the wicks and the oil. It’s a fire that must burn within us and guide us throughout our lives.
And that’s how we consume the Greeks!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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