December 17, 2001
© 2001 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved
Today is the eighth and last day of Chanukah. According to Jewish tradition, it is the holiest and most important day of the holiday... the day when the pristine, beautiful hidden light of Chanukah, the holy light that was hidden during the six days of creation, all comes together in a profoundly powerful spiritual crescendo. A day that gives hope that will shine all year long.
For Jews, one of the principal concepts in the observance of a holiday or festival is reflected in the wording of the blessing recited over kindling the Chanukah flames: "Who made miracles for our forefathers, in those days, in this time." A Jewish holiday is not about commemorating something that once happened a long time ago. G-d is above time, and so is His people Israel. True, these events happened a long time ago, in those days, but in potential they happen all over again, in every generation, and now: in this time. Thus both the lessons, and the challenges inherent in these days, are just as pertinent today.
In those days, the wicked King Antiochus rose up against the G-d of Israel, by attacking His people Israel. His goal, as reflected in the special holiday prayer that we recite during these days, was to separate them from G-d: "to make Israel forget the Torah, and cause them to transgress G-d's will." In the process, he slaughtered many Jews, desecrated the Holy Temple, and enacted decrees against the Jewish religion that were designed to conceal the Presence of G-d in the world.
In this time, the wicked Yasser Arafat's goals are the same. He directs and oversees the wholesale slaughter of Jews; almost 500 since he became our partner at the signing of the Oslo peace accords, with thousands wounded, crippled or maimed for life. While the Temple Mount still remains, inexplicably and incredibly, closed to Jews, his appointed Wakf operatives continue to destroy archaeological remains from the Holy Temple. And at his instigation, the UN enacts decrees that condemn Israel and thereby conceal the Divine Presence by desecrating G-d's name... for these resolutions, which never take into account the continuous murder of Israeli men, women and children, are total perversions of morality which serve as declarations that the world still reckons Jewish blood as worthless.
Arafat knows very well that the strength of the Jewish people's connection to the Land of Israel lies in the recognition of their spiritual connection to the land and in their status, their true identity, as G-d's chosen people. It lies in the Torah itself, and nowhere else. Thus he seeks to uproot the moral imperative of that Divine source by "de-Judaizing" the land, by denying the historic Jewish connection to the land, by destroying the remnants of the Holy Temple and Islamicizing the Temple Mount, by denying the rights of Jews to live anywhere in the land, by devaluing Jewish life, and finally, by attempting to destroy the Jews altogether.
During the past week of Chanukah, we witnessed more Chanukah miracles, and we saw tragedies as well - including the massacre of Jews outside the gates of Emmanuel. This last atrocity, and Arafat's complicity and lack of effort in stopping terror, moved Prime Minister Sharon to declare Arafat as "irrelevant." Today, on the last day of Chanukah, everyone is talking about the speech that Arafat gave last night, in which he called for an end to violence against Israelis and for a cessation of suicide bombers. Opinions vary as to whether the irrelevant Arafat intended this to mean only Israelis within the Green Line - it may still be permissible to murder Israeli soldiers and, of course, settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, who like Joseph, have been sold out. Sharon spokesman Ra'anan Gissin pointed out that Arafat has made these statements before, and was bold enough to remind us that since Sept. 27th, when Arafat accepted a cease-fire, "we have buried 67 people, and 500 more were wounded. I want to judge Arafat by his deeds and not by his words."
Well spoken. But we have heard this tired, meaningless phrase over and over again for many months now. We are constantly being told how our leaders will judge Arafat by his deeds and not by his words. Just when will we really start judging Arafat by his deeds? Two hours after he concluded his speech last night, more mortars were fired on Israeli positions; today Palestinians opened fire on Israeli troops.
In those days, in this time. This is precisely what Chanukah is about: deeds, not words. King Antiochus was ripping out the heart and soul of the Jewish people. Dissenters in the ranks of Judah, son of Matityahu the High Priest, may have opined that it would be sufficient for Judah to get the Macabbees together, hold a cabinet meeting and declare King Antiochus irrelevant. But instead, Judah led the Hasmonean priests to victory, stopped the bloodshed, cleansed the Holy Temple and renewed the Divine service, thus sanctifying the name of the G-d of Israel.
Jews the world over have been gathering together in their homes for a week now, to kindle the flames of Chanukah, to bring the hidden light of the Holy Temple into the home and gaze at the light. On the last day of the holiday, the holiness of that light is overwhelming and so is the potential for spiritual growth. According to tradition, this is a time for repentance; the gates of repentance that opened for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur - repentance of the individual as well as the nation - are open again. True repentance can only be measured by deeds, not words. We have but to walk through those gates.
May we merit to shine all year long.
Rabbi Chaim Richman
THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE
PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500