Redefining Purity

Channuka can be said to be many things, and I would not degrade this. I have a family member who makes a hilarious comedic impression of Jewish teachers declaring certain Jewish holidays to be all about this! or all about that! It seems you could say it is all about anything and make a decent reasoning, yet this is not really a problem.

This is really the segue for me to talk about a new concept I see in Channuka, so I will be very brief in explaining why I am happy with a Jewish idea being about so many possible things. The parable to clarify this is explained by my teacher Rabbi Efim Svirsky: Three blind scientists are examining an elephant. After careful examination of different portions of the elephant they each give vastly different descriptions of the elephant. According to the first it is broad and rough(the body). For the second, long and rubbery(the truck), and the third described it as sturdy and firm(a leg). So too an idea in Judaism. A table can translate to one word: table, but a piece of wisdom cannot. When we describe the times of Channuka it is not that there were many reasons for it, but rather that it contains that which is beyond words.

I hope this explanation is somewhat sufficient. Anyway….to my intended thesis: Channuka is all about Purity 馃檪

To be precise the word is Tahara 讟讛专讛 in Hebrew. Before I enter into the description of the concept, let us ask how it is seen in the story. The Hellenists impurified the temple, and all the utensils, and oil. The Maccabim rededicated the temple and utensils, and found pure oil, which had not been impurified.
The parallel to desecrating the temple and utensils, but not destroying them is of course that the Hellenists did not attempt to commit genocide against the Jewish People, rather they desired to stamp out the Jewish faith.

A further hint to guide us: We are taught that Pesach is the source of emancipation in the world and that without Pesach we would have no concept of this (see Pesach – not for now). It seems to me that similar to this Chanuka is the source for Tahara, and that were it not for Chanuka we would have no concept of Tahara in the world.

What Is Tahara-Purity?

The Hellenist belief system recognized all the moral, and righteous traits we do. They believed so much in the infinite beauty and depth of the world. They were amazed at man’s capacity, and the wonder of the world G-d created. On all this we are partners in belief with the Hellenists, we get along great, but we also know there is something more.
The Torah praises the Greeks, they have so much right, they are into self improvement, respect for man and the world, etc. They may have stuff wrong, but they learn. They respect learning.
The mistake is that they should have come to us, the Jews; the bearers of the Torah and learnt from us, instead they tried to stamp us out, and figure it out themselves.

Why Did The Helenists Reject Torah?

Because, they rejected Tahara-Purity. They rejected the idea of having a place where the world and the beyond met.

In-short: the Hellenists were on the right track, but they were lacking a guide. Purity is the guide. When we do not know what to do we look to the Torah, we connect ourselves to the source of all. We go to the mikva; the primordial waters, the womb. We nullify ourselves in the process of touching the infinite. When you have this in your life you have a guide. When you live with this idea then you are pure.

The Hellenists were our brothers in bringing the world to a higher place, but did not wish to be connected to the source.

Why is purity so difficult to define? It is meant to represent the touch between the infinite beauty of existence and the unknowable that birthed it. It is therefore slightly immeasurable.

Purity=Touching the Source

Warmly,
Rabbi Dovid Baars

Chanukah – Dreams

Chanukah Sameach, Happy Chanukah! In this week’s Torah portion Yosef is called out of prison. The impetus for this is the king of Egypt’s dream. The Pharaoh has a dream which perturbs him and he cannot find a satisfying interpretation for it.
The portion starts with the line: 讜址讬职讛执謺讬 诪执拽值旨謻抓 砖职讈谞指转址郑讬执诐 讬指诪执謶讬诐 讜旨驻址专职注止郑讛 讞止诇值謹诐 讜职讛执谞值旨謻讛 注止诪值芝讚 注址诇志讛址讬职讗止纸专變
After two years鈥 time, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile.

These two years Yosef had been in prison.

What is the significance of these two years?

The Midrash explains that this two year period was a set period of time decreed by God because Yosef had asked the servant of Pharaoh to intercede with the king and free him. Yosef showed a lack of belief in God’s will to redeem him by asking the servant for assistance, and therefore remained in prison for two more years until the dream catapulted him out.

Now, this answer should be very bothersome! Yosef showed lack of trust in God, because he asked for human assistance?! How are we to draw a lesson for our own lives? Should we not use worldly measures to help us achieve? Are we to only rely on divine interference; on miracles?

The Midrash then brings another explanation: God kept Yosef in prison these two years so that Yosef would be redeemed by a dream. The king’s dream.

Beautiful!

Explanation: Yosef, the man of dreams… perhaps he had lost his dream. Perhaps he was desperate….He asks the servant for help. Nothing comes of it. Yosef’s desperation was generated by his lack of belief in himself. Yosef lost touch with his innate value, his mission in the world.
Yosef fell asleep. For two years he slept. God woke him up…with a dream. The dream of the King of Egypt. Meaning that Yosef needed Pharaoh to dream in order for Yosef to dream himself, and be freed.

Lesson

We are dreamers. We dream of the destiny of our elevated, lofty, holy souls. We dream of making a difference, and changing the world. We dream of all we are capable of.
Then we fall asleep. Something happened, something frightening, sad, we feel alone. We hide from our dreams, and we fall asleep. When we are asleep we want to escape the loneliness, but nothing works, because we have no dreams. We cannot reenter the light until we wake up. Even were someone to wake us up, we need to still wake ourselves up.
What can wake us up?
A dream. A story. When we hear a story that contains our own story we can wake ourselves up. Hearing the story of our soul’s imprisonment, and the struggles and longing for freedom and greatness can inspire us, and wake us up.
Seeing someone else asleep to their dream; to their greatness is a tragic experience, and sadly many, many parents, teachers, and friends go through this.

—————————

Chanukah is the story of a miracle that was small, we did not gain sovereignty over our land, we did not merit the miracles of the first temple, we were not accomplishing anything significant, but….it woke us up. The dream of the Maccabees has inspired us in our own dreams for the past two thousand years. It gives us a story of light shining through darkness that helps us tell the story of our own souls in our own struggles.

This Chanuka be open to being awoken. Be open to dream. Your potential is limitless.

Love,
Rabbi Dovid Baars