JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2002 / 1 Teves, 5763

Chanukah: Be politically incorrect --- and be proud doing so

By Rabbi Berel Wein

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | The Torah reading of Miketz traditionally marches in lock step with the holiday of Chanukahh so that it is almost always read on the Sabbath of Chanukahh. Since Jews know that there are no coincidences in Jewish tradition and life, it must therefore follow that there is a deep and lasting connection between the Torah reading of Miketz and the holiday of Chanukah. I have always felt that one of the connections between Miketz and Chanukah lies in the willingness to be unpopular in the present in order to be judged correct in the future.

In the Torah reading of Miketz, Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream in an accurate, truthful, and prophetic but basically critical and unflattering fashion. He tells Pharaoh that there will be a horrid famine and that the Egyptian authorities are unprepared for it. Pharaoh's own rule will be threatened unless he changes his governmental policies, prepares adequately for the future, and does not squander the prosperity of the present and immediate future.

It is in the nature of all governments to sacrifice the tomorrow for the today, to turn a blind eye to the future and bask in the glory of the apparent successes of the here and now.

Pharaoh had many advisers that attempted to interpret his troubling dreams. But unlike Joseph, they were sycophants, who only fawned on the monarch's vanity and told him nothing that would affect his governmental policies. They told him that all the disasters were not because of him, they said they were not preventable and weren't his fault. But Pharaoh himself is untouched by his advisers' interpretations. Only Joseph, imprisoned and alien, dares tell him the unpopular truth, the politically incorrect but accurate interpretation of the dreams that so haunt the Pharaoh and give him no rest, neither in the day or in the night. But it is that truth, unpleasant and unwelcome, that will save Pharaoh's throne and Egypt itself.

Chanukah essentially repeats the same message --- of telling and facing the unpopular truth in Jewish life and history. The Syrian Greeks possessed an attractive and civilized culture. The Jews, with their old-fashioned rituals and strait-laced Torah morality, appeared primitive and backward in comparison with the Syrian Greeks and their life- style. Tens of thousands of Jews defected to the side of the Syrian Greeks and became Hellenists. And they demanded that the Jews who remained loyal to the Torah and values of their ancestors not only accept them as Hellenists, but also agree that they were the ones to lead the Jewish people into that brave, new Greek world.

They were not willing to face the awful truth that Hellenizing Jews would eventually mean the destruction of the Jewish people and Torah Judaism.

A small band of Jews, the family of the Chashmonaim - Hasmoneans -- not only fought the Syrian Greeks, liberated the Holy Temple and rekindled its menorah -- the symbol of Torah purity but perhaps, even more importantly, they told the truth to the Jewish people -- the unpleasant, politically incorrect, jarring, divisive, intolerant Truth.

Judaism without a Sabbath or true Jewish ritual and one that refuses to make the hard and necessary Jewish demands on its constituency will not contribute to Jewish growth. A Jewish community that does not give its young an intensive Jewish education, but willingly, almost desperately, spends its talent and wealth pursuing general social projects that change with the constantly varying popular perceptions of society will not ensure Jewish survival.

The difficulties of the Jewish future, which are now already apparent to all thinking Jews, are foolishly and irresponsibly ignored and their solutions sacrificed to the comfort and false unity of the present.

That was not the way of Joseph or of the Hasmoneans.

Appreciate this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Berel Wein is one of Jewry's foremost historians and founder of the Destiny Foundation. He has authored over 650 tapes, books and videos which you can purchase at RabbiWein.com. Comment by clicking here or calling 1-800-499-WEIN (9346).


11/01/02: Hebron: The struggle for the Holy Land in micro
10/04/02: The book of "Bereishis" ( Genesis): The book of mankind
09/24/02: Chol Hamoed: transforming the mundane into the holy
08/19/02: From tragedy to consolation
07/12/02: The Sabbath of Stark Vision
06/07/02: "Challah": More than a mundane mouthful
03/08/02: The Havdala ceremony
01/04/02: Meditation and isolation
12/12/01: What celebrating Chanukah says about the state of Jewry
11/29/01: Requisite for a great scholar: Acknowledging -- and admitting -- one's limits
09/28/01: On forgiveness
09/07/01: Comfort and consolation
08/17/01: As the Jewish year draws to a close
07/13/01: The Three Weeks
07/06/01: Seventeenth of Tammuz
06/20/01: Worthy word books
06/01/01: The best (spiritual) summer reading
05/23/01: Shavous: Cheesecake, blintzes and flowers
04/03/01: Pre-Passover cleaning: A man's perspective
03/23/01:The Bible as fiction
03/08/01: A Purim fable
02/22/01: Why history
12/01/00: Those stubborn Jews
09/29/00: Of gifts and judgements
08/25/00: Diversity and unity
08/18/00: On Wagner and Chacham Ovadia
07/12/00: The return of a Torah scroll and confronting painful memories
06/27/00: Single issue fanatics
05/22/00: Strength and Weakness
04/04/00: The message of spring
04/25/00: Ritual's role
03/09/00: The hubris trap
02/28/00: Denial
02/17/00: The individual and the state
02/04/00: Going it alone
01/27/00: Hang together or hang alone
01/11/00: Hope and good sense: A Jewish recipe for survival
12/06/99: Trendy vs. tenacious
11/15/99: Legacies and remembrances
11/08/99: The joy -- and responsibility -- of being a grandparent
10/28/99: Imperfect solutions
10/21/99: 'Holy loafers'
10/07/99: Earthquakes --- 'natural' and otherwise
09/28/99: Beauty
09/17/99: Blessing the children
09/10/99: A good year

© 2002, Rabbi Berel Wein