WHAT IS A PASSOVER SEDER?

WHAT IS A PASSOVER SEDER?

For those of you who have heard about Passover and wonder what a Passover Seder is, here is a crash course for you.  Thanks to UnitedWithIsrael.org and Rabbi Ari Enkin.

In this piece, Rabbi Ari Enkin gives a crash course on the Seder rituals and the basic meaning behind each of them. Of course, he encourages further discussion at the table in order to delve more deeply into the significance of the evening.
Continue reading “WHAT IS A PASSOVER SEDER?”

A Message for Shavuot from my friend, Mara

This is a Shavuot message written by my friend, Mara:

 

חג שבועות שמח

 

 

All the news is dire; it always is.  At pesach, we say….
“eh-la sheb’chol dor v’dor aleinu l’cha-to-teinu…”
in every generation, they rise up to destroy us….
Most American Jews take this as a quaint metaphor, part of the Haggada ritual…
NOT ANYMORE.
Tonight at sundown begins the observance of Shavuot, seven weeks following the Exodus, B’nei Yisrael gathers at the foot of Mt. Sinai to await — what…?
Our Tradition teaches us that we were all there — all generations,  before and after — and we fell asleep!  
At this awesome time, we almost blew it — which is why it has become customary to stay up all night learning Torah….no falling asleep now, chevra!
THIS IS THE TIME TO BE VIGILANT.
Our Tradition also teaches us that Torah has been, is and will be eternal.  It existed before the universe…It existed before time….It existed before human beings…It existed within HASHEM.
That is what we awaited at Mt. Sinai.  We awaited   the Present,  which is the Presence.  That is the meaning of “MATAN TORAH.”
And He gave it to us — to you and to me, to our ancestors and to our descendants — as a roadmap for Life.
It is, indeed, “MATAN” — The Gift of All Gifts.
And it is up to each and every one of us to accept this precious present and vow…
NOT IN THIS GENERATION WILL THEY DESTROY US!
May we merit HASHEM’s intervention in these days…in these times….
Chag Shavuot Sameach!   
Mara

Yom Kippur 2009 – Guide for the Perplexed

Yom Kippur 2009 Guide for the Perplexed

Yoram Ettinger, September 27, 2009

Assembled from various Jewish Sages

1. Yom (Day of) Kippur is a breakthrough Jewish contribution to humanity. It highlights the most essential human attributes, which constitute prerequisites to positive leadership: humility (as featured in the Netaneh Tokef prayer), soul-searching, recognizing fallibility, confessing wrong-doing, asking and granting forgiveness, accepting responsibility, collective responsibility, magnanimity. Yom Kippur is not driven by punishment, but by behavioral-enhancement.

2. The Hebrew spelling of “fast” (צם/צום) – abstinence from food – highlights the substance of Yom Kippur. צום is the root of צמצום (reduction, shrinking), which alludes to one’s “spiritual diet,” aimed at clearing the body and the mind. צם is the root of צמית and צמיתות, the Hebrew words for “slave” and “eternity” (enslavement to G-D only). At the same time, צם is the root of עצמי (being oneself), עצום, עצמה, עצמאות (awesome, power, independence), which are gained through the process of fasting, soul-searching and submission to G-D.

3. The Hebrew word Kippur כיפור (atonement/repentance) is a derivative of the Biblical words Kaporet כפורת – which covered the Holy Ark at the Sanctuary – and Kopher כופר, which covered Noah’s Ark and the Holy Altar at the Temple. The reference is to a spiritual cover (dome), which does not cover-up, but separates between the holy and the secular, between spiritualism and materialism, thus intensifying preoccupation with inner deliberations and soul-searching. The Kippa כיפה (skullcap, Yarmulke), which covers one’s head during prayers (or – in the case of observant Jews – at all times), reflects a spiritual cover (Dome). Thus, Yom Kippur constitutes the cover (Dome) of the Ten Days of Atonement (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), separating them from the rest of the year.

4. Teshuvah-תשובה is the Hebrew word for repentance, sharing the same root of the Hebrew word for Return שיבה – returning to root/positive values, morality, and behavior). Yom Kippur is also called – in Hebrew – Shabbat Shabbaton שבת שבתון (the highest level Sabbath), which has the same root. The last Sabbath before Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Teshuvah שבת תשובה (based on the prophesy of Hosea, chapter 4). While the Sabbath is the soul of the week, Yom Kippur is the soul of the year.

5. Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which is an ancient word for forgiveness and Genesis. Ten has special significance in Judaism: G-D’s abbreviation is the tenth Hebrew letter, Ten Commandments, Ten reasons for blowing the Shofar, Ten Percent Gift to G-D (tithe), etc.

6. The prayer of Veedooi-וידוי (confession/confirmation/reaffirmation in Hebrew) is recited Ten times during Yom Kippur, re-entrenching the genuine plea for forgiveness. The prerequisites for forgiveness, according to Jewish Sages, are the expression & exercise (talking & walking) of confession (assuming full-responsibility), repentance and significantly altering one’s behavior through the heart as well as through the head (no “buts,” no “ifs” and no plea for mitigating circumstances). King Saul sinned only once – ignoring the commandment to annihilate the Amalekites – but was banished from the crown and killed. King Saul raised mitigating circumstances, while responding to Samuel’s accusation. King David sinned twice (The “Bat-Sheba Gate” and “Census Gate”), but was forgiven. King David accepted full-responsibility and unconditional blame and the death sentence (as expressed by Nathan the Prophet), which was promptly rescinded.

7. Tefila Zaka, תפילה זכה, the initial prayer on the eve of Yom Kippur, enables each worshipper to announce universal forgiveness. While transgressions between human-beings and G-D are forgiven summarily via prayers, transgressions among human-beings require explicit forgiveness. Ill-speaking of other persons may not be forgiven.

8. The Memorial Candle, commemorating one’s parent(s), is lit during Yom Kippur. It reaffirms “Honor Thy Father and Mother,” providing another opportunity to ask forgiveness of one’s parent(s), as well as asking forgiveness on their behalf.

9. G-D’s forgiveness and G-D’s Covenant with the Jewish People are commemorated on Yom Kippur. It reflects the end of G-D’s rage over the sin of the Golden Calf, and it was the day of Abraham’s own circumcision, signifying G-D’s covenant with the Jewish People.

10. Yom Kippur underlines unison, as synagogues become a platform for the righteous and the sinner.

11. The Scroll of Jonas is read on Yom Kippur. Its lessons demonstrate that repentance and forgiveness is universal to all Peoples, commanding one to assume responsibility, to get involved socially-politically, to sound the alarm when wrong-doing is committed anywhere in the world, to display compassion to all peoples and to adhere to Faith and Optimism, in defiance of all odds. It behooves good folks to roll up their sleeves, lest evil triumphs!

12. A long sound of the Shofar concludes Yom Kippur. It commemorates the covenant with G-D (the almost-sacrifice of Isaac), the receipt of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, Liberty and anti-slavery (Jubilee) and the opening of G-D’s gates of forgiveness. The Hebrew root of Shofar שופר means to enhance/improve oneself (שפר). A Hebrew synonym for Shofar is Keseh כסה, which also means cover-Kaporet-Kippur.

A Purim Guide to the Perplexed

Purim 2009 Guide for the Perplexed

Yoram Ettinger, March 6, 2009

Assembled from various Jewish Sages

1. THE TIMING – THE JEWISH MONTH OF ADAR. Adar is the root of the Hebrew adjective “Adir” (glorious, awesome, exalted, magnificent) and the Hebrew verb “Le’Ha’adir” (to glorify), which are frequently employed in the Old Testament (e.g. the Hymn of the Sea following the Parting of the Sea). It is, also, a derivative of the Akkadian word Adura (heroism). Jewish tradition (Babylonian Talmud) highlights Adar as a month of happiness, singing and dancing, prohibiting eulogies and fast on Purim. The zodiac of Adar is Pisces (fish), which is a symbol of demographic multiplication. Purim is celebrated on the 14th (in non-walled towns) and (in Jerusalem) on the 15th day of Adar (March 10/11, 2009), commemorating the national liberation of the Jewish People in Persia and the (161 BCE) victory of Judah the Maccabee over Nikanor, the Assyrian commander. Moses – whose burial site is unknown – was born, and died (1273 BCE), on the 7th day of Adar, which is Israel’s Memorial Day for soldiers, whose burial site is unknown. The events of Purim occurred following the destruction of the 1st Temple by Nebuchadnezzar (586 BCE) and the exile from Zion, during the leadership of Ezra who returned to Jerusalem, and the inauguration of the Second Temple (3rd of Adar, 515 BCE) by Ezra and Nehemiah. Nebuchadnezzar died in Adar 561 BCE (Jeremiah 52:31). Einstein published the theory of General Relativity in Adar 1916.

2. PURIM’S Hebrew root is fate/destiny (“Pur”), as well as “to frustrate”, “to annul” (“Le’Ha’fer), “to crumble” and “to shutter” (Le’Phorer), reflecting the demise of Haman.

3. PURIM – A (522 BCE) WAR OF CIVILIZATIONS between Mordechai the Jew and Haman the Iranian-Amalekite – constitutes an early edition of the war between Right VS Wrong, Liberty VS Tyranny, Just VS Evil, Truth VS Lies, as were/are the precedents of Adam/Eve VS Snake, Abel VS Cain, Abraham VS Sodom & Gomorrah, Jacob VS Esau (grandparent of Amalek), Maccabees VS Assyrians, Allies VS Nazis, Western democracies VS Islamic terrorism.

4. MORDECHAI, the hero of Purim and one of Ezra’s deputies, was a role model of principle-driven optimism in defiance of colossal odds, in face of a global power and in spite of Jewish establishment. According to Judaism, deliverance is ushered by the bravery of faith-driven individuals, such as Nachshon – who was the first to walk into the Red Sea before it was parted – and Mordechai. He was a politically-INcorrect statesman and a retired military leader, who practiced “disproportionate pre-emption” instead of defense, deterrence or retaliation. The first three Hebrew letters of “Mordechai” spell the Hebrew word “Rebellion” (“Mered”), which is consistent with the motto/legacy of the American Founding Fathers: “Rebellion against Tyranny is Obedience to G-D”). Mordechai would not bow to Haman, the second most powerful person in the Persian Empire. Mordechai was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, the only son of Jacob who did not bow to Esau. The name Mordechai is also a derivative of Mordouch – the chief Babylonian god.

Mordechai was a descendant of King Saul, who defied a clear commandment and spared the life of Agag, the Amalekite king, thus causing further calamities upon the Jewish People. Consequently, Saul lost his royal position and life. Mordechai learnt from Saul’s error, destroying Haman (a descendant of Agag the Amalekite) and his entire power base, thus sparing the Jewish People a major disaster.

5. QUEEN ESTHER, the heroine of Purim’s ESTHER SCROLL (the 24th and concluding book in the Old Testament) was Mordechai’s cousin. One cannot comprehend Purim without studying Esther Scroll. Esther demonstrates the centrality of women in Judaism, shaping the future of the Jewish People, as did Sarah, Rebecca, Miriam, Batyah, Deborah, Hannah, etc. Sarah was the first Jewish woman, and Esther was the last Jewish woman, mentioned by the Old Testament. Sarah lived 127 years and Esther ruled over 127 countries. The name Esther is a derivative of the Hebrew word “Hester” – “clandestine”, “hidden”, “subtle”, which was reflective of her (initially) unknown Jewish identity and subtle-style at the royal court. The name Esther is also a derivative of Ishtar – a Mesopotamian goddess, Astarte – a Phoenician goddess. In fact, the one day pre-Purim Fast of Esther (commemorating the three day fast declared by Esther in order to expedite deliverance), was cherished by the Marano in Spain, who performed Judaism in a clandestine manner. The Scroll of Esther is the only book in the Old Testament, where the name of G-D is hidden/absent. It has been suggested that the explicit name of G-D is absent because the Scroll of Esther is the only Old Testament book, which deals exclusively with the Diaspora and not with the Land of Israel. According to Michael Bernstein, the noun “King” appears 182 times in Esther Scroll, which is the total sum of 26 (numerical value of G-D) times 7 (days of creation). Esther’s second name was Hadassah, whose root is Hadass – myrtle tree in Hebrew – which constitutes a metaphor for eyesight 20:20 and is identified with Venus (hence, Esther’s other Hebrew name – Noga – glaring divine light, which is Venus in Hebrew). Myrtle flowers and leaves are a traditional decoration of brides.

6. THE PERSIAN KING appointed Mordechai to be his top advisor, overruling Haman’s intent to prevent the resettling of Jews in Zion, the reconstruction of the Temple and the restoration of the wall around Jerusalem. He foiled Haman’s plan to exterminate the Jews. The king prospered as a result of his change of heart and escaped assassination. That was the case with Pharaoh, who escaped national collapse and starvation and rose in global prominence, once he appointed Joseph to be his deputy.

7. CONVICTION-DRIVEN transparency/bluntness is one of the lessons of Esther Scroll, “Megilat Esther” in Hebrew. The Hebrew root of “Megilah” is “Galeh” – exposed, overt, in-the-open – the opposite of “Esther”-“Haster” (hidden). The contradiction between these terms constitutes a cardinal lesson: life is not a picnic; it is complex, full of contradictions and difficult dilemmas. One should be driven by principles, rather than by shifty convenience, in order to attain one’s goals. Just as (Esther) the covert became overt, so would pessimism be transformed into optimism, if one adheres to one’s long-term conviction, rather than to one’s immediate convenience.

8. PURIM’S FOUR COMMANDMENTS:

*Reading/studying the “Esther Scroll” within the family highlights the centrality of family, education, memory and youth as the foundation for a solid future.

*Gifts to relatives and friends emphasize the importance of family and community.

*Charity (at least the value of a meal) indicates the value of compassion.

*Celebration and Happiness sustains the element of optimism and faith as the backbone of an individual and a nation.

9. TEN PARTIES are commemorated by the Scroll of Esther – the king’s 2 parties for the entire kingdom and for Shushan (the capital), Esther’s coronation party, the king’s and Haman’s party, Esther’s 2 parties for the king and Haman, Jewish deliverance party, post-deliverance parties in the entire kingdom and in Shushan and the 10th party is the traditional annual party. The number “Ten” has been very significant in Judaism: 10 commandments, 10 days of atonement, 10 plagues, 10 miracles during the Exodus from Egypt, 10 chapters and 10 parties in Esther Scroll, 10 key biblical hymns, 10 divine Genesis assertions, the 10th Hebrew letter is “Yod” (G-D), 10 measurements of wisdom, 10 spiritual dimensions, 10 sanctuary crowns, 10 tribes of Canaan, 10 participants as a quorum in Jewish services, etc.

10. THE FAST OF ESTHER (on the day preceding Purim) symbolizes the turning point from near-oblivion to deliverance. The fast constitutes a sobering morality-driven experience, which stands in contradiction to – and above – partying. Mordechai fasted upon learning of Haman’s conspiracy against the Jews. Esther declared a three-day Jewish fast, in advance of her crucial meeting with the king.

11. LETHAL ENEMY DESTROYED & COMMEMORATED. The pre-Purim Sabbath is called “Memorial Sabbath” (“Shabbat Zakhor”), commemorating the war of extermination launched by the Amalekites against the Jewish Nation, since the Exodus from Egypt. One of Purim’s lessons is that there are enemies, whose strategic goal is extermination, advanced by the tactical element of false-tenuous accommodation.

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Yom Kippur 2008 Guide for the Perplexed

1. Yom (Day of) Kippur has been a breakthrough Jewish contribution to, and enhancement of, human-relations in general and leadership in particular. It highlights the most essential human attributes, which constitute prerequisites to positive leadership: humility (as featured in the very special Netaneh Tokef prayer), soul-searching, pleading fallibility, confessing wrong-doing, asking and granting forgiveness, magnanimity. Yom Kippur is not driven by punishment, but by behavioral-enhancement.

2. The Hebrew word Kippur (atonement/repentance) is a derivative of the Biblical words Kaporet – which covered the Holy Ark at the Sanctuary – and Kopher, which covered Noah’s Ark and the Holy Altar at the Temple. The reference is to a spiritual cover (dome), which does not cover-up, but rather separates between the holy and the secular, between spiritualism and materialism. The cover intends to intensify preoccupation with inner deliberations and soul-searching. The Kippa (Yarmulke), which covers one’s head during prayers (or – in the case of observant Jews – at all times), reflects a spiritual cover (Dome). Thus, Yom Kippur constitutes the cover (Dome) of the Ten Days of Atonement (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), separating them from the rest of the year.

3. Teshuvah is the Hebrew word for repentance. Its root is the Hebrew word for Return – returning to root/positive values, morality, and behavior). Yom Kippur is also called – in Hebrew – Shabbat Shabbaton (the highest level Sabbath), which has the same root as Teshuvah. The last Sabbath before Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Teshuvah (based on the prophesy of Hosea, chapter 4). While the Sabbath is the soul of the week, Yom Kippur is the soul of the year.

4. Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which is an ancient word for forgiveness. Ten has special significance in Judaism: G-D’s abbreviation is the tenth Hebrew letter, Ten Commandments, Ten reasons for blowing the Shofar, Ten Percent Gift to G-D (tithe), etc.

5. The prayer of Veedooi (confession/confirmation/reaffirmation in Hebrew) is recited Ten times during Yom Kippur, re-entrenching the genuine plea for forgiveness. The prerequisites for forgiveness, according to Jewish Sages, are the expression & exercise (talking & walking) of confession (assuming full-responsibility), repentance and significantly altering one’s behavior through the heart as well as through the head (no “buts,” no “ifs” and no plea for mitigating circumstances). King Saul sinned only once – ignoring the commandment to annihilate the Amalekites – but was banished from the crown and killed. King Saul raised mitigating circumstances, while responding to Samuel’s accusation. King David sinned twice (The “Bat-Sheba Gate” and “Census Gate”), but was forgiven. King David accepted full-responsibility and unconditional blame and the death sentence (as expressed by Nathan the Prophet), which was promptly rescinded.

6. Tefila Zaka, the initial prayer on the eve of Yom Kippur, enables each worshipper to announce universal forgiveness.

While transgressions between human-beings and G-D are forgiven summarily via prayers, transgressions among human-beings require explicit forgiveness. Ill-speaking of other persons may not be forgiven.

7. The Memorial Candle, commemorating one’s parent(s), is lit during Yom Kippur. It reaffirms “Honor Thy Father and Mother,” according another opportunity to ask forgiveness of one’s parent(s), as well as asking forgiveness on their behalf.

8. G-D’s forgiveness and G-D’s Covenant with the Jewish People are commemorated by Yom Kippur. It reflects the end of G-D’s rage over the sin of the Golden Calf, and it was the day of Abraham’s own circumcision, signifying G-D’s covenant with the Jewish People.

9. The Fast of Yom Kippur aims at clearing the body and the mind – in order to facilitate genuine repentance and one’s empathy with the needy.

10. Yom Kippur underlines unison, while synagogues become a platform for the righteous, as well as for the sinner.

11. The Scroll of Jonas is read on Yom Kippur. Its lessons demonstrate that repentance and forgiveness is universal to all Peoples, commanding one to assume responsibility, to get involved socially-politically, to sound the alarm when wrong-doing is committed anywhere in the world, to display compassion to all peoples and to adhere to Faith and Optimism, in defiance of all odds.

12. A long sound of the Shofar concludes Yom Kippur. It commemorates the covenant with G-D (the almost-sacrifice of Isaac), the receipt of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, Liberty and anti-slavery (Jubilee) and the opening of G-D’s gates of forgiveness. The Hebrew root of Shofar means to enhance/improve oneself (Shafar). A Hebrew synonym for Shofar is Keseh, which almost means cover-Kaporet-Kippur.

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CHANUKAH REFLECTIONS

CHANUKAH REFLECTIONS

By Yoram Ettinger

1. THE HASMONEAN DYNASTY:

*Mattityahu son of Yochanan, the priest led rebellion – 166/7BC

*Yehuda son of Mattityahu – 166-161BC

*Yonatan son of Mattityahu – 161-143BC

*Shimon son of Mattityahu – 143-135BC

*Yochanan Hyrcanus son of Shimon – 135-104BC

*…

*Mattityahu Antigonus – 40-37BC

2. HISTORICAL CONTEXT. Alexander The Great – who held Judaism in high esteem and whose Egyptian heir Ptolemy II translated the Torah to Greek – died in 323BC following 12 glorious years at the throne. Consequently, the Greek Empire disintegrated into five, and thirty years later into three, kingdoms: Macedonia, Syria and Egypt. The Land of Israel was always militarily contested by Syria and Egypt (and Gaza was always a main invasion route!). In 198BC, Israel was conquered by the Syrian kingdom. In 175BC, a new king assumed power in Syria, Antiochus (IV) Epiphanies, who viewed the Jews as pro-Egyptians and held Judaism with contempt. In 169BC, upon his return to Syria from a military victory over Egypt, he devastated Jerusalem, massacred the Jews, forbade the practice of Judaism (including the Sabbath, circumcision, etc.) and desecrated Jerusalem and the Temple. The 167BC-launched rebellion against the Syrian (Seleucid) kingdom featured the Hasmonean (MACCABEE) family: Mattityahu, a priest from the town of Modi’in, and his five sons, Yochanan, Yehuda, Shimon, Yonatan and Elazar. The heroic (and tactically creative) battles conducted by the Maccabees, were consistent with the reputation of Jews as superb warriors, who were hired frequently as mercenaries by Egypt, Syria, Rome and other global and regional powers.

3. INSPIRATION TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S “REBELLION AGAINST TYRANTS IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD”. The Maccabees were a tiny minority of “rebels” – condemned by the “loyalists/pragmatists” – rising against an oppressive super-power. They were condemned as “the enemies of peace” and “extremists.” They prevailed due to their principle-driven, determined and can-do state-of-mind. They demonstrated the victory of the few over the many, right over wrong, moral over immoral and truth over lies. The Maccabees have become a role-model for America’s Founding Fathers, including Paul Revere and the organizers of the Boston Tea Party.

4. INSPIRATION TO PATRICK HENRY’S “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH” and NEW HAMPSHIRE’S “Live Free Or Die”. The Maccabees’ sacrifice and political incorrectness has preserved and inspired today’s Jewish religion, language, culture and sovereignty. They followed in the footsteps of Abraham, Phineas the High Priest, Joshua & Calev, King David and Elijah.

5. AN EARLY VERSION OF “IN G-D WE TRUST” was the Maccabees’ battle cry, which adopted Moses’ battle cry against the builders of the Golden Calf. A literal translation of the battle cry is “Whoever trusts G-D; join me!”

6. CHANUKA’S UNIQUENESS. Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday which commemorates a Land-of-Israel national liberation struggle, unlike Passover (Exodus from Egypt), Sukkot/Tabernacles & Shavouot/Pentacost (on the way to the Land of Israel), Purim (Persia), etc. Chanukah is the longest Jewish holiday (8 days) with the most intense level of Light (8 consecutive nights of candle lighting).

7. ORIGIN OF THE NAME, CHANUKAH: THE HOLIDAY OF EDUCATION. According to the first book of Maccabees, Yehuda (who succeeded Mattityahu, the priest) ordered the Jewish People to observe an eight day holiday on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, 165BC, in order to commemorate the INAUGURATION (CHANUKAH in Hebrew) of the holy altar and the Temple, following Syrian desecration. A key feature of Chanukah is EDUCATION of the family (The Hebrew word for education is CHINUKH, spelled with the first four of the five letters of Chanukah). The Hebrew word, Chanukah, consists of two words, CHANU (they rested/stationed) and KAH (25), which refers to the fact that the Maccabees re-consecrated the Temple on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (purging it from the idolatries installed by the Seleucids). Some have suggested that the celebration of Christmas on December 25th and the celebration of the New Year 8 days later (January 1) have their origin in the 25th day of Kislev (which always “accompanies” December) and the 8 days of Chanukah as well as the 8 days of circumcision.

8. HOLIDAY OF LIGHT AND REMEMBRANCE. The first day of Chanukah – the holiday of light – is on the 25th day of Kislev, the month of miracles (e.g. Noah’s Rainbow appeared in Kislev). The first and last Hebrew letters of Kislev equal (in Jewish numerology) 26, which the total sum of the Hebrew spelling of Jehovah. Moses completed the construction of the Holy Arc on the 25th day of Kislev, as was the date of the laying the foundation of the second Temple by Nehemaya. The 25th (Hebrew) word in Genesis is LIGHT (“OR” in Hebrew). A Jewish metaphor for the Torah is light. The 25th stop of the People of Israel – on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land – was Hashmona (same root as Hasmoneans in Hebrew). Chanukah commemorates the victory of Light (Maccabees) over Darkness. While light stands for remembrance, darkness (Chashecha in Hebrew) stands for FORGETFULNESS (Schichecha in Hebrew, spelled with the same Hebrew letters as Chashecah/darkness).

9. ORIGIN OF THE NAME, MACCABEE. Yehuda’s middle name was Maccabee, derived possibly from the Hebrew word MAKEVET (The Power Hammer), which described Yehuda’s tenacious fighting capabilities. It may have derived from the Hebrew verb CABEH (to extinguish), which described the fate of Yehuda’s adversaries. Another possible interpretation of the name is that MACCABEE is the Hebrew acronym of “Who could resemble you among Gods, Jehovah” (“Mi Camokha Ba’elim Adonye” in Hebrew).

10. LEGACY OF THE MACCABEES: Faith, moral clarity, long-term vision, defiance of odds (the few against the many), willingness to sacrifice short-term convenience on the altar of long term national security, and awareness that nations who do not adhere to their roots and are not willing to sacrifice for Liberty forsake their future and do not deserve Liberty. NO FREE LUNCH FOR SOVEREIGN PEOPLES, especially in violent and unpredictable neighborhoods.


11. CHANUKAH DEMONSTRATES THAT WISDOM IS SUPERIOR TO KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING.
According to Jewish definition of intellect, “Khokhma” (faith in divinely inspired wisdom, morality and capabilities) is superior to “Beena” (human understanding and interpretations) and “Da’att” (human intelligence/knowledge). The Greek/Syrian culture was based on the superiority of human knowledge and (tenuous) moral standards. The Greeks/Syrians felt constrained, and therefore threatened, by Jewish faith in divine (permanent) morality. Chanukah demonstrates the victory of divine morality over convenience-driven human definition of morality.

12. EIGHT DAYS OF CHANUKAH REPRESENT THE COVENANT BETWEEN G-D AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE, DIVINE CAPABILITIES AND OPTIMISM. Chanukah terminated the prohibition of circumcision, hence one of the causes for the 8 day duration. Chanukah represents the renewal of that covenant between G-D and the Jewish People. The ancient Temple Menorah consisted of seven branches, which commemorated the seven days of creation. The Chanukah Menorah has eight branches, reflecting the additional level of divine capabilities over and beyond human expectations: The victory of the few over the many and the lasting of one day supply of oil for eight days. Some have suggested that the eight day celebration was designed to make up for the holiday of Tabernacles, which could not be celebrated by the Maccabees due to the war. The shape of the digit 8 represents infinity: No end to divine capabilities to enhance human fortunes, as evidenced by the survival of the Jewish People against all odds. The root of the Hebrew word for the digit 8 (“Shmoneh”) is “oil” (Shemen), which is also the root of “Hasmonean” (Hashmonayim in Hebrew).

13. A LESSON TO ISRAEL’s LEADERSHIP: Shimon the Maccabee – who succeeded Judah and Yonatan the Maccabees – responded to an ultimatum by the Syrian/Greek Emperor Antiochus (Book of Maccabees A, Chapter 15, verse 33): “We have not occupied a foreign land; We have not ruled a foreign land; We have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation.” Thus responded Simon the Maccabee to Emperor Antiochus’ ultimatum to end “occupation” of Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gezer, Ekron and Gaza.

14. KEY GEOGRAPHIC SITES OF THE MACCABEE LEGACY, the cradle of today’s Jewish State: Modi’in, Mitzpah (Nebi Samuel), Beit Horon, Ma’aleh Beit Horon, Hadashah, Beit Zur, Ame’os, Michmash, Judean Desert, Jericho. Other than Modi’in, the rest are beyond the “Green Line.” Are they currently “occupied” by the descendants of the Maccabees???

15. CHANUKAH-PASSOVER-PURIM. The heroes of Passover and Purim had no choice but to defy their enemies. The Maccabees turned down physical peace in return for spiritual assimilation. They refused to sellout the cradle of Jewish history. They were willing to pay any price for the protection of their values and heritage. Chanukah symbolizes the victory of conviction and roots over short-term convenience and over opportunism/cynicism (sometime presented as “realism” or “pragmatism”).

16. SEVEN CHANUKAH (“Inauguration” in Hebrew)-LIKE EVENTS: Chanukah of the Creation (Genesis 2:1-3), Chanukah of the Sanctuary (Numbers 7:1-11), Chanukah of the First Temple (Kings 1, 7:51, 8:1-11 & 62-66), Chanukah of the Second Temple and the Ingathering (Ezra 6:13-18), Chanukah of Jerusalem’s Wall (Nehemiah 6:15-16), Chanukah of the Temple Priests in 165BC (Maccabees 1, 4), Chanukah of the After World. Some attach the significance of each Chanukah to a corresponding day of the Creation.

 

The Significance of Purim

The Significance of Purim

1. PURIM – A WAR OF CIVILIZATIONS between Mordechai the Jew and Haman the Iranian-Amalekite — Another edition of a war between Right vs Wrong, Liberty vs Tyranny, Just vs Evil, Truth and Lies, as were/are the precedents of Adam/Eve vs Snake, Abel vs Cain, Abraham vs Sodom & Gomorrah, Jacob vs Esau (grandparent of Amalek), Maccabees vs Assyrians, Allies vs Nazis, Western democracies vs Islamic terrorism, etc. Any concession/compromise in such a value-driven war, results in a short-term false sense of security, which legitimizes and bolsters aggressors, undermining the safety of intended victims.
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