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During the Second Temple, the Greek empire reigned (over Israel),1 and they (the Greeks) passed decrees against the Jews and (tried) to erase their religion, and did not allow them to carry out Torah (study) or the commandments. They put their hands on their property and their daughters. They entered the Temple, destroyed and made the pure unclean. The Jews were in great distress because of them and were much oppressed, until the G-d of their fathers had mercy on them, delivering them from their hands and saving them. Then overcame, the sons of the Hasmonean High Priest, (the Greeks) and killed them and saved the Jews from their hands. They appointed a king from the Priests, and the kingdom of Israel was restored for more than 200 years until the destruction of (the) second (Temple). When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, it was the 25th of Kislev2 when they entered the Sanctuary (inner room) and did not find pure (olive) oil in the Temple, except one jar sealed with seal of the High Priest, and it did not contain enough to light except for one day only. But they lit from it the lamps of the Menorah3 for eight days, until they could crush olives and produce a (new quantity) of pure oil. For these reasons, decreed the Sages of that generation that these eight days that begin on the 25th Kislev, will be days of joy and praise. One lights on them lamps at evening at the entrance to the houses, every evening of the eight nights to show off and demonstrate the miracle. These days are called ''Hanukah'' that is to say ''they rested'' (chanu) on the ''25'' ('th of the month) because on the 25th they rested from their enemies. and also because of those days they (re)-dedicated the house (Temple) which their foes had defiled. Also some say that it is a commandment to increase slightly the festive meals on Hanukah. Another reason is because the work of (building) the Sanctuary (in the desert) was completed in these days. One should tell one's children the story of the miracles that were done for our fore-fathers in those days, (see Josephus) However, these meals are not considered as part of the commandment unless one says at the meal songs of praise. One should increase charity in these Hanukah days, for this can help mend any defects in our souls. This charity, should be given particularly to poor Torah scholars. (KSA 139:1)
1) 352 BCE until 70 CE
2) 139 BCE
3) The Menorah was made of gold and had seven branches.
Every year on Yom Kippur we are given an incredible opportunity for Teshuva. Indeed, the commentaries teach us that on Yom Kippur the special “zman“ can allow someone to attain forgiveness, even if on our merits, we may not be so entitled. This special matana from Hashem permits this at this special time.
Most of us are aware of the opportunity for teshuva and capitalize on it to a lesser or greater degree. We say selichos, we daven, we increase our tzedaka, we fast etc. there is so much more all of us can do in the teshuva realm, but at least we try. And for most of us each year, with Hashem’s rachamim, it is enough.
At the risk of great understatement, this is not most years. Most years, we each have our particular issues of regret and areas we would like to improve in. We surely have others in mind as well for Refuah, hatzlacha and the like. But as I said, this is not most years. All of those Tefillos are still appropriate but when the entire planet faces a crisis, we all must take responsibility for more than just our circle. We cannot limit out teffilos just to our families and Klal Yisroel. We must realize that we bear a disproportionate responsibility for what is going on, just like we do for everything else. And we must be at the forefront in trying to bring us out.
This year, our tefillos must include teshuva for our failures in making the world a better place. For our shortcomings in living up to being the Am Hanivchar and ask Hashem for kapara for these failures. We need not get into specifics of what each of us can do or could have done to improve the world. We all have opportunities daily to help - whether it’s being sure to say “thank you” or “good morning “to someone you don’t know just because you can. Whether it’s conducting ourselves mimaaleh min hateva in our places of business or even a public shopping place. We have responsibilities. And when the world is challenged like no other time in our lifetime, we must recognize that those responsibilities extend beyond our front door, beyond our neighborhood and beyond our borders. Let’s start this year’s teffillos with our genuine regret in not doing our part in helping heal the world by example. Maybe we are not all ready to invite ANTIFA people into our homes but maybe we can think of some of the legitimate concerns which drive people to act in such a way. Or maybe we can start closer to home and stop distinguishing between those who dress exactly the way we do and those who don't. Tolerance is an example we can set as well. It also has the added bonus of disenfranchising less members of our youth. So for those at a loss of where to start, tolerance in general is a good place.
It’s our world. Hashem gave us responsibilities here more than other amim. When we use our brilliance to invent ventilators, to live as moral people, the world is rewarded for what we do. This year more than most, we need to step up and shine Hashem’s light on the world again. As it described in last week’s Parsha, his light is shined through us. Let’s take effort in making ourselves appropriate lenses.
A G’mar Chasima Tova and Lshana Haba B’Yerushalayim.