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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.
Throughout the saga of our forefathers and their families there are many moments depicting powerful emotions.
The joyous laughter of Avraham and Sarah. The expressed ‘love’ of Yitzchok for Rivkah, and their love for their children. The ‘trembling’ fear of Yitzchok when discovering Yaakov having preempted Esav. The ‘flaring anger’ of Yaakov when Rachel demands of him children. The anguished ‘cries’ of Yosef and his brothers throughout their ordeal.
In each of these instances although our sages reveal deeper layers to their emotions, yet the פשוטו של מקרא, the simple reading of the text, speaks for itself.
Avraham and Sarah thrilled over the news they would have a child. Yitzchock met his ‘bashert’ and sensed a genuine love. He and Rivkah infused love in their children. Yaakov was upset with Rachel’s expectation of him. Yosef relived the pain of his distance from them, and they cried upon reuniting.
Yet when Yaakov emotionally reacts to his finding Rachel, it is unclear what exactly he is emoting over.
Then Yaakov kissed Rachel; and he raised his voice and wept. (בראשית כט יא)
The Midrash describes this kiss as a ‘kiss of closeness’, a loving expression of a pure and platonic connection Yaakov sensed upon discovering his beloved mother’s niece. This fits into the plain meaning of the text. But, why the raised voice? What is he crying about?
The Midrash teaches that he cried out loudly over the fact that he foresaw she would not be buried with him. He also bemoaned that he had been fleeced by Elifaz and came empty handed of any gift to present to his very special bride to be.
The Torah chose though to merely report the emotion without revealing any obvious cause for it.
The motivation for the kiss is self-evident. Yet, the reaction of tears coupled with an elevated vocal expression leaves us wondering. What is the Torah seeking to teach us here?
Perhaps the emphasis here is on the ingredients for meaningful connection and relationships. In addition to bonding in friendship to one another physically, whether through a handshake, kiss or embrace, one must express one’s feelings for each other. It must be evident not only in the verbal expression and words one chooses to articulate, but more importantly in the feeling that is conveyed in both the tone and volume of the ‘voice’; the sincerity, the passion, the warmth, the concern and empathy. But most important of all is the ability to show vulnerability, a lack of fear in displaying one’s deepest emotions to those we are closest to. Displaying our empathy for another to the point of tears indicates the deepest of connection.
Certainly, Rachel was not expecting any gifts, but that didn’t diminish Yaakov’s pained frustration in not being able to express to her how worthy and extraordinary she is.
Rachel too possessed this remarkable quality. Her exquisite bond with Leah and her ability to truly identify with Leah’s pain is what compelled her to grant her the secret signs that would enable Leah to marry Yaakov. The character trait that Yaakov and Rachel evidently shared, is what gave Rachel the confidence to know that Yaakov would readily accept her deception.
Might that also be the deeper sentiment in Yaakov’s crying over Rachel’s eventual burial on the road to Beis Lechem rather than in the Me’aras HaMachpela. It was his allying with her distinguished ability to feel for her children in crying for them as no other could, when they would descend into their long exile later in history.
Yaakov’s displayed anguish over not being able to proffer a gift for Rivkah is contrasted with the coldhearted Elifaz who negotiates with Yaakov a way to fulfill his contract with his ‘Godfather’ Esav who commissioned him to kill him. Yaakov suggests that by taking all of his possessions, he will be impoverished and considered as ‘dead’.
Elifaz instills his home with the creed of the Esav clan, to look coldly at the world and never permit emotion to interfere with one’s objectives. It’s no wonder, Amalek his emotionless son is termed the one who, קרך בדרך, cooled off the world’s reverence for His chosen people, on the way out of Egypt.
It is irrelevant, for the plain meaning of the text, what the catalyst for Yaakov’s emotional outburst might have been. What the Torah sought to teach is the practical formula to creating meaningful relationships. In this marriage of Yaakov to Rachel, which represented the nucleus of the family that would bring the world to its perfected state, there had to be present the seeds for that magnificent fruit.
Bond, express, and pour out your heart to one another, for in these qualities lay the foundation of a relationship that will ultimately bind us inextricably to the One above.
צבי יהודה טייכמאן