Chanukah - Scratching Beneath the Surface

Questions to Ponder:

1) Your friends want to set you up with a certain young man/woman. You look at the picture on Facebook, not really attracted to them, do you go on the first date or not?

2) Greek ideology is about beauty, science, and philosophy. Theaters, cafes, and universities.

Jewish ideology is about spirituality, character refinement and religion. Synagogues, study halls and temples. If you were living back then, who's side would you be on?

3) Why do you celebrate Chanukah?

a) 8 days of donuts and presents?

b) Holiday season is in the air, it's the Jewish Christmas?

c) Deep spiritual and uplifting meaning and significance?

(יח) וַיִּֽהְי֣וּ בְנֵי־נֹ֗חַ הַיֹּֽצְאִים֙ מִן־הַתֵּבָ֔ה שֵׁ֖ם וְחָ֣ם וָיָ֑פֶת וְחָ֕ם ה֖וּא אֲבִ֥י כְנָֽעַן׃ (יט) שְׁלֹשָׁ֥ה אֵ֖לֶּה בְּנֵי־נֹ֑חַ וּמֵאֵ֖לֶּה נָֽפְצָ֥ה כָל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ (כ) וַיָּ֥חֶל נֹ֖חַ אִ֣ישׁ הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וַיִּטַּ֖ע כָּֽרֶם׃ (כא) וַיֵּ֥שְׁתְּ מִן־הַיַּ֖יִן וַיִּשְׁכָּ֑ר וַיִּתְגַּ֖ל בְּת֥וֹךְ אָהֳלֹֽה׃ (כב) וַיַּ֗רְא חָ֚ם אֲבִ֣י כְנַ֔עַן אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אָבִ֑יו וַיַּגֵּ֥ד לִשְׁנֵֽי־אֶחָ֖יו בַּחֽוּץ׃ (כג) וַיִּקַּח֩ שֵׁ֨ם וָיֶ֜פֶת אֶת־הַשִּׂמְלָ֗ה וַיָּשִׂ֙ימוּ֙ עַל־שְׁכֶ֣ם שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם וַיֵּֽלְכוּ֙ אֲחֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית וַיְכַסּ֕וּ אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אֲבִיהֶ֑ם וּפְנֵיהֶם֙ אֲחֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית וְעֶרְוַ֥ת אֲבִיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א רָאֽוּ׃ (כד) וַיִּ֥יקֶץ נֹ֖חַ מִיֵּינ֑וֹ וַיֵּ֕דַע אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָ֥שָׂה־ל֖וֹ בְּנ֥וֹ הַקָּטָֽן׃ (כה) וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אָר֣וּר כְּנָ֑עַן עֶ֥בֶד עֲבָדִ֖ים יִֽהְיֶ֥ה לְאֶחָֽיו׃ (כו) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר בָּר֥וּךְ יְהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹ֣הֵי שֵׁ֑ם וִיהִ֥י כְנַ֖עַן עֶ֥בֶד לָֽמוֹ׃ (כז) יַ֤פְתְּ אֱלֹהִים֙ לְיֶ֔פֶת וְיִשְׁכֹּ֖ן בְּאָֽהֳלֵי־שֵׁ֑ם וִיהִ֥י כְנַ֖עַן עֶ֥בֶד לָֽמוֹ׃
(18) The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth—Ham being the father of Canaan. (19) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole world branched out. (20) Noah, the tiller of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. (21) He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent. (22) Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. (23) But Shem and Japheth took a cloth, placed it against both their backs and, walking backward, they covered their father’s nakedness; their faces were turned the other way, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. (24) When Noah woke up from his wine and learned what his youngest son had done to him, (25) he said, “Cursed be Canaan; The lowest of slaves Shall he be to his brothers.” (26) And he said, “Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem; Let Canaan be a slave to them. (27) May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be a slave to them.”

Q: How do we explain Noah's seemingly unsavory actions?

Q: What ramifications for these sons does this have in our modern era?

(ב) בְּנֵ֣י יֶ֔פֶת גֹּ֣מֶר וּמָג֔וֹג וּמָדַ֖י וְיָוָ֣ן וְתֻבָ֑ל וּמֶ֖שֶׁךְ וְתִירָֽס׃

(2) The descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan (Greece), Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

Talmud Bavli, Megillah 8b-9b

Ancient Greek is the only foreign language with which it is permissible to write a Torah scroll. Rav Shimon ben Gamliel said, “The only language [besides Hebrew] that one can write [the Torah, Prophets and Writings] is Greek.” What is the basis for the ruling of Rav Shimon ben Gamliel? The verse states, “May God expand Yefet and he will dwell in the tents of Shem” (Bereishit 9:27). This means the words of Yefet will be in the tents of Shem.

Talmud Bavli, Megillah 9a

The Greeks were the first to request a translation of the Torah. King Ptolemy once gathered seventy-two Elders. He placed them in seventy-two chambers, each of them in a separate one, without revealing to them why they were summoned. He entered each one’s room and said, “Write for me the Torah of Moshe, your teacher.”

Talmud Bavli, Yoma, 69a

It is the day on which the Samaritans demanded the House of our God from Alexander the Macedonian in order to destroy it, and he gave it to them. People came and informed Shimon the Righteous. What did he do? He put on his priestly garments, and robed himself in priestly garments, and some of the noblemen of Israel went with him carrying fiery torches in their hands. They walked all night, some on one side and some on the other, until the dawn rose. When the dawn rose, Alexander asked the Samaritans, “Who are these people?” They answered, “The Jews who rebelled against you.” As he reached Antipatris, the sun rose and they met. When Alexander saw Shimon the Righteous, he descended from his carriage and bowed down before him. They said to him, “A great king like yourself should bow down before this Jew?” He answered, “It is his image that leads me to victory in all my battles.”

Q: Why did Alexander the Great have prophetic dreams about Shimon the Righteous?

Q: How can Greek ideology be used to enhance the Jewish worldview?

Bereishit Rabbah 2:4

Greece is referred to as primordial darkness, a negative spiritual force. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish explained the verse, “And the Earth was desolate and void and darkness was on the face of the deep”…“And darkness” refers to the Greek Exile which darkened the eyes of the Jews through its decrees …

Q: With so much potential in Greek culture, how could the sages consider it a civilization of darkness?

Ramban, Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:8

The Greeks denied the reality of anything that they could not grasp themselves. Scientists go in the way of the Greek [i.e. Aristotle] who denied the reality of anything that he could not experience with his senses. He and his wicked students were arrogant enough to believe that anything which they did not understand could not possibly be true.

Otzar HaMidrashim, Chanukah

The Greeks decreed against mitzvot that symbolize the Jewish covenant with God. At that time the Greeks arose over the Jewish people and nullified the covenant which the Jews made with their God: Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh [the Jewish calendar system] and Brit Milah.

Q: Why do you think the Greeks decreed specifically against these Mitzvos?

Q: How does this affect us in our everyday life?

Rashi, Shabbat 23a

Jewish brides were accosted by Greek governors. The Greeks decreed that all Jewish brides had to visit the foreign governor prior to their wedding night.

Q: Why did the Greeks make this unique decree assaulting Jewish marriage?

Q: Are our modern day relationships Jewish or Greek in nature?