Sunday, December 25, 2005



Kislev 24, 5766 * December 25, 2005



Things weren’t so bad for the Jews when the Greeks first entered Eretz Yisrael. The Greeks were not a primitive nation of warriors; they did not want to destroy the Jewish people or their land. In fact, they were wise people, who liked to think, paint, and build. They admired beautiful things; they wondered about the secrets of nature, and they respected other peoples’ wisdom.

So why did a war break out between the Greeks and the Jews? Why did the Greeks make laws against the Torah and punish Jews who did not follow their rules?

Let’s try to picture how it might have happened: The Greek king wanted to find out how to rule Eretz Yisrael, so he sent out some soldiers to mingle with the Jews. “Find out more about these people. See how they live. Study their daily activities, and then report to me,” he instructed his soldiers.

The soldiers set out on their mission. They entered the Jewish cities and strolled down the streets.

“They look pretty peaceful to me,” said one soldier to another as they walked past a shop. They overheard a merchant saying to a customer: “Here, sir, you gave me an extra gold coin by mistake.”

The Greek soldiers exchanged glances. “Well, it looks like they also have laws about doing business honestly.”

“So what? We do too. All people should be fair with each other.”

“Hey, look, what’s that on the door?”

“Looks like a piece of parchment. Let’s ask.”

The owner of the shop told them about the mezuzah. As they walked away from the shop, one soldier shrugged and said: “It doesn’t mean anything to me, but if hanging up a little scroll to remind them of their history makes sense to them, well, why not?”

On the way, the soldiers passed by an olive grove. “Take a look at that fellow,” one pointed to a Jewish worker. “He’s collecting single drops of oil from each olive.”

“Hey Jew, it’ll take you forever to get the oil out of the olives if you do it that way. Here, let me show you how we do it.”

“Thank you, sir,” the worker replied. “We also use oil presses. But not for this oil. These first drops of oil will light the menorah in our Holy Temple.”

“Menorah? What’s that? And why do you do it that way?”

The worker explained about the Beis HaMikdash, and concluded: “...that’s the way G d tells us to do it.”

“You mean you do it just because your G d says so?”

The Jew nodded and went back to work; he didn’t try to explain. The Greeks believed only things that they could understand. It wasn’t easy to explain to them that we do things just because HaShem says so.

The soldiers reported to their king. He was bothered by what they told him. “We’ll show them,” he said to his men. “They may have an interesting religion, but they have to learn to accept man-made ideas, not some holy commandments from an invisible G d.

“Let them light the menorah if they want to. But we’ll give their oil our Greek touch.”

And that’s what the Greeks did. They entered the Beis HaMikdash and made the oil impure. Then they tried to stop the Jews from observing HaShem’s Torah and mitzvos.

The Jews responded with mesirus nefesh, daring to challenge the most powerful armies in the world with a few men and hardly any arms. But HaShem helped them. They miraculously defeated the Greek armies, came back into the Beis HaMikdash, and cleansed it of that Greek touch. And then, the menorah again burned with the light of pure oil.

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, Chanukah)


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