Successful living often involves blending two incompatibles. For instance, raising great children means parenting with the perfect mix of tough, firm discipline and gentle, yielding compassion. In running a business, entrepreneurs must exquisitely blend ‘the customer is always right’ with ‘some customers are not worth having.’ In courting, smart men and women combine ‘you’re the only one for me’ with recognizing that until the wedding, other options do exist.
Living without this ability to combine opposites is seldom successful. Such parents run the risk of creating either brats or brutes. Such a suitor can endlessly submit to an excessively demanding and unsuitable marriage partner. Such a storekeeper ends up with a collection of customers who spend very little and complain a great deal or with no customers at all.
Chanukah, whose fifth day starts tonight, emphasizes one of the most crucial of these blends—that between body and soul, between living in the physical world and also in the spiritual one.
In ancient Jewish wisdom, Greek culture represents a materialistic view of reality and is viewed as the source for a physical world view in which only those things that can be seen and touched have value.
One might suppose that the opposing view is that only spirituality matters. However, that is not correct. God gave Israel one of the great secrets of life—the importance of striking a balance between physical and spiritual and between body and soul. The tension between the world views of Israel and Greece is the central theme of Chanukah.
How one feels about whether we live only in a materialistic world or whether we live in a world of both physical and spiritual will greatly influence the decisions we make in running our lives. For that reason, understanding the Greece/Israel tension is vital for successful living.
The Torah term for Greece is Yavan. It appears many times throughout Scripture and always hints at a mistaken materialistic view of reality. It is first found early in the tenth chapter of Genesis*. The word looks like this:
The word’s graphical appearance, three vertical columns of different lengths, suggests the famous columns that are the most enduring relic of ancient Greece. What is more, if one slightly varies the pronunciation of the three letters that comprise the Hebrew word YaVaN, what emerges is ION, the origin of Ionia, the ancient name for Greece.
The word Zion captures the idealistic vision of God’s plan and purpose for us.
…for from Zion** shall go forth the Torah and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
The word Zion looks like this:
It is created by placing the letter Tsadi in front of the Hebrew word for Greece, YaVaN.
All Hebrew letters have meanings and that of Tsadi is a saintly human being. Putting all this together reveals that the idealistic vision of Zion depends upon blending the spiritual saintliness of the Tsadi with the worldliness of Yavan.
While it is true that in the afterlife we shall be involved only in the spiritual, in this world, God intends us to successfully blend the physical and the spiritual. We reflect this ideal on Chanukah by kindling our menorahs, creating a special light whose purpose is to shine as a beacon, blending physical and spiritual. That is what scientists mean by the duality of light. Light can best be understood as a mind-boggling blend of physical particles and spiritual information in waves.
In our exciting new teaching, Scrolling through Scripture (Unit 1), I explain the unique qualities of light, and how understanding it provides a path for thriving. We start by noting that the word for light appears five times in the first day of Creation. And how modern science seems to take its lead from the first 4 verses in Genesis as it recognizes that the origin of the universe has so much to do with light. Our verse by verse exploration of the Six Days of Creation allows me to take you into so much greater depth than these Thought Tools can possibly provide and I invite you to join me on this powerful Bible study.
In our recommended Bible:
* p. 26, top line, 7th word (with the letter ‘ו’ meaning ‘and’ before it).
** p. 1222, line 18, 3rd word from the right (with the letter ‘מ’ meaning ‘from’ before it).
SCROLLING THROUGH SCRIPTURE
a verse by verse look through the eyes of ancient Jewish wisdom