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 fourth day is today, 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.(Isaiah 2:3)
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 live successful lives blending together 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.
When I light my menorah tonight in the company of my wife and children I will reflect in gratitude to God for His wisdom. We have an abundance of sales going on right now giving you the opportunity to bring more of God’s wisdom into your homes. Our best-selling books Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money and Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language remain on sale for a short while longer. As an added Chanukah bonus, our audio CD Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life can be downloaded instantly at more than 50% savings (or get it by mail for only a bit more). Buy now and help yourself, those you gift and us—it’s a win/win.
This week’s Susan’s Musings: The Real Safety Net
What do high tax rates, entitlement programs and a dinner in honor of my nine-year-old grandson have to do with each other? It turns out, quite a lot.
My husband and I were privileged to attend a siyum at our daughter and son-in-law’s house. A siyum marks…READ MORE
Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here
In your recent Thought Tool, you site how in Genesis 29, two words are used, GeDoLah and KeTaNah, (older and younger) and discuss how important it is to be responsible for your actions. You conclude, “Accepting responsibility puts us on the path to greatness”.
Given the opposite behavior in our highest political leaders – I have some serious doubt that this piece of advice really applies to the truly powerful in America in this decadent age. Perhaps in the afterlife these powerful prevaricators will get their just rewards, but on earth – this tactic of blaming others seems quite effective. How do you explain the success of those who successfully hold on to high office in the land and apparently prosper by blaming others?
Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE