The nights are long, and dark. Last night the stark white of lightning illuminated the sky, with the background symphony of thunder. Chanukah lends itself to theatrical weather.
When you look at the special addition for Chanukah that appears both in the prayers and in Birkat Hamazon, you can get a feel of how much more stark and powerful this kind of night was during the war.
The Maccabees had to face it. Taking refuge in the caves and forests agent the best largest and most disciplined army in the world was a life-or-death disciplined performance. They were few, untrained, and had lived their lives pursuing truth through learning Torah, not pursuing Greeks against impossible odds. They assumed that they would die, and they still found the gamble worth it.
It was all ideological. Can you picture saying the equivalent of “Who cares?” and just getting on with your life?
It’s no coincidence that the story of Yosef is read during Chanukah. He too faced impossible odds, and had no expectation of survival, but for him the battle was entirely different. He had come to do battle against himself, pitting his natural desires and fears against his awareness of Hashem’s will.
Can you picture yourself saying the equivalent of “Who cares?” if you were Yosef?
Potiphar’s wife stopped at nothing to get Yosef to have relations with her. She changed her clothes several times a day, created situations where she could speak to him, and ultimately threatened to fake a scenario presenting him as an attacker, and herself as a victim.
What motivated her? Was it just the banal old cliché of a lonely woman meets an attractive man?
It was far deeper than that. She knew astrology (which was very common in Egypt during her lifetime). She saw that Yosef’s descendants would come from her line, and she wanted to make it happen, she wanted to be part of something bigger than herself. What you may not know is that Yosef also knew astrology. He saw the same stars that she did. His conclusion was that he would fail the moral test he faced. He would end up committing adultery with her, and she would bear his child. He now had the best excuse in the world. He could say, “I am inevitably going to fail this test. I am doomed. The test is too big.”
AND YES!! The whole thing is ideological. Who will know what happened between them? Can you picture yourself saying the equivalent of, “Who cares?” if you were Yosef?
Now he had the same choice as the Maccabees. Should he head off to battle (in his case against his yetzer hara, his evil inclination) knowing he will lose, and face spiritual death? Should the Macabees enter battle against the Greeks knowing that in all likelihood they will face brutal and immediate physical death? They came to the same conclusion. They both decided to do the right thing, regardless of the possibility of facing death.
AFTER ALL, IT’S ONLY IDEOLOGICAL…
This is called “mesiras nefesh”.
IT’S NOT ONLY IDEOLOGICAL. IT’S ABOUT WHO YOU ARE, AND WHO YOU WANT TO BE.
The result was (both of them!) divine intervention that changed the game completely. The Maccabees won, entered the sanctuary, and witnessed the miracle of the candelabra staying lit for 8 days (the time needed to bring down new oil from the north). Yosef ended up as the viceroy of Egypt. He saved his family, Egypt, and ultimately the entire known world which was affected by the famine. He also ended up showing us what it truly means to be a tzadik.
You have your challenges, and I have mine. The one thing we share in common is that you and I are both going to find ourselves thinking that there is no hope - that we are going to lose this one. The truth is, that Hashem will help you as He helped the Maccabees and as He helped Yosef.
How are you going to find the courage you need to survive the dark moments?
Even Potifera, Yosef’s master, knew that “Hashem is with him”, in his own words. He recognized that Yosef had ruach haKodesh, inspiration from Hashem, a higher source.
The Talmud tells that you can only have ruach hakodesh if you are happy.
NOTHING MAKES YOU HAPPIER THAN LIVING A LIFE OF MEANING, OF LIGHT, OF WHAT CHANUKAH MEANS TO US ALL.
Yosef’s secret was being happy with any situation that he faced. THIS CAN BE YOUR SECRET TOO.