On Sunday evening, December 5, Chazaq hosted a fireside chat with Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, founder of Shabbat.com. Rabbi Klatzko taught that holidays end on a high. On Yom Kippur, we have N’ilah. Purim ends with a feast. Sukkos ends with Sh’mini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. Chanukah ends with Zos Chanukah.
The high of Chanukah is the eight candles lit. As Chanukah ends, we look back and ask ourselves what we learned and how are we different. We don’t want to emerge from a holiday the same as when we entered. Every holiday has transformative lessons. Chanukah is not presents or dreidels or doughnuts.
He then taught that we have to understand about the decay – the shortcoming that happens when we are influenced by our surroundings. The surroundings teach us lessons subliminally. They change how we live our lives. Chanukah is an amazing wake-up call. It is teaching us that we need to shift and recalibrate our compass so we can absorb these lessons. Any modern civilization today can trace itself back to Rome, which was an heir to Greece. Greek culture was a turning point in history. Greece was unique, as was Rome. Today we are the spiritual heirs of Rome. Rome grew its value system from Greece.
Wherever you live, it is worth noting that you live with a value system. They call it the Judeo-Christian value system. It values the scientific method almost to an extreme. The idea is that we know what we can evaluate, and test has validity. What I don’t see or can’t see is less meaningful to the Greco-Roman way of life. The Syrian-Greeks came to Yerushalayim. They settled there and spread Greek philosophies. Their life philosophy involved the preeminence of the primitive scientific method that began with philosophy. The Syrian-Greeks promoted art, sports, buildings, poetry, music, and the human body.
As Jews, we value the human body as a vehicle to serve Hashem. It’s a utensil lent to us to do great things with. There is deep meaning behind the human body and behind great art. The beauty of the Temple was there for a higher purpose. The entire philosophy of Judaism is the belief that everything in this world was created for meaning. It’s here for a higher good.
In Judaism, there is never beauty for the sake of beauty itself. “The beauty always has to have meaning attached to it.” If I have a talent, my goal is not to show it off and become a star but rather to inspire people to draw close to Hashem using my talent to do this.
The Greeks believed that what you see is what you get. “If I can’t see it, it’s not there.” They believed that their body was their greatness.
Rabbi Klatzko taught how Noach had three sons: Sheim, Cham, and Yefes. Yefes got the blessing that G-d gave you beauty. The Greeks were heirs of beauty. They appreciated beauty.
Jewish people believe that everything Hashem created has to have deep meaning and a profound purpose.
He went on to explain how, in Hebrew, the name of something is connected to its essence. Sheim is who Jews are descended from. His name means “name.” It means that he would have the ability to understand the deeper essence of what objects are about.
Rabbi Klatzko taught that there is a great battle between the philosophy of the Greeks and Judaism. They believe that what you can’t see doesn’t exist. Today we are filled with Greek and Roman philosophy. Great athletes earn millions. Movie stars earn millions, while teachers earn small salaries. This reflects the values of society. We lie in the shadow of Roman values.
We light authentic lights with pure oil. It has to be an experience that reminds us that being Jewish means every day is purposeful. My soul is eternal. Everything I do and say and think matters a great deal.
We remember this by lighting candles each night of Chanukah. The menorah represents Torah. Shabbos reminds us that we were created for a purpose. The purpose is that we are all connected to the eternal Creator, and we are here to serve Him and bring Him into the world.
Beauty disappears with age. We don’t shun beauty, art, music, or poetry. Beauty is here for a purpose. Mitzvos remind us that this world is important only if it is connected to the eternal.
Chanukah is eight nights of wisdom and connection to our Creator.
This beautiful shiur can be viewed on TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber