Friday, December 15, 2006

Modern Macabees

I can just imagine the scene at the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of Chanukah. Having just defeated the mighty Greek-Syrian army, the Macabees were keen to light the Menorah. To their dismay, they found that all the olive oil had been defiled and wasn't ideal for Menorah-lighting purposes.

While those dedicated souls searched for pure oil, there were probably bystanders who thought they were wasting their time.

"There is no pure oil! Can't you see, any vestige of original oil has been destroyed? You're wasting your time!"

The Macabees taught us that- if you search hard enough, you can find pure oil in the most unlikely places.

Today's Macabees search the alleys of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, the backwaters of Iowa and hostels, retirement homes, prisons and college campuses from Honolulu to Hobart, looking for pure oil.

They are Chabad emissaries, who refuse to accept that the pure oil of the Jewish soul can ever be truly tainted. And, so they keep searching.

And they find.

They find wholesome Jewish souls in the most unlikely places; souls that burst alight when touched.

Every Jew can be a Macabee. Perhaps you know someone who feels "they have no pure oil left". Hold out a Jewish light to them- or even to yourself.

If you really believe the pure soul is there, you will see miracles.

Happy Chanukah!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Borat got it wrong...

Even in Kazakhstan!

Click here to find the public Menorah lightings this year in Kazakhstan.

And for the lightings that Chabad hosts at another 428 cities around the world, click here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What are you afraid of?

I've just read an interesting CNN/Time article about how people worry about things that will never affect them, but ignore what actually threaten their lives.

For example: People worry about Mad Cow disease, while munching on a cholesterol-laden hamburger (cholestrol that kills 700 000 Americans annually).

While in the States 10 days ago, I came across courses for people who are afraid to fly (I thankfully, don't have that problem). "Aviophobia" is highly common, even though many more people die in car accidents than in air disasters.

Which shows that it's human nature to focus on "big" things, and overlook the "small" things that really make a difference to our lives.

I think that may well be one message from last week's Torah portion.

We read that Ya'akov (Jacob) had lived away from home for 20 years. His vengeful brother, Eisav (Esau), still had it in for him at home, so Jacob wasn't rushing back.

Suddenly, after the birth of his 11th son Yosef (Joseph), Ya'akov announces that it's time to head home. Rashi- the famous commentary- explains that with Yosef's birth, Ya'akov felt empowered to confront his belligerent older brother.

Hold on a moment! Ya'akov's older sons included Reuven, named for his powerful spiritual insight; Levi, father of the priestly tribe of kohanim; Yehudah, antecedent of all Jewish kings, inlcuding Moshiach and Gad, Dan & Naftali all mighty warriors. What was special about Yosef that inspired more confidence in Ya'akov than the others?

As we know, Torah is a book of lessons, not history. Yosef's name means "to add". This is the story of how to stand up to Eisav. Be it the anti-Semitic Eisav "out there" or the "internal" personal Eisav voice that obstructs our spiritual progress. The response to either of them is the same.

Unlike the popular notion that you need to wait until you "gain spiritual insight", "are fully dedicated to G-d" or "experience a revelation", all you really need is a small "Yosef".

Eisav is empowered when we are spiritually static. Each small step we take forward is an real victory for Judaism, for Light and for your soul.

One small mitzvah for man is a giant leap for humankind.