Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chanukah: Humility and Insignificance

Written by the Rebbe, shlit"a, Rav Michel Twerski of Milwaukee (from "Turning Pages", 1984)

"Humility" is a much used and abused word. It is, without question, the premium virtue amongst the attributes of Jewish "Midos" (personality qualities). The Torah records as the greatest achievement of Moshe, his incomparable humility. It is, however, also frequently misapplied and interchanged with such concepts as "meekness", "worthlessness". and "insignificance." Humility is many things, but certainly none of the latter. At one time or another, we have all been confronted with our personal limitations and on our interdependence with others. We have been able to say to ourselves, "You don't have to swallow the whole world - rule it - own it - or desire it. Live and let live!" "Be content with your portion in life - rejoice with your own blessings." "Don't be envious or jealous of others." These expressions are statements of humility. They represent a recognition of limits, of building happiness from within, and living with others in a world big enough for  everyone. "Insignificance" on the other hand says to us, "You are worthless and unimportant! Neither you nor your deeds make any difference whatever." "Insignificance" assumes that man is a cosmic accident, and that he is nothing more than a microscopic speck upon the canvas of eternity.

For the Jew, humility is a cardinal mitzvah and virtue, while insignificance is a cardinal "aveira" and fault. The Chanukah holiday and its history portrays both of these in an understandable perspective. Let's take a brief look at its salient features.

Israel is tyrannized by a crazed Hellenist ruler, Antiochus. Antiochus prospers through the collaboration and sabotage of Jewish "hellenists" who betray their faith and their brethren to the new culture. The "insignificants" of the time throw up their hands in despair and surrender. It is, after all, the few against the many, the weak against the strong, the righteous against the wicked. What difference can one person make? The humble react otherwise. One may be small, but never insignificant, and even small seeds with proper nourishment and stimulation become towering trees. A single person, one Matisyahu Kohain Gadol, of the priestly tribe, takes matters into his own hands and strikes the first blow to redress the insults to his faith and people. From the single act of protest a spark went forth which ignited the hearts of his five children, who became national heroes known as the "Chashmonaim", and the flame of the children became the torch of an entire people.

One humble act overthrew a mighty and brutal regime. To sustain this message forever, the Almighty captured the miracle of the "single act" in the miracle of the Chanukah lights.

One small vial of oil with a capacity of burning one day burns miraculously for eight days until new oil can be pressed and delivered By all natural principles the oil should never have been lit. After all, it would never last. Yet the match was struck and the "insignificant" lasted for eight days.

If we were to reflect upon our own condition in the light of the Chanukah message, we might be less hesitant to embark upon the ambitious adventures of our spirits. We all dream and aspire. And we are all frightened and threatened by our aspirations. We fear to begin because our hopes and dreams loom so large and we are so small. Chanukah tells us that to be victorious, we must concentrate not on the immensity of the goal, but on the single step before us. We have every right to want to ascend to the very heavens themselves, but only when we are prepared to acknowledge that the journey begins with a "humble" but never "insignificant" step.

A very Freichlechen Chanukah to all.

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