Thursday, December 15, 2011
Chanukah and Overcoming Avarice
Excerpt from "Chanukah with Rebbe Nachman of Breslov":
Even someone who is supported by charity must beg or sell his clothing in order to buy Chanukah candles.
The history of mankind may be the story of the victory of the strong over the weak (war), of the many over the few (democracy), of the wicked over the innocent (crime), but the underlying dynamics of human history boils down to avarice. The rise and fall of nations may be connected with the strong the many, and sometimes the wicked, but the basic driving force for power is avarice.
The Greeks were no different, although they pursued their goals under the facade of "culture." in order to impose avarice upon the Jewish people, they issued three decrees: no Sabbath, no New Moon, and no circumcision.
The weekly Sabbath rest reminds the Jew that his sustenance comes from God. Observing the Sabbath thus precludes avarice, since it declares that no effort will help without God. The New Moon dictates the Jewish calendar, and subsequently the festivals. just as the Sabbath rest precludes avarice, so does observing the festivals. Circumcision signifies sexual purity, the lack of which induces avarice, because controlling one's passion for sexual gratification weakens the passion of avarice (Likutey Moharan I 23:2‑3; Likutey Halakhot, Aveidah u’Metziah 3:6).
Avarice defiles the mind. When one's mind becomes filled with thoughts of money, there is no room left for wisdom. Thus the Greeks defiled the Temple oil, because oil is symbolic of wisdom (ibid. 3:7).
Furthermore, the desire for money and material gain is really the source of all sadness. The more you want, the more you need, and the more you feel you lack. A criminal will rob and kill someone, in order to fill his perceived lack, and nations go to war for the same reason. Thus, those who succumb to avarice are surrounded by a dark cloud of moroseness (Likutey Moharan I, 23:1) – because they find no contentment in what they possess. Therefore, tradition says, the Greeks are compared to darkness (Bereishit Rabbah 2:4).
In order to counter avarice, in order to dispel these clouds of darkness, you must open your heart and hand (Likutey Moharan I, 13:1). You must become a fitting vessel for God through which to channel His boundless bounty. You must allow yourself to experience the gratitude that comes from accepting that bounty. Lastly, you must allow yourself to experience the love that comes from sharing your bounty.
Chanukah symbolizes this.
The victory was wrought through the priests. The priests symbolize charity, because they are given the priestly gifts that epitomize charity. So after Judah Maccabee—the priest led his army to victory, he donated all the spoils of war to charity (Yosefun).
To relive this victory over avarice, over the dark clouds of moroseness, we light our candles after sunset, rejoice, and give Chanukah gelt—charity (Likutey Halakhot, Aveidah u'Metziah 3:8).
In fact, so great was this miracle—the miracle of victory over avarice—that even someone who has nothing to give must beg or sell his belongings to purchase candles. That will be considered his charity.