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LEADING THE TORAH LIFE

by Rabbi Gideon Shloush    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

As we are currently enjoying the festival of Chanukah, one cannot help but smile with enthusiasm at the joyfulness of this festival. The excitement of lighting the candles and singing songs of praise to Hashem remind us of the miraculous victory of our ancestors over the Hellenists.

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As we are currently enjoying the festival of Chanukah, one cannot help but smile with enthusiasm at the joyfulness of this festival. The excitement of lighting the candles and singing songs of praise to Hashem remind us of the miraculous victory of our ancestors over the Hellenists.

One of the most well-known of the Chanukah songs is the "Al Hanisim" which we recite daily on Chanukah in our prayers. In the opening verse, we thank G-d for the "miracles, salvation, mighty deeds, victories, and battles which He performed for our forefathers in those days, at this time." Glancing over this phrase, one may discover something very fascinating. In Hebrew, each of these words of praise carry a hidden meaning as well.

Nissim miracles: It can also mean "fleeing" or "running away from" (lanes).

Purkan salvation: It can also mean "thrusting off the yolk" (porek ol).

G'vurot mighty deeds: It can also refer to a Herculean type of man (gevir).

T'shuot victories: But it can also elude to the "hours" (sha'ot).

Milchamot battles: But it can also refer to the word "dreams" (chalomot).

The message we can learn from this is profound. During Chanukah we thank Hashem for the miracle of His saving our people during a period of spiritual decline. Despite the fact that there existed a core group of Jews (the Maccabees) who remained steadfast in their commitment to the Torah, nevertheless, a vast majority of our people during that time were quickly being lured into the popular Greek way of life. Many Jews at the time were fleeing to the pagan culture, and thrusting off the yolk of G-d. Like the Hellenists who emphasized the importance of Man's physical strength and beauty, many of our ancestors spent their time dreaming about and pursuing this attractive lifestyle.

Sadly, what was in those days is taking place again today. Assimilation is rampant. Tragically, so many of our Jewish brethren are chasing a life void of Torah and spirituality. Our challenge is to be inspired by the Maccabees. Our goal must be to mirror their success in combating these secular influences that are detrimental to religious growth. The miracle of Chanukah is the triumph of the Maccabees, their victory in preserving the Jewish faith. In our day, this victory takes the shape of the numerous outreach institutions who are all working to strengthen the Jewish community. How fortunate are we in our communities to have Torah classes given on a regular basis. If only we would take the time to participate in these programs and study our own rich heritage; to examine our unique ancestry.

This Chanukah let us all take it upon ourselves to take up the cause of the Maccabees, to see the beauty in leading a Torah lifestyle.

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Rabbi Gideon Shloush, who hails from Atlanta, is the assistant rabbi at Congregation Adereth El in Manhattan.

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