BEAUTY OR BEAST
Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman
Next week on Chanukah we will celebrate our liberation from Greek sovereignty. One of the many lessons we learn from Chanukah is the Jewish outlook towards culture and "beauty".
Next week on Chanukah we will celebrate our liberation from Greek sovereignty. One of the many lessons we learn from Chanukah is the Jewish outlook towards culture and "beauty". Greece is a direct descendant of Yafet, the oldest son of Noah, and is known for its remarkable beauty. In fact, the name "Yafet" in Hebrew means "beauty". They are famous for their art, theater, culture, and the glorification of the fair form of the human body. And why not focus on these things, since they are all talents and features with which Hashem blessed Man and which therefore must be appreciated.
However, the beauty of "beauty" can only be properly appreciated if it is connected to its source. In the words of the Kotzker Rebbe, one of the greatest Chassidic Rebbes of the 19th century, "Many things in the wo rld appear beautiful. However, their beauty does not endure. After one has seen them often, their grandeur and desirability fades. Only things that pertain to Hashem, who endures forever, have eternal beauty."
Therefore, Noah blessed his son Yafet "to dwell in the tents of Shem (the ancestor of the Jewish people)" (Genesis 9:27). The physical beauty of Yafet, if taken and placed in the tents of Shem, if used to enhance Torah and mitzvot, becomes part and parcel of the spiritual and endures eternally. As phrased by the sages, since Man is more susceptible to his heart and senses than to his mind and soul, the gift of Yafet to perceive and create beauty must "dwell in the tents of Shem". If not, Yafet's beauty is not only wasted, but is even destructive, since beauty for its own sake degrades Man.
External grace and beauty covering corrosive emptiness - this was Greece. Culture must be guided by a higher ideal, one which is external to man's feelings and senses, and this is the role of Shem. As bearers of the Torah, we are to utilize that which has beauty and physicality to enhance our spirituality.
Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman writes from Atlanta.
You are invited to read more Parshat Vayishlach articles.
Would you recommend this article to a friend? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org