5 Tevet 5778 – Vayigash

Our best wishes…

As a community, we send our blessings of ‘arichut yamim’, ‘long life’ to the entire Kedzier and extended families on the passing of Ruth this past week. She will be sorely missed. May we know of no more sadness and sorrow.

What it takes to be a leader?It is interesting to consider the lack of significant Talmudic commentary surrounding the festival of Chanukah. I mean, the other main festivals have their own dedicated books within the Talmud that details their laws and the intricacies of their practices. There is Tractate Rosh Hashana that details the laws of the Jewish New year and Tractate Pesachim that goes through the dates and stringencies when it comes to Pesach. Even the one day Rabbinic Festival of Purim has its own Tractate called “Megillah” which dissects the history of the festival and analyses, with precision, the four Mitzvot of Purim. So why was the eight-day festival of Chanukah left out and not given its own Talmudic space?

One answer was put forward as follows.

The codifier of the six books of the Talmud was Rabbi Judah the Prince (164CE-217CE). He was a direct descendant of the line of Judah, the tribe of Kings. Now, he had a certain gripe against the heroes of the Chanukah story, the Hasmonean family. Why? You see, the Maccabees were comprised of the 5 sons of Matityahu the High Priest. After their victory, this Hasmonean family became the rulers of the Jewish people for over a hundred years. Now, while their kingship didn’t last, there is room to argue that perhaps they should never have occupied this exalted role at all owing to their Priestly lineage. Priests occupy the role as the people’s spiritual leaders, not their rulers. According to this, the Hasmonean family were to be criticised for occupying a leadership position of power that was not befitting their lineage nor their destiny. It was this that Rabbi Judah the Prince found foul and causing him to exclude the Chanukah story from the Books of the Mishnah.

While this explanation is slightly problematic for a number of reasons, it begs the question: What was so special about Judah that made his tribe worthy of leadership?

I look forward to exploring the answer to this question in Shule this week as we explore the dramatic encounter between the two brothers Judah and Joseph.

Safe travels!

Finally, to all those going away over the end of year, I wish you safe and meaningful travels. Use this time to refresh yourselves physically and also spiritually. Take a Jewish book that you have at home and spend just a few extra minutes going through it with your family. If you are a man, take your tefillin with you and put them on for just a few minutes each morning. Let’s make our holidays enriching and meaningful!

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yossi Friedman

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