Monday, December 22, 2008

Chanukah ma’amor: Mem-gimmel — Tannu Rabbanan — Ner Chanukah; driving through snow

(the proper shape of Menorah — with straight branches)

I am happy to say I drove safely through beginning of snow storm to spend Shabbos by my rabbi; then was able to dig out my car, as well as his and his son’s (with whom I had some interesting conversations). Apparently, I left one of the windows in the car a little open over Shabbos (during the snow storm). No permanent damage. Then, today I drove to NYC (in the morning) and (tonight) back. Yes, I am crazy. But maybe one of my relatives lit a menorah tonight as a result of my trip (no, that wasn’t the whole point of the trip — I wish…).

Meanwhile: a good ma’amor to learn during the Chanukah. The topic is one of my favorites: “Ani Hashem Loi Shanisi” (I, G-d, have not changed) — what does it mean, on multiple levels, from G-d being the Master of the Universe, causing every minute change every single second (then how does He not change?) to G-d as He is in His Essence. As usual, Rabbi Paltiel’s shiurim are full with chassidishe stories, great mosholim and nice ellucidation of deepest topics in Chassidus. The ma’amor doesn’t mention the explanations provided by Tzemach Tzedek or Mittler Rebbe (in Chapter 9 of Sha’ar HaYichud), but provides new and (in the style of Rebbe Rashab) well-structured explanations that touch more of seider hishtalshelus.

I was listening to this ma’amor tonight while driving from NYC. I-95 was fine; I-91 was OK (averaging 65 mph); I-84, however, was frozen for the most part. I could not drive above 35 mph, because my ten-year-old Nissan with its all-season tires immediately turned into a boat (something I discovered on Friday while driving through the beginning of the snow storm to my rabbi), but I could not drive slower than 30 mph, because I needed momentum to go through the snow. All the while big eighteen-wheelers were driving by (or I was driving by them, when I wanted to go faster). The separation between lanes completely deteriorated — cars and trucks were going where there was some break from ice (which would sometimes end abruptly, forcing cars to drive/float to a different “lane”).

I-90 was a little better; it started raining and got quite foggy. Unfortunately, on that portion of the highway, there seems to be some white dust in the air, which makes my windows dirty and difficult to see through. At this point, however, I ran out of window washing liquid, so I had to rely on moisture from passing cars to clean my front window.

My town was a total amechaya: completely frozen and white (in comparison to boring-grey Brooklyn); being able to drive below 30 mph without danger of being run over was nice (in fact, there were so few cars on the street late at night that it reminded me of Dickensian times with cabs plowing through the snow).

While driving on the icy interstate, a few thoughts ran through my mind:

1. Wow, this is really dangerous. Hey, look at another car by the side of the road!
2. It would suck to be an atheist right now.
3. At the same time, I feel nothing. I almost just slid into that truck while changing lanes, but I feel no emotions. This, I guess, is what adrenaline does to you.
4. [A bunch of neuroendocrinological pathways allowing for point 3.]
5. Were these roads privately owned, they would be in a much better condition.
6. Something I read in a sicho of the Rebbe. The lights of Chanukah menorah are actually a lot like Chassidus (and, lehavdil, String Theory). Here’s how:

Greeks introduced the idea of “secular Judaism”; Hellenist Jews tried to create what pretty much modern-day Israel and many “Jewish” communities throughout US are; fanatical “Orthodox” Jews battled against them (and the forces of assimilation) and created a new reality in Torah; as a result, Chanukah Menorah was lit. Today, we have nothing remaining from the Temple. Sure, certain things are done instead of services and rituals of the Temple (e.g., davening, washing for bread, etc.), but the services themselves do not exist. With the exception of lighting of Menorah. That, at least in its appearance, exists — as instituted by the Rabbonim.

Here we have the classical Chassidic idea of descent for the sake of ascent. We have Greeks defiling Jewish land, Jewish culture, religion and finally, Beis HaMikdosh, which lead, however, to creation of a new level of yiddishkeit and an aspect of Beis HaMikdosh which proved resistant to destruction of the Temple, exile, and even assimilation (Chanukah and menora remain the most popular Jewish symbols even, ironically, amongst assimilated Jews — even though these symbols celebrate the defeat of the ideas that govern these Jews’ lives).

The descent lead to revelation of something eternal existing beyond limitations of time and boundaries between darkness and light. Light within darkness itself was revealed — and this light was stronger than the light “imposed” on darkness. When you open windows and a dark room becomes illuminated, nothing about the room’s essence has changed — once the windows are closed, the room will revert to darkness. But if you reveal the light hidden within the room itself, within its darkness, then it will remain glowing always, unconditionally. This is what the coming of Mashiach, geulah and dira b’tachtoinim are all about: revelation of light within darkness. Revelation of G-d within physicality of this world.

So, tapping into its spiritual source of eternality and revelation of light within darkness, the act of lighting of Chanukah menora draws closer the light of the Menora that will be lit in the actual Beis HaMikdosh, which will be rebuilt speedily in our days, with the coming of Mashiach.

* * *

I was told today by a complete stranger to “stop torturing mice and go back to yeshiva”. I wish it were this easy. Well, maybe it is…


Elisheva said...

Was it in a farbrengen setting?

I try not to post comments as such, but your blog is a source of light and inspiration.

Crawling Axe said...

Was what in a farbrengen setting?

I don’t mind comments. Lets me know someone besides my immediate circle is reading this…

Elisheva said...

The line about stopping torturing mice and going back to yeshiva.

Crawling Axe said...

No. This was some random guy in a nursing home.

Elisheva said...

Oh well. Just sounds like it.

Crawling Axe said...

Trust me — the same thing was also said to me numerous times in a farbrengen setting (actually, just last week, on Yud-Tes Kislev, by my rabbi).

By the way, I am one of the revolutionaries fighting for the proper Ashkenazic spelling of LK. “Teyreh” is a little hardcore though.

Elisheva said...

Yeah, Teyreh is a bit hardcore. But good for you! Keep up the good fight!