Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Word on Chanuka from Feival Mendel Tolk

Last year, one of my best friends in yeshiva was a man very much in touch with nature and who started the healing practice known as "Zokef K'fufim" (lit. "straightener of the bent"). His name is Feival Mendel Tolk, and he had this to say about Chanuka:

The Greeks were very wise and they had a very sensible relationship to all the peoples around them. When they conquered a people they would ask, "What's your god like?" and if they had one that was similar they called it by both names, and if not, they just added that new god to the list. When they came to the Jews they said, "You only have one God? We can deal with that." The Greeks are into wisdom and that's why the first language the Torah is translated into is Greek because they want to know, they want to understand what's happening here. They raped and murdered and pillaged but they were very wise.

They went into the Jewish temple and they made the oils impure. How did they make the oil impure? They opened the oil and stuck their finger in and then closed it and put it back. Now wouldn't we expect them to grab it and throw it on the floor, or tip and spill it? But they didn't do that. When the Jews came back they found lots of oil but all the seals were broken. Why didn't they destroy the oil?

Because oil is light, and the Greeks are into wisdom; they don't wish to destroy. They are very interested in what we have to say, to tell us more, but there is one thing the Greeks aren't interested in and that is things that don't make sense, things which are irrational. If I can't see it under a microscope I am not interested in it and that's why in the prayer we say "your [G-d's] Torah." What bothers the Greeks is that there are things called laws which don't make sense, which are beyond human intellect. They want us to learn Torah, they want us to explain it to them but they want us to forget that it is "your Torah, God" that there are things here that come from the infinite and that is why they didn't destroy the oil, all they did was make it impure.

Now if you put impure and pure oil under the microscope there is absolutely no physical difference. It's a spiritual difference and it's one of God's laws which are beyond human understanding and that's what the Greeks can't allow. The Greeks' whole mindset was "I need to understand" and "man is the pinnacle." And what we are saying in Torah is that "I have to put my understanding to one side because I am finite and I want to connect not just with Torah but with God who is behind Torah."

The Chanukah lights that we will light in the darkness are a symbol of the pure oil, a symbol of connecting with the Giver of Torah, it is connecting with the concept that "I may not be able to understand everything completely." That doesn't mean I have to make my mind blank and have no personality. Once I have received Torah then comes the next dynamic, that God is very interested in each one of us in our own unique fashion connecting to Torah in a real and honest way. There are those things which I don't understand and they annoy me, and I ask for God to explain it or for a rabbi to explain it to me and I may go through life as a Jew and have questions but that doesn't mean because I have questions that I am going to throw out everything. Because I realize that I am finite and God is infinite and this is an opportunity for me to connect with the infinite.

The dynamic of Chanukah is to connect with the understanding that the first phase is: First I will do and then I will try to figure it out. This is why, while you are sitting in a class learning, don't ask questions (not don't ask questions at all, but save them for later) because while you are learning, be in the receiving mode because if I am so full of my own questions then those questions will not allow me to receive. Put yourself to one side and if there are questions (and there should be questions), first I have to receive and then after I have mulled it over I can formulate my questions. Indeed, one of the signs of a kosher animal is that it chews its own cud; first it swallows then it brings it up and ruminates, it thinks about it. People are not changed by arguments, nor by philosophy. People are changed by doing. Introduce a new habit into your life, and your entire Perspective of the world changes.

First do, then learn about what you are already doing.

This is an audio file that Feival sent me, a recording of a talk about Chanuka: http://audio.simpletoremember.com/tatz/tatz34.mp3


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey great job with everything.
I finally got to checking this website out and it looks like a really good place to access Jewish resources on the net. Things are well sorted out.

Mozel Tov Chaver

Thu Jan 05, 01:52:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Phil A. said...

How can I contact Feival Mendel Tolk bufphilo1@sbcglobal.net

Sat Jun 20, 08:41:00 PM 2009  

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