Miketz 5778 - The Great Freeze
In the early hours of last Sunday, winter made a dramatic appearance. Snow, ice and freezing weather made for ferocious driving (and walking) conditions, even as the kids were excited and thrilled to frolic in the snow, and finally get a rare chance to create a snowman.
Having spent my adolescent years in the frigid climate of Minnesota, these conditions held no fear for me. I was, however, amazed at how chaotic everything was, with treacherous roads and downed trees.
Clearly, wintry conditions - anywhere in the world - create delays, inconvenience, danger and uncertainty. And modern societies don't like it. It shifts us out of the comfort zone.
We, of the advanced and sophisticated 21st Century, expect things to run like clockwork. We thrive on structure, planning and logic. With technology and innovation we have become accustomed to being in total control. We dislike anything which threatens the carefully choreographed steps we generate in our daily life. Snow and icy conditions challenge this assumption, causing our best-laid plans to be adjusted - sometimes substantially so.
Comfort zones is also the background to Chanukah. What the Hellenist enemy despised about the Jews was not our practice of Judaism per se. They did not object to behaviour which, while different, was rational and structured. One which was compatible with normal human behaviour. What they did resent, and resist, was the notion that Jews believe in, and have a relationship with, G-d. That we submit to a Higher Authority.
The Hellenist view - which has never disappeared - is that this world is ours to do as we please. It is under our control, and for our enjoyment. It is our comfort zone. Judaism challenges this notion."The earth and all therein is the Lord's" [Psalms. 24:1].
We are here by invitation. G-d offers us the world to enjoy. We return the favour by creating and deepening a relationship with Him. Inevitably, this requires sacrifice - to step out of our comfort zone. But, think about the flip side - we sacrifice for G-d, and G-d sacrifices for us. We give a little of ourselves. And G-d gives plenty in return. What a great partnership! Happy Chanukah!
RABBI MENDEL LEW