Chanukah VII - The beauty of Greece vs. the beauty of Yosef
The Parshat ha-Shavu'ah
for Chanukah always falls on the weeks we read the story of Yosef (Joseph) and his brothers. Nothing is considered "coincidental" in Judaism. There is a definite connection between the story of Yosef and Chanukah.
For one thing, much of the struggle of the Chashmona'im was against the Jewish Hellenists who wanted to assimilate and enbrace Greek culture. Thus, internecine battles were fought between brothers, recalling the original battle of the brothers. But there is a much deeper connection.
Based on the verse, ××¤×ª ×?×××? ×××¤×ª ×××©×× ××?××× ×©×? - yaft Elokim l'Yefes v'yishkon b'ohalei Shem
-- "Ascribe beauty to Yefes, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Gen. 9:27).", the Talmud (Megilla 28b) says that a Torah scroll is only kosher if it is written in Hebrew or Greek (!). According to R' Yishma'el (Mishna, Shekalim 8a), the letters on the lishkat ha-Teruma
(the collection boxes in the Temple) were written in Greek: Alpha, Beta, Gamma. The Kohen Gadol was anointed by smearing oil on his head "in the shape of the Greek letter, Xi (Î)" (Horayos 12a).
The beauty of the Greek language and writing were clearly appreciated by the Sages. As mentioned, though, the Greeks culture valued external beauty - the human body, art, architecture. Even their intellectual pursuits were limited to what could be seen and proven.
The Torah (Gen 39:6) describes Yosef as ××¤× ×ª×?×¨ ×××¤× ××¨×?× - yefei to'ar v'yefei mar'eh
- "handsome of form and handsome of appearance". In Ya'akov (Jacob)'s blessing he says ×× ×¤×¨×ª ×¢×× ×¢××, ×× ××ª ×¦×¢×× ×¢×× ×©××¨ - ben porat alei ayin, banot tza'adah alei shur
-- "[Yosef is] a charming one, a graceful son to the eyes; Daughters parade on the walls to gaze at him" (Gen. 49:22). The Medrash says that Princesses would toss their necklaces, rings, bracelets and earings just trying to get his attention. It was Yosef's charisma that brought him to effectively rule all of Egypt at the height of its power.
But Yosef ascribed all to Hashem. ×××¢××, ×?××§××? ××¢× × ×?×ª ×©×××? ×¤×¨×¢× - biladai; Elokim ya'aneh et sh'lom Par'oh
-- "It is beyond me; it is God who will respond to Pharoh's welfare" (Gen. 41:16). Even Pharoh recognized this: ×× ××¦×? ××× ×?××© ×?×©×¨ ×¨×× ×?××§××? ×× - ha-nimtza kazeh ish asher ru'ach Elokim bo?
-- "Can we find another like him - in whom rest the spirit of God?" (ibid v37). Further, despite being alone amidst one of the most sexually depraved of cultures (Egypt), Yosef was able to remain true to his faith and the teachings of his fathers.
Chanukah celebrates rising above cultural pressures, and using beauty in the service of God.
Every Mitzva has an element of hidur
, beauty. Only on Chanukah, however, do we try to achieve Mehadrin min ha-Mehadrin
(Shabbos 21b) - performing the Mitzva in the most beautiful manner possible.
Wishing you all blessings for a beautiful Chanukah. :-)