´¯`•. November 30, 2016

Happy Hanukkah!

Day Eight: The Grand Finale

A Yud Tes Kislev and Chanukah Drama
By: Rabbi YY Jacobson, reposted by Shirat Devorah
((and edited and commented upon by yours truly, of course))

It is a fascinating story: Judah has three sons, Er, Onan and Shalah. His oldest son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but died prematurely, without children. His bereft father, Judah, suggested to his second son, Onan: “Consort with your brother’s wife and enter into levirate marriage with her, and establish offspring for your brother.” …So Judah suggested to his second son Onan to marry his brother’s widow and perpetuate the legacy of the deceased brother.

Now, Judah’s second son also died prematurely without having any children. Judah refused to allow her to marry his third son, Shalah. Which put her in an impossible situation: she could not go out and marry anyone else, because she was bound to Shalah, but her father in law would not allow her to marry Shalah.

…Thus, following the death of both of Tamar’s husbands, she went and lured her father-in-law, Judah, into a relationship with her which impregnated her. As a guarantee that he would pay her for the relationship, Judah gave Tamar his seal, cord (2) and staff. “Some three months passed,” the Torah relates (3), “and Judah was told, ‘your daughter-in-law Tamar has committed harlotry, and moreover, she has become pregnant by harlotry.’” “Take her out and have her burned,” said Judah.

“When she was being taken out, she sent word to her father-in-law, saying, ‘I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles. Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, this cord and this staff?’ “Judah immediately recognized them, and he said, ‘She is right; it is from me [that she has conceived]. She did it because I did not give her to my son Shelah.’”

It is axiomatic among all of the Jewish biblical commentators that the stories in the Torah are not just tales relating ancient Jewish history. They also reflect spiritual timeless experiences that take place continually within the human soul. In his commentary on the book of Genesis, Nachmanides wrote: “The Torah discusses the physical reality, but it alludes to the world of the spirit (4).”

What follows, therefore, in this week’s essay, is …the story as symbolic of the inner spiritual life of the Jew. …Judah, or Yehudah, containing within it the four letters of the name of Hashem, symbolizes G-d. Tamar, on the other hand, is the Hebrew name for a palm tree, and represents the Jewish people and their bond with G-d (5). Why? The Talmud explains (6), that “just as the palm tree has but one ‘heart,’ so too do the Jewish people have only a single heart, devoted completely to their Father in heaven.” (The heart of the date palm is its sap. Unlike the saps of other trees, like the olive or almond tree, the sap of the palm is found only in its trunk, but not in its branches or leaves. This is the meaning behind the Talmudic statement that the palm tree possesses only a single “heart” (7)).

The intimate union between Tamar and Judah – the Jew and G-d – occurs during the sacred days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During those days, G-d, or Judah, exposes Himself to His people, evoking within them a yearning to transcend their ego and self-centered cravings and to become one with G-d. But then, some time passes, and the spiritual inspiration of the High Holy days wears off. Judah is informed that “Tamar, your Kallah (8), has committed harlotry, and moreover, she has become pregnant by harlotry.” The news arrives to G-d that His bride has betrayed Him, substituting him with another partner.

Is this not the story of so many of us? At one point during our lives we are inspired to transcend our selfish identity and connect to the deeper Divine rhythm of life. Yet, the cunning lore of numerous other gods captivates our imaginations and ambitions and dulls our vision. We substituted the G-d of truth and transcendence with the ego-god, the power-god, the money-god, the temptation-god, the addiction-god, the manipulation-god and the god of self-indulgence.

What is even sadder for Judah is the news that “Tamar” is so estranged that she became pregnant by harlotry. This symbolizes the stage in life when the Jew rejects the G-d of his forefathers permanently and decides to build his future with superficial sources of gratification. “Take her out and have her burned,” says Judah. The purpose of the Jew is to serve as the spiritual compass of human civilization, to bear witness to the truth of the One G-d, the moral conscious of the world.

…Rabbi Isaac Luryah wrote that “the judgment that began on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is completed some three months later, during the days of Chanukah.” That’s why it is at this period of time – three months after the intimate union between Judah and Tamar – that Judah (the metaphor for G-d) is “informed” regarding the spiritual status of Tamar (the Jewish people) and the verdict is issued that Tamar has no future.

…The Jew sends word to G-d, saying, “I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles!” The information you received that I abandoned you, is a blatant lie! If I have gone astray here and there, it is merely a superficial, temporary phase. Gaze into the deeper layers of my identity and you will discover that I belong to You, that my intimacy is shared only with You, G-d.

“Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, cord and staff?” For during the festival of Chanukah – when the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is finalized — the Jew kindles each night a wick, or a cord, soaked in oil, commemorating the event of the Jews discovering a sealed single cruse of oil after the Greeks had plundered the holy Temple in Jerusalem (9). The Jew further points to the staff in his arm (10). In order to preserve his faith, he was forced time and time again – for 2000 years – to take the wandering staff in his arm, abandon his home, wealth and security, and seek out new territory where he could continue to live as a Jew. …Our loyalty and commitment remain eternally to the owner of the “seal” and “cord” of the Chanukah flames; our deepest intimacy is reserved to the owner of the “staff” of Jewish wandering.

…When G-d observes the burning flames of the Chanukah menorah, He immediately recognizes that indeed, His people have never left Him. True, the Jew does fall prey at times to the dominating external forces of a materialistic and immoral world, yet this enslavement is skin deep. Probe the layers of his or her soul and you will discover an infinite wellspring of spirituality and love.

“If the Jew has, in fact, gone astray here and there, it is my fault,” G-d says, not his. “Because I did not give Tamar to my son Shelah.” Shelah is the Biblical term used to describe Moshiach (11),the leader who will usher in the final redemption. G-d says that for two millennia I have kept the Jewish nation in a dark and horrific exile where they have been subjected to horrendous pain and savage suffering. Blood, tears and death have been their tragic fate for twenty centuries, as they prayed, each day and every moment, for world redemption. But redemption has not come.

aNNa’S NoTe: How does the story end? Judah accepts that what she did was not harlotry – He was, indeed, the kinsman redeemer next in line. As for us? We have the seal – insignia – of Yehovah, and likewise, we have been given that which He opened in the SEAL judgments. We have the cord of Mosiach – the crimson cord seen in Jericho, saving the spies… the crimson cord wrapped around the neck of the scapegoat, saving us from sin – Messiah’s blood is our cord, and eschtologically speaking, I’ve written about the ‘cord of Mosiach’ before (also provided by Devorah!)- it is the promise of His deliverance via the rapture, saving us from the wrath that is to come. He is our Kinsman-redeemer.

If this teaching is true (and it sets right in my heart), then Hanukkah *is* the ‘grand finale’ of the fall feasts… the time when He says, ‘It is because I haven’t sent Messiah’. And then He saves us. What a story!

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