Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Do You Know What Channukah Is?

An excerpt from the writings of Rabbi Samson Hirsch, of blessed memory:

Pages 200-201
- Chanukah represents the clash of two doctrines, two views, two civilizations, capable of molding, training and educating those who until this very day compete for the mastery of the world. Hellenism and Judaism: These are the two forces whose effect upon the nations mark the historical development of mankind, and which surfaced in Judea for the first time in the days of Mattathias. Hellenism and Judaism: when examined in depth they are the two leading forces which today again are struggling for mastery in the Jewish world. (He wrote this in the 1800's in Germany)

There is an old prophecy, to our knowledge the oldest prophetic vision: "God will open the mind of Japhet, and He shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Genesis 9,27). If we grasp the meaning of the prophecy, it proclaims nothing less than that God will give Japhet mastery over the minds of men (יפת* is the hiphil* of *פתה) but only Shem will build homes where God's glory will find its dwelling place on earth. Japhet blossomed into יון* - the Greeks, the Hellenistic nations, whose mastery of all that is gracious and beautiful conquered the hearts of men. Shem blossomed into עבר*, the Hebrew nation which erected homes for God, and became the foundation of God's holy Law, of right and love. Both were charged to cover the animal nakedness of mankind, and were called upon to elevate man to rise in the image of God. Both were charged with educating Ham who personifies sensuality. Ham had seen his father's nakedness and told his brothers about it. Shem and Japhet took the cloth and, walking backwards, covered their father's nakedness. The prophet accompanies this scene with these significant words: "Blessed be the God of Shem, may Canaan (Ham's son) become his servant. God will open the mind of Japhet but will dwell in the tents of Shem. And may Canaan be a servant to them" (Genesis 9,26-27). The history of the world to this day is a fulfillment of these prophetic words. On the stage of history only two elements have appeared to dominate man's intellectual development and actions: Hellenism - the blossoming of the spirit of Japhet, which found expression in Greek culture, and Judaism - the spirit of Godly teaching lived and fulfilled by Israel.

It appears, however, that only the blessing, the victory and the fulfillment of the perception of God as proclaimed by Shem would prevail. The domination of minds by Japhetic culture would only be the groundwork for the houses of men into which the God portrayed by Shem would move and find his place on earth. At first minds would be receptive to Japhetic culture and then Shem's God will enter into the tents of man. While all others are subdued by Japhet, Shem will overcome Japhet.

(This paragraph is directly relevant for Christianity)

Page 207 - Japhetic culture offers man his own pleasure, his own sense of grace and beauty as the motive and measure for his own perfection; but it also leaves him subject to human shortcomings and weaknesses, errors, and delusions. The opposite delusive belief [Christianity] denies the possibility of man's ennoblement ["original sin"] and robs life on earth of all justification and happiness. The Law of the God of Shem, however, establishes God's will as the motive and measure of man's ennoblement. It teaches him what is pure and impure, refined and unrefined, holy and profane, that which pleases God and that which displeases Him. It demonstrates to man the boundary between freedom and servitude, shows him where freedom ends and subjugation begins in the spiritual-material, divine-earthly human being, and admonishes him: for the sake of your God be pure, be holy; for the sake of your God take hold of your life and dedicate and sanctify all of your earthly existence; ban all that is impure, unclean, unholy, contrary to freedom, displeasing to God, unworthy of man in the context of his spiritual and physical life, so that your surroundings be holy and pleasing to God, that God will dwell with you and accompany you, bless you and grant you good fortune, and that He shall not see in your the animal nakedness that is displeasing to God and unworthy of man, and abandon you. ונמשמרתה בכל דבר רע-כי ה' אלקיך מתהלך בקרב מחנך...והיה מחניך קדוש ולא יראה בך ער ותת (דבר ושב מאחריך (Deut. 23, 10,15)


· יפת Yafet
· Hiphil – a Hebrew grammatical form
· פתה Fetah – an opening
· יון Yavan – Japhet’s grandson, forerunner of Greek people and religion; Hebrew word for “Greece.”
· עבר Ever – Shem’s great grandson, Abraham’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather and teacher.

Excellent genealogical chart from (click on picture to enlarge)