17 December 2017

The Dreidel – Symbol of Creation by R' Ephraim Sprecher

30 Kislev 5778
6th Candle of Hanukkah

NASA - Hybrid Galaxy - doesn't it look like a spinning top?

The Dreidel – Symbol of Creation
by R' Ephraim Sprecher
Originally published in Torah Tidbits #1255 
Parashath MiQetz, Dec. 15-16, 2017 / 28 Kislev 5778

Chanuka commemorates our victory over the Syrian-Greeks and the Hellenists – Jews who betrayed their own people in order to curry favor with the Gentiles.

Not much has changed in this respect in almost 2200 years. The battle continues. We cleaned up and purified the Beit Hamikdash, but were we truly liberated? The Greeks were ousted from our land, but were they removed from our minds? What light did the Menorah provide that proved that the battlefield victories warranted an annual celebration for the remainder of Jewish history, despite the Holy Temple's destruction two hundred years later?

The Midrash makes a strange statement about the Greeks. It states that Greece, a nation noted for its scholars, wisdom, and academics is the symbol of darkness (Bereishit Rabbah 2:4). We are a people with great appreciation for the intellectual, thus we find this statement baffling. The Bal Shem Tov explains that this concept is as simple as a Chanuka dreidel.

The earth is constantly spinning, like a Dreidel. In fact, all of creation is a rotating wheel, a dreidel. Things constantly change, revolve and become transformed. The earth is one huge Spinning Wheel. This is because all things, no matter what they are made of, have one root. Before they manifest themselves as they are, they pass through an interface known as "HYLE" (Ramban on Bereshit 1:1). A person's roles also change over time, providing and dominating one day, receiving and following the next. Nations, too, rise and fall.

Why do we play with a dreidel on Chanuka? Because, like Chanuka, the dreidel parallels the concept of the Beit HaMikdash, which spun things around in a number of ways. It manifested the concept of the revolving wheel by being the home of the Shekhina while its design was simultaneously engraved on High (Tanchuma, Pikudey 1; Zohar 1:80b).

Additionally, The Temple somehow limited the Divine Presence of a transcendental G-d to a physical space. As Shlomo Hamelekh put it, "Behold the Heavens, and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain You, how much less this Temple?!" (Melachim I 8:27).

Furthermore, it is impossible to rationally explain how human beings can influence spiritual realms and how a sacrificial animal can produce "a sweet savor" (Bereshit 8:21, Shmot 29:18) to G-d. Yet, G-d did constrict His presence to the Beit HaMikdash and did accept sacrifices as "a sweet savor." By doing so, G-d debunked the Greek model of rational philosophy, with the Beit HaMikdash – as we do with the dreidel.

The Greeks are "darkness" because the rational mind (or rather, the insistence to be rational always), limits one's possibilities. One becomes stuck, "engraved on the horn of an ox," and one can no longer think out of the box.

As Jews, we must always bear in mind that G-d has reasons that our reason cannot know. As G-d says "For MY thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways." (Isaiah 55:8). This is why we dare not despair, even in the longest darkest, tragic periods of personal and national life. This is what enabled the Maccabees to undertake the struggle to fight the spiritual darkness against all odds.

The essential quality of the Final Redemption, which we await, is that of the Beit HaMikdash, the revolving Dreidel, when we will see and know that, in fact, all is one; that G-d is One and G-d's Name is One (Zechariah 14:9).

May we soon see the arrival of the Mashiach, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, בב"א.

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