Chanuka is the time of year when we Jews would do well to conduct a `complacency test’. There are so many facets of life about which we rightfully say “we’re doing the best we can,” or “this is not so important.” And while this attitude is good and right for those things that are not crucial for our mission on this earth, we do need a periodicexamination to make sure we’re not misapplying this laid-back, chilled approach to life.
Looking back to the Chanuka story in the times of the Chashmonaim, with Greek oppressors outlawing fundamentals of Jewish practice, the vast majority of our people simply threw up their hands and said “we’re doing the best we can,” and succumbed to the pressure to conform (in one manner or another) with the Hellenists. It was only through the efforts of a small band of “extremists” that we were able to hang on and overcome the overwhelming odds against us. It took a small group of people who were not satisfied with the status quo, who turned the tide of history.
The backdrop to these events, as explained by the Bach’s commentary to the Tur Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 670) was an atmosphere of complacency about the service in the Bais HaMikdash. People were no longer animated or passionate about the daily sacrifices. They took them for granted, going through the motions in rote compliance of the halacha. This less than desirable approach resulted in Hashem taking away the opportunity to perform this service, until the fire and passion of the Chashmonaim brought back the holy service to the Jewish People.
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski has commented that the only way to be successful in raising the new generation of our day is to make them into “Mesillas Yesharim” Jews. It can’t just be business as usual, or “we’re frum because our parents are.” Rather, it means a passion for Torah, a zeal for Mitzvos and a deep, heartfelt love for one’s fellow Jew. The negative spiritual forces arrayed against our children from a hostile, hedonistic society are perhaps more overwhelming than those of the Hellenists. Lukewarm Yiddishkeit won’t protect them – fire and excitement will. Our children deserve, and need this kind of upbringing.
Complacency has no place in the service of Hashem and the fulfillment of His mitzvos. Being laid-back and chilled is for our material desires and poor Midos. Our love for Torah must be red-hot. Let’s embrace this message of Chanuka and inspire ourselves and our children to rekindle the flame of Mattisyahu and his sons and followers, and live a life of excitement and enthusiasm for Torah and Mitzvos!
Best wishes for an inspiring Shabbos and an illuminating Chanuka,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann