The question we should be asking ourselves this week is, why do we have this festival known as Chanukah? The obvious answer is, because the Jewish people were saved from the Greeks and there was the miracle of the only can of oil which was found with the seal of the Kohen Gadol. But so what?! Throughout the whole of history, we can find similar stories to the one of Chanukah and other miracles which occurred to the Jewish people, but we don´t make a festival for each one!

There are three transgressions which we are commanded not to commit under any circumstances, even if it means sacrificing one´s own life. They are adultery, murder and idolatry. What is special about these three? The Torah hints to us that these transgressions have such a negative spiritual impact that it is better for the person to sacrifice his physical life for the good of his Neshama:

Murder: Cain kills Abel, and as a result Cain is disconnected from his home and place, making him a wanderer, a person who has lost his identity to such an extent that he feels that his own life is at a constant risk.

Idolatry: Am Israel worship the golden calf at Mount Sinai, resulting with G-d´s threat to destroy the entire nation. The first tablets had to be smashed and remade in order to make the point that the only way of correcting this terrible sin is by starting from the beginning.

Adultery: Zimri had relations with Kozbi the Midyanite, causing Pinchas to take the law into his own hands and killing both of them, which prevented the continuation of the plague which had already killed 24000 people.

Throughout history until this very day, the Jewish people have been constantly persecuted and have fought many bloody wars costing them millions of lives only because they are Jewish. All this was never enough to extinguish the light of the Jewish nation, on the contrary, as it says in Parshat Shemot, “the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied”. What was unique about the Greeks was that they were not interested in destroying Am Israel physically, but spiritually. This they knew would be the only way to really achieve what so many nations of the world have tried and are still trying – and they were right!! However, the beauty of Chanukah is that the light of Am Israel was not extinguished. And as we know, one of the ways in which we remember a loved one who has passed away, is by lighting a Ner Neshama. A light symbolises the Neshama, and at the same time the saved soul of Am Israel is symbolised by lighting the candles.

What could be a more suitable Parsha for Shabbat Chanukah than Miketz? Yosef becomes a ruler in Egypt and is even given a new Egyptian name. The name of a person according to Jewish tradition means so much about his character, but nevertheless Yosef still remains the same Yosef spiritually. We see that the Torah continuously calls him Yosef and not the Egyptian ruler or ´Tzafnat Panaiach´. When Ya´akov saw the calf which Yosef had sent to him in order to remind him the last subject they had learnt together, “egla arufa”, Ya´akov knew that Yosef is still the same Yosef in the spiritual sense (Rashi).

My hope is that this Chanukah will symbolise the end of the spiritual and physical persecution of the Jewish people, and that we must always remember that whatever happens to us, AM YISRAEL CHAI!!!