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The Greeks and Us

By: Ms. Chavi Samet

The pasuk in Bereishit states "Yafta Elokim LiYefet viyishkon bohalei Shem"- "and Hashem enlarged Yefet and they dwelled among the tents of Shem." Here, the Gemara in Megilla comments and says "Yofyuto shel Yefet b'Ohalei Shem"- the beauty of Yefet will be in the tents of Shem. We understand that Yefet here refers to the ancestor of the Greeks and that Shem refers to Am Yisrael. If this is the case, how can we say that the culture, the beauty of the Greeks can be a part of our Jewish culture and that it is a positive thing?

The fact that the Greeks tried to convert the Jews from a spiritual, G-d centered way of life to a more physical, aesthetic one and desecrated the Beit HaMikdash in the process is hardly a beautiful or positive thing! Based on the aforementioned pasuk, the chachamim allowed the Torah to be translated into Greek. Rav Kook explains that there is a difference between the language and style of something written and its' content. The language of the Torah is something external and is permitted to be translated as long as the content and messages of the Torah remain uninfluenced and unchanged.

If we think about this on a deeper level, we may perceive the underlying struggle between kedusha and chulin, the holy and the profane or secular that affects our daily lives as well. Rav Kook says that these two principles need not clash. He clearly states that one can not live a life that merges both holy and secular principles as an ideal. However, if only the external trappings of our life are shaped by the modern world then it is a life we can live. Just as Shlomo HaMelech approached Chidon Melech Tzor, a non Jew, to donate materials to build our holy temple but left the actual building to Jewish hands, so too we may incorporate the external materials into our lives as long as the Kodesh in our lives remains untouched. The moment that the Greeks try to force their way of life on us, to enter our inner Mikdash and desecrate it, we can no longer remain passive. That is where the beauty ends and the struggle begins.

May we all be able to keep this in mind as we light the candles this year, whether we are in Chutz La'Aretz or in Yerushalayim. Chag Urim Sameach!








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