Hanukkah is for Identity

on Thursday, 13 December 2012.

Finding ourselves and finding God

In our Zohar Study Group today we read a great section on Vayeitzei, the Torah portion that begins with Jacob's dream of the ladder going up to heaven.  When he wakes from this dream Jacob says, "Hey, God was in this place and I, I did not know it."  We played with various interpretations of this phrase--there are many--but Zohar focused on the repeated "I", ultimately concluding that the extra "I" was about Jacob not yet knowing himself, reading the phrase, "God was in this place, and I did not know myself..." implying, "therefore I did not know that God was here."

I love this intepretation, literal or not.  First we need to understand ourselves, drop our pretentsions and anxieties, lose our busyness and our ego and arrogance and neuroses.  As soon as we can do that, as soon as we know ourselves, we know that God has been here with us all along.  

That's certainly true on Hanukkah, when we recall the Maccabees choosing identity over convenience.  Once they remembered who they were--real Jews, not tepid, assimilated modernists--they realized that they must stand up for their beliefs.  Remember Mattathias's dramatic words, "Let all who are with God stand with me!"

When we awaken to who we are, when we become fully present in this season and in every season, we realize that we are not at all alone, and that God is fully present, too.

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