Friday, December 14, 2012

Greek Olympics

The disease of Chanuka is Competition. I´m only good if I´m better than you.

The Greeks were the founders of the Olympics. Their philosophy was that a person is only worth something in comparison to someone else. Life is all about competing and winning.

Looking the best, acting the best, being the fastest, the smartest, the prettiest. That´s all that matters.

The Parsha tells us that Yosef had chen, charm. He had a unique form of beauty and attraction that stood out. Yosef was also the only person that the Torah has ever referred to as a tzaddik. This is because he lived alone in Egypt, with no one to compare himself to. He was just, well, Yosef.

Humankind often projects women with flawless skin, big eyes, full lips, small nose, pure white teeth, smooth and shiny hair, curvy body, wearing size 0 designer clothes, and they portray them as being happy because of those qualities and possessions.
They portray men as tall, with smooth skin, six packs, perfectly square jaws, with any woman at their disposal, quite literally at their disposal, stepping into their luxury car of choice,  and they define that that is what makes a man happy.

Society is extremely successful in being able to brainwash people into believing they should look a certain way, act a certain way, or be a certain someone, when in reality every single one of us is diferent. People are born to be different; no two of us are the same. We have different mindsets, different personalities, different emotional makeups, different intellectual capacities, different needs, different desires, different backgrounds, different strengths and weaknesses, different opinions, and different experiences. Even identical twins are different from one another.
There´s only one way in which we´re all the same: We´re all flawed human beings. We have defects and flaws that were given to us to improve and perfect them, in order to help us each fulfill our own individual missions in life.

Society likes to categorize people, with the intention of causing us to believe that we have fewer rights to be happy because we do not fit into the idealistic lifestyle. This is the reason that so many men and women hide away from society, and grow up thinking that there´s something wrong with them. This is also why a disproportionate amount of men and women carry the number of their local plastic surgeons in their back pockets.
Comparing ourselves to others is a sure way to knock our self esteems down to the ground, trample on them, and hose them down the drain.

There will always be those who are ´better´than us, and those who are ´worse´than us. Denying this, and trying to live the life of the subject of our envy,  will cause us to start wishing we were different people, causing thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness.

Here´s the main problem I see evolving from this. By trying to parallel or match another person, I still come up short of being them, but at the same time I´m coming up short of being ME. I´m not living their life, and I´m not living my life. So, am I even living? Breathing doesn´t mean I´m living. It means I´m alive. There´s an entire world of difference between being alive, and actually living.

Weighing ourselves against another, takes us nowhere, wastes a lot of time and energy, and puts us in an emotionally and psychologically awful place. As Albert Einstein so wisely quoted, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Contrary to  Greek ideology, Judaism teaches that the result of something is not what´s important, but rather the effort and motivation put into the act.  Pirkei avos explains: ¨L´fum tzaara agra¨ The harder the effort, the greater the reward.
A parent  who´s interested in teaching their child to be confident and healthy, will never tell them ¨I´m proud of you because you´re the best in your class¨, but rather, they´ll tell them ¨I´m proud of you because you really tried your best¨.

We all have intrinsic value as individuals. We´re not only good just in comparison to others.
The proof of this is another lesson from our sages: ¨Lo Alecha Hamelacha Ligmor¨, It´s not up to you to finish the task. What is up to me is to start it, and to give it my absolute best.

The Miracle of Chanuka is not just that we were a tiny army who won over a much more powerful one. It was an internal war that we won. It was a battle of  confidence and assurance. The Greeks tried to remove everything we stood for; everything that made us unique:

Shabbos, kashrus, bris milah, limud Torah, and rosh Chodesh.

These are five Mitzvos that are absolutely unique to the Jewish people. To replace these spiritual activities, they tried enticing us with their external enterprises fueled by competition and vanity.  But we didn´t fall for it! We stood up to fight! We fought against a life of externality! We fought against a life of competition! We fought against a life of emptiness!

And we won.

So when we celebrate Chanuka, we´re embracing our uniqueness. We´re recognizing our individuality and accepting the essence of who we are.

It´s no coincidence that the main character of the parsha this week is Yosef, who had reached spiritual perfection, being the solitary person to earn the title tzaddik. He achieved that by having no one to compare himself to, and therefore being able to use his own potential by being true to himself.

Chanuka means that the only person I need to be better than, is the person I was yesterday.

Have a beautiful shabbos, a happy Chanuka, and a chodesh tov!