KISLEV – NETZACH, MOSHE, AND THE COLOR PURPLE
“When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.” ~ Jenny Joseph
Welcome to Kislev – a month of wonder, light, miracles and inspiration. It falls in Israel, and the Northern hemisphere, at the darkest, wintery time of the year, thus the month is a perfect time to quietly reignite our own inner light and to stir new life into any slumbering dreams or visions. During the last week of the month (18 – 26 December), when the sun and moon are at their lowest ebb, we light the beautiful and inspiring lights of Hanukkah.
There are traditional foods associated with the biblical, Jewish holidays. On Yom Kippur, of course, it’s simply no food! On Rosh HaShanah we eat foods such as fish, with the head – indicating that one should aim to be the head and not the tail, apples and honey – symbolizing good health and sweet year, and carrots, cut in coins to trust for ample provision and income during the year ahead. Key elements on the Pesach/Passover table are matzah and lamb (if possible, otherwise chicken). At Shavuot the main dishes are dairy, especially cheese! At Purim, the three cornered, poppyseed filled Hamantaschen are a treat, and then, at Hanukkah, delectable sufganiyot / doughnuts and fried potato latkes abound.
DOUGHNUTS / SUFGANIYOT
Along with latkes – small, pan-fried, grated potato ‘pancakes,’ sufganiyot are the stars of Hanukkah treats. During Cheshvan the shelves in bakeries and supermarkets already start filling up with assorted doughnuts of all different flavors. When we probe into the reason for these two items, we find deeper meanings. Oil is the factor around which the Hanukkah story, and doughnuts and latkes, revolve.
Oil was a vital ingredient in the ritual service and the holy vessels in the Tabernacle and then in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It also was used to anoint the High Priest and kings. Interestingly, the dedication of the Tabernacle in the wilderness by Moses and of the Temple by King Solomon are called Hanukkat HaBayit – Dedication of the House. Hanukkah, therefore, is also referred to in English as the Festival of Dedication – a time to rededicate our ‘temples’ to the service of our Father in Heaven. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
The purest of olive oil was used as fuel to light the golden Menorah, in the baking of the showbread, and for the anointing oil. Oil, in the Torah, is synonymous with God’s Spirit of Holiness and, as reflected in the light of the flames of the beautiful Menorah, the holiness of the Torah itself. The Menorah was to be kept lit constantly as a reminder that the Presence and blessing of God, and the truth of His Word, shine forth constantly and bring light to the world. The seven lights of the Menorah are reflected in the seven Hebrew words of Zachariah 4:6, translated as: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the LORD of hosts. All we can do or accomplish is thanks to the gracious empowering of His Spirit.
We know, in the story of Hanukkah, that the invading Greek army desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and extinguished the lights of the Menorah. The miracle of the oil occurred when the Maccabees, led by the High Priest’s son Judah, miraculously overcame the powerful Greek army, and then cleansed and rededicated the Temple. Not wanting to delay, they relit the Menorah with a cruse of holy oil that had not been damaged. It was fuel sufficient for one day, but miraculously the lights kept burning for eight days – the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil. Hence the Hanukkah menorah has eight lights, plus the shamash – the “servant candle” that is lit first and used to light the other lights.
This is a lovely description of the festival by Les Saidel, a master baker originally from South Africa and now living with his family in the Shomron in Israel.
“At its essence, Hanukkah is about who we truly are as a people, a light for the nations, spreading the teachings and the truth of the Torah. This is physically manifested in the Hanukkah candles and in the oil soaked sufganiyot, reminiscent of the Menorah and the ritual breads in the ancient Temple. We sing and rejoice as we celebrate freedom from tyranny and oppression, remembering our golden age as a nation during the reign of King Solomon and as we yearn for the Messiah to reinstate us to our former glory.”
See Les Saidel’s recipe for Murbechet Bread below.
NETZACH – MOSES / MOSHE
Netzach – endurance, perseverance, victory. These are all strong and positive qualities that we understand to be those needed by leaders. In one sense we each should strive to be a leader and apply these qualities in our own lives. A true leader does not need to be physically powerful, a mental genius, or very wealthy. Sadly, much of global leadership today is corrupt and ego-driven and not focussed on the ultimate good of the people under their governance. Simon Jacobson, in his book Toward a Meaningful Life, describes a leader well: “Genuine leadership must give people a long-term vision that imbues their lives with meaning; it must point them in a new direction and show how their every action is an indispensable part of a purposeful whole. It is not enough for our leaders to teach us to be productive or efficient; they need to inspire us to change and to improve the world in a productive, meaningful way. A true leader wants nothing more than to give people pride [and self respect], to encourage people to stand on their own, as leaders in their own right.”
As a quintessential leader it is fitting that we remember Moses during Kislev, this month of miracles. His life was filled with miracles from his birth into a world of genocide, his infancy with two mothers -Yocheved and the princess of Egypt, his calling by God to speak for Him to Pharaoh, to the Israelites and to speak for the Israelites to God, his leading of His people through the wilderness, and, finally, his death and burial, which is believed to have been undertaken by God Himself.
The openly manifest miracles of God were performed through Moses via, firstly, the ten plagues in Egypt. The great miracle of the Israelites redemption from Egypt is called Yetziat Mitzrayim – the Exodus from Egypt. The Hebrew name for Egypt is Mitzrayim – which shares roots with the words tzara (constriction, trouble), meitzar (narrow straits), and tzirim (birth contractions). The splitting of the Reed Sea, the miracle that enabled their otherwise impossible escape from anguish was indeed like the miracle of the birth of a baby from the constrictions of the womb into new life. Although initially a reluctant spokesperson for God, Moses rises to become the greatest prophet in the Tanach by sharing God’s words and teachings with those redeemed by God. Words that have resounded through history and we receive as one who also was standing at Mount Sinai. By the time Deuteronomy is recorded, the book written in the voice of Moses, he has reached his full stature as the anointed leader and teacher of God’s people. Yet, he tells them:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me,
“They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deut.18: 15 – 18)
Who could this be but Messiah? And, indeed, in Hebrew, Mashiach, from the root meaning anointed, and Moshe share the same letters. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 5:13-14).
May Messiah come soon!
Fitting for a king! Many very beautiful flowers, in purple hues, are found in nature. The color is often associated with royalty and luxury. Many believe that purple obtained its leadership qualities via the royal family in the UK. From kings and lords to emperors and superiors, anyone in power seems fond of purple. A popular phrase indicates this: Born to the purple or in the purple – born to royalty. It also reflects courage, indicated by the Purple heart medal – awarded to US soldiers wounded in battle.
Other familiar phrases: Purple prose – a written poem or paragraph that is too elaborate Lay it out in lavender – being cool, very relaxed and in total control Shrinking violet – shy person who doesn’t express his or her opinions.
“Purple fosters creativity by awakening our senses while promoting the quiet [of mind] necessary to make intuitive, insightful observations.” ~ Kate Smith – color expert.
The warm, rich nature of the color calls for peace, compassion, and empathy. Purple has a wide spectrum of shades; such as magenta, mauve, plum, lilac, mulberry. Lavender, as one of its shades, and its connection with the fragrance of lavender. evokes feelings of nostalgia and romance. This violet shade, a tertiary color to purple, also presents a sense of mystery and reminds us that there still are so many great unknowns to be explored. It nudges us in a creative direction.
May we enjoy a month of warmth, peace, inspiration and creativity.
With many miracles and blessings,
A ritual bread offered in the Holy Temple. It was boiled, baked, and then fried in oil. I believe it to be the precursor of the modern bagel and doughnut. Eat together with your Hanukkah meal. Enjoy! ~ Les Saidel
2 cups semolina flour; ¾ cup water; 1 tsp. salt
Before you begin, half fill a pot with water and bring to the boil. Heat your oven to 275 degrees C.
Mix and knead the dough for 3 minutes by hand. It will be stiff and crumbly. Divide into 3 round balls and shape each like a pita – flat and round and the thickness of a finger.
Using a slotted spoon, dunk each in the boiling water for about 1 minute and place on a baking tray. Bake for 3 – 4 minutes.
While baking, heat a pan with oil about one finger deep.
After removing the bread from the oven, fry each in the hot oil and flip till golden brown on each side. Drain on a paper towel.