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Thursday, November 25, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

On Kislev 21 of the year 3448 from creation (313 BCE), there occurred the historic meeting between Shimon HaTzaddik and Alexander ('the Great") of Macedonia.

The Samarians, bitter enemies of the Jews, had convinced Alexander that the Jews' refusal to place his image in their Temple was a sign of rebellion against his sovereignty, and that the Holy Temple should be destroyed. The Kohen Gadol ("High Priest") at the time was Shimon HaTzaddik, the last of the "Men of the Great Assembly" who rebuilt the Holy Temple and revitalized Judaism under Ezra. On the 21st of Kislev Alexander marched on Jerusalem at the head of his army; Shimon, garbed in the vestments of the High Priest and accompanied with a delegation of Jewish dignitaries, went forth to greet him. The two groups walked towards each other all night; at the crack of dawn they met. As Alexander beheld the visage of the High Priest, he dismounted his horse and bowed respectfully; to his men he explained that he often had visions of a similar-looking man leading him into battle. Shimon HaTzaddik brought the emperor to the Holy Temple and explained that Judaism prohibits the display of any graven image; he offered to name all the male children born to priests that year "Alexander" as a demonstration of loyalty to the emperor (which is how "Alexander" became a common Jewish name). The Samarians plot was rebuffed, and Kislev 21 was declared a holiday. (Talmud Yoma 69a)

According to an alternative version, this episode occurred on the 25th of Tevet.

The Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum (1887-1979), was rescued from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, along with 1,368 other Jews, through the efforts of Rudulf Kastner, head of the Zionist rescue operation in Hungary (an earlier transport of 1,686 Jews had been rescued on Av 29). The Satmar community celebrates the 21st of Kislev as a day of thanksgiving.

Daily Thought

When G-d asked Abraham to take his son, his only son, the son he loves, Isaac, and raise him for an offering upon a mountain, G-d said, “please.”

He said, “Please stand for me in this test, so they will not say, ‘The other tests were of no substance.’”

The other tests included being thrown in a fiery furnace for not worshipping Nimrod.

Not complaining when he had to leave the land promised him so as not to starve.

Not flinching with fear when he ran to save his nephew from the powerful armies that had captured him.

Not wavering from his faith when he had been promised many children and not a single one had been born.

And all this would be unsubstantial if he would fail this one test?

Yes. Because all these tests only demonstrated that Abraham was a man with a cause.

It could have been that his stalwartness had less to do with G-d and truth than it had to do with his own self-identity and iron will to stick to his cause.

Until a challenge came that would not promote his cause, not affirm his identity, not contribute to his future, or any future. Something that could only burn down everything he had ever built. 

But it was truth.

When Abraham fulfilled that impossible act, G-d said, “Don’t do anything to the lad. Because now everyone will know that all you do is real.” 

Likutei Sichot vol. 20, pg. 73ff.