The Clash of Cultures

by Rabbi Jacob Rupp November 27, 2017


Menorah lit for Hanukkah celebration.  Please see my portfolio for other holiday related images.

How can you measure success in spirituality?” I asked a recent guest on my podcast, Lift Your Legacy.

He replied that I was asking a question that was rooted in the Greek way of seeing the world.

It is ironic how the story of Chanukah, while widely celebrated and recognized as the “Jewish holiday” is misunderstood by most everyone, especially Jews.

It promotes a message that is highly controversial, and unbelievably important.

The epitome of the struggle wasn’t about religious freedom or military conflict.  It was a war of worldview.  Whose lens on reality was correct?

The Greek world is straight forward; linear, logical, measurable. External. That which we can perceive and measure exists.  That which we cannot either doesn’t or isn’t relevant.

The Jewish world is the opposite; real life, growth, and meaning can’t be measured in the physical world.  Spirituality isn’t physical; G-d can’t be discussed within man’s understanding.  Moral choices and the soul are real; many of the classic benchmarks of human achievement aren’t (ego, wealth, external appearance).

The Greek world saw the external.  The Jewish world was about seeing beyond that which was revealed.

But somehow Chanukah became about latkes and presents, and Jewish bragging rights that we have eight nights of gift giving and our non-Jewish neighbors only have one.

What’s gone in our lives is that which was uniquely Jewish.  Can we articulate our spiritual growth?  Is it a value?  Are we focusing on things that cannot be measured (our kindness, our spiritual development, our emotions, the quality of our relationships) or that which can (our bank account, our weight, our followers on Instagram)?

Do we feel spiritually illiterate, empty and bankrupt?  Are we too numb to feel it?

As a coach, I am firmly focused on the practical. How can we measure success?  But the truth is what we can measure should only be a jumping off point.  Are we building our health and wealth to serve something greater than ourselves?  What will our legacy be?  Do our spiritual leaders speak well, look good, entertain us, or inspire us to make meaningful changes in our lives?

As we move towards an ever more external world, we have to keep in mind what Chanukah is all about.  When the Jews won the military victory, there was a hint.  When the oil burned for eight days, the hint became an explicit message.  Seven is the number of nature.  Seven colors in the rainbow, seven days of the week, seven continents, seven seas.

Eight is to go beyond.  Eight is to exist in faith.  To operate and build even when you can’t see the results, and aren’t capable of seeing the results in this world, but at the same time to recognize that our Jewish legacy is that those intangible and immeasurable results are our legacy to the world, and every bit as real…even MORE important and real that the external measurements that we can grasp.

So for me, and for anyone else who needs to hear the message, there is more to life.  There is spirituality, there is G-d, there is eight.  And sometimes we can feel it, and experience it, and sometimes we can’t, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

As the rabbis teach us, Chanukah is the festival of light; The secret of the candle is that a little light can fill a room of darkness.  And the soul of man is the candle of G-d.  So no matter how much distraction is out there, and how the odds are stacked against us as a nation, and as people, and personally, how many challenges we have, we don’t need much to turn the tide in the other direction.

How bright is your candle?  What can you do to make it brighter?  And when your candle is lit, who else’s candle can you ignite?


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