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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.

During Chanuka, we add a special paragraph of praise/thanksgiving to the amida known as “Al ha-nissim”.  The prayer briefly describes the essence of the holiday, focusing on how through divine assistance, the Jews managed to vanquish the Syrian-Greeks. According to “Al ha-nissim,” the main goal of the Syrian-Greeks was not annihilation but assimilation.  The method to accomplish this was “l’hashkicham Toratecha:” to make the Jews forget the (oral) Torah by replacing it with Greek culture. The confrontation between the Jews and the Greek was first and foremost a culture war. The Greeks sought to convert the world to their belief in the holiness of beauty and the primacy of physical prowess. The Jews saw as their mission the message of the beauty of holiness and the primacy of spirituality.

Though the Maccabees won the battle, this culture war continues on through history. Living here in San Francisco, we are immersed in a contemporary culture whose roots go all the way back to ancient Greece. If we do not have a daily regimen of Torah study to counter balance the impact of our surroundings, there is no way to prevent the erosion of our Jewish identity. It makes no difference if you are a rabbi, layman, man, woman, old or young: a daily dose of Torah is essential for you spiritual well-being. Just as your body needs food, your neshama needs Torah. And just like depriving your body of food is detrimental to your physical heath, so too depriving your neshama of Torah is detrimental to your spiritual heath. This issue is so important that the Talmud tells us that one of the first questions a person is asked after leaving this world is “did you have set times for Torah study”? I am fully aware of the fact that most of my readers are not yeshiva trained nor do they feel that they have the time to include Torah study into their daily schedule. However, over the past decade or so there have been numerous “lesson a day” books published (plus websites) on a variety of Torah topics that require only a limited investment of time. It is my job as your rabbi to also be your personal spiritual trainer. Therefore, this Chanuka give yourself the gift of Torah and please contact me ASAP to set up your customized spiritual training program (this service is included in your A.I. membership!).      

Have a great Shabbat,
Rabbi Landau