One of the four fast days of the year connected to the destruction of the Temple is the 10th of Tevet. A second reason for the fast is due to the fact that on this day seventy Sages, who were forced to translate the Torah into Greek, finished their work. Ironically this fast day comes only a week after the end of Chanukah when we celebrate the Jews victory over the Greeks! Even though chronologically the translation of the Torah into Greek occurred before the holiday of Chanukah, nevertheless it comes out in the cycle of the calendar after Chanukah.

From this we learn that although we celebrate Chanukah and the eternal light of the Jewish soul to rise up victorious in all circumstances, the battle is not a one time occurrence, but is continued through out the generations. The Torah and its value system of law, ethics, human advancement and morality have had an enormous impact on the entire world and in a every sphere of human endeavor, far greater than most nations and religions would like to admit. In regards to a material life style though, the Greek influence is predominant world wide, especially in what we call Western culture, which today influences the consciousness of people everywhere. The emphasis on materialism and the importance of appearances, the pervasive and crude manner in which sexuality is portrayed in all forms of media, the glorification of the body and the mania of sports, the central place of rock and movie stars as cultural heroes and the quick fix mentality of instant gratification all are an extension of Greek culture.

When Noah blessed his son Yafet, from whom the Greeks were descended, he said: “God shall enlarge Yafet and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem” (Genesis 9:27). Yafet comes from the word yafe, “beauty ,” which encapsulates the essence of the Greek infatuation with physical beauty. Shem was the father of the Semitic people from whom the Jewish people descend.

Intrinsically there is nothing wrong with physical beauty, sexuality, sports, theater, art or any other manifestation of Greek culture as long as they “dwell in the tents of Shem.” When physicality is in the context of spirituality, they form a beautiful unity and harmony, but when the pursuit of material pleasure and gratification overwhelms all other goals or joys in life, what remains is a hollow shell of superficiality and frustrated desires.

The 10th of Tevet reminds us that the battle of the Maccabees is far from over and far from won. Only when Noah’s blessing to Yafet is realized will the world “enlarge” its narrow borders of consciousness, in order to dwell within the eternal tents of Shem.