Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A War Waged to Preserve Jewish Spirituality

It's naive to think the Maccabees rebelled against the ruling empire only because they begrudged governance by outsiders. For over 200 years the Land of Israel was under foreign rule - so what suddenly happened? The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, who then ruled. Then came the Persians, and under Koresh the Second Temple was built. The next ruler of this land was Alexander of Macedonia. Control thereafter fell into the hands of the Greek Assyrians - so why did they revolt just now?

The answer we find in the Chanuka prayer, "In the time of Matisyahu ... when the vile [Grecian empire] wanted to blank out from Jews Your Torah and to have them transgress Your laws, Your wishes."

The Greek Assyrians saw man, or himself, as the "center" of adoration and ability. They did not object to man-made codes of behavior.

So as long as Jews accepted Torah as an intellectual effort, a book with sound advice for health, business or education, if that's what people wanted to pursue - they had no problem with this. What disturbed them was the association of Torah to aspects of divinity and sanctity. Against such claims they resisted oppressively. They prohibited all attributions in Torah to G-d and His will.

These Gentiles did not want to kill Jews. They wanted Jews to live with them. They wanted only to deny Jews their attachment to G-d. So they forced Jews to renounce their Jewish tradition or their beliefs in holiness and G-d.

To make things worse, a Jewish majority also opposed religious attitude and preferred the secular Grecian lifestyle. These assimilated Jews, known as Hellenists, joined the ranks of the Gentiles. During the war, they actually fought on the side of the Gentiles!

The Chanuka miracle happened in the merit of the few righteous Jews who could no longer tolerate the spiritual oppression of the Greeks.

Today, after some 2,200 years, things haven't changed much. This is why the Chanuka blessing reads, "... miracles you performed ... in those days - in ours." For this struggle is an age-old struggle. Today too the minority Jewish religious element has its opponents who want to wipe out from Jewish education all mention of G-dliness and holiness - to be replaced by artificial rationale.

Today's "reform movement" is the modern-day equivalent of those Hellenists. The reform outlook treats Torah as a "nice book" - but not a holy book. They say, it "most probably" was written by some unknown author or authors. But why unknown? They don't know. This much they would admit; The authors of this book must have been "very smart" or "wise". And why has it achieved such high readership? They'd rather not speculate. And why would they too base their not-so-religious behavior on this book as their "source" - well, it's a great book, right? They consider this book part-history, part poetry (anything but divine!). That it is the authentic gift of G-d to the Jews - let's not be ridiculous! No doubt they most probably have a problem with this "esoteric" concept of "G-d" in the first place.

Is there a difference between the Hellenists of then and the reform movement of today? Yes. The Hellenists knew the other side and strayed therefrom (that's my guess). Today's reformists, except for a bitter few, are "infants kidnapped from birth" - as The Rebbe calls them. They never knew or were exposed to religious aspects of daily Torah life. From birth they grew up in an assimilated Gentile environment. For example, chances are 100% not a single reform "rabbi" today has forgone a college degree.  And I'll bet, also, their "temples" demand "membership admission". Okay, it's not a gladiator show, but the Rabbi should give them a good show for their money. Prayers, as in synagogue, to Hashem - what's that?

Chanuka is a holiday of lights, wherein every day its light is amplified, and wherein these lights must illuminate in public to bring light to others - especially to those "kidnapped from birth."

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