20 December 2015

In Retrospect

The Maccabees of old lived in a very fortuitous time. Had they lived today they would be accused of extrajudicial executions of the poor Syrian Greeks who, after all, were only trying to kill them and improve their civilization. At least that is certainly how the Foreign Minister of Sweden would have seen the matter. But since Sweden at that time was inhabited by pagan tribes and there was no Internet or media to speak of, we really do not know what the Swedish attitude towards the Maccabees would have been. We can certainly surmise though that it would not have been a positive one.

And if the current president of the United States were alive then he would certainly have been critical of the use of arms just to purify the Temple and regain the territory and sovereignty that was rightfully Jewish. He would have advocated conferences, shuttle diplomacy and above all, the willingness to compromise with an enemy that openly professed the desire to destroy you no matter what concessions are granted to it.

And the Maccabees were also fortunate that the European Union did not exist then. If it had, then the olive oil that the Maccabees searched for and eventually found to light the great candelabra in the Temple would have had to be labeled as being produced in areas of the Land of Israel that were previously occupied by the Greeks and now subject to the “occupation” policies of those stubborn Jews.

Needless to say, had the United Nations existed then the Maccabees would have been the subject of many resolutions condemning their policies, actions and behavior. But as mentioned above, the Maccabees lived at a time when none of this nonsense existed and, perhaps, that alone is one of the great miracles of our holiday of Chanuka.

We are not as fortunate as the Maccabees. For us, all of the above is not a parody but rather the reality of the world in which we live. So, the holiday of Chanuka must come to give us hope and determination and a renewed belief in our cause and our rights.

The Maccabees faced not only powerful external enemies but an insidious internal foe as well. The Hellenists amongst the Jews were so influenced and enamored by Greek culture that they actively proposed steps that would have completely snuffed out the Jewish state and Judaism itself. The defeat of the Hellenists within the Jewish world was as vital to the triumph of Chanuka as was the military victory over the Syrian Greek oppressors.

The Hellenists distorted Judaism to make it fit their own Hellenist–Greek template of what they considered politically correct and their view of an advanced civilization. The Torah and Jewish tradition in their eyes was antiquated and deserved to be ignored and/or rewritten to fit the then seemingly modern Greek view of the world.

Well, the current day Hellenists are alive and well amongst us. They are the leading Israel bashers and tradition haters in the Jewish world. They are driven by a false vision of Jewish values and a complete misunderstanding of the role of Israel in Jewish and world affairs. They not only give comfort to our enemies but in many respects they are our enemies themselves.

The Maccabees, if they were alive today, would certainly recognize them as the heirs and followers of the Hellenists of old. We should also think of them in those terms and react accordingly to their baseless charges and pernicious programs.

The recent spate of Islamic radical violence the world over has yet to change the mindset of the Western world regarding Israel. The Palestinian narrative regarding Israel is so fixed in the minds of Western academia, media and political leadership that almost no facts, no matter how obvious they may be, can somehow expose that narrative for its basic falseness.

The world has long known that the Jews are the canary in the mine. Nevertheless, the world not only tolerated but in many respects even encouraged Islamic violence against the Jewish state and its citizens. After all, only Jews are being killed and Israel is the catalyst for all the violence that wracks the Middle East.

But as Pastor Neimoller commented regarding the Nazis, they first came for the Jews and no one rose to object or protect them. Eventually they came for everyone and there was no one left who could object or protect the innocent. Well, they have now come for everyone, everywhere in the Western world. The Maccabees would certainly recognize our current world and they would instill within us the courage to resist annihilation and to rekindle the lamp of hope that Chanuka symbolically represents.

From a Shiur on Miketz by Rabbi Berel Wein Shlit"a

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