Chanukah: Fighting a Cultural Revolution

The ancient Judeans waged a battle for freedom.

Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen,

 Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
INN:YH
For an entire generation, the ancient Judeans waged a battle for freedom, which, in terms of its intensity of resistance, has almost no parallel in all human history. It was the first recorded struggle for national liberation in the moern sense, and it laid a pattern for
Resistance to Gentile tyranny is the highest and truest obedience to G-d.
many movements that followed in its wake. With an unbreakable faith and willingness to sacrifice, a handful of valiant Hebrew warriors forged the eternal understanding that resistance to Gentile tyranny is the highest and truest obedience to G-d.

In those years, the "cultural revolution" to which the Syrian-Greek Empire aspired was at its peak. Hellenist culture was brought to Jerusalem by means of harsh edicts and the daggers of foreign soldiers. The victimization of the weak, rampant debauchery and the desecration of the Temple were the pinnacles of the enlightened Greek culture bestowed upon Judea. In Jerusalem, the progressive aristocracy yearned to be citizens of Antioch and to make Jerusalem a Greek Polis like all others throughout the empire.

When the revolt arose, it came from the common folk who remained loyal to G-d's truth and to the spiritual heritage of their fathers. They were led by the Hasmonean family - Matityahu ben Yohanan HaKohen and his five courageous sons. The revolt broke out in Modiin and spread like wildfire throughout the Judean hills. After Matityahu's death, his third son, Yehuda, inherited the leadership. He was "the Maccabee." His forces moved in two channels that were in fact one - war upon the Hellenist culture and war against Syrian-Greek occupation. Two wars with one direction - Hebrew independence in Eretz Yisrael.

The Maccabean revolt was not merely a struggle to revoke harsh decrees or to secure freedom of worship. According to Torah Law, complete national independence and political sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for proper religious observance. HaShem's Divine blueprint for history demands that Israel be independently sovereign over the borders of our country.

The Hasmoneans were ferociously determined. After several Judean victories and the liberation of the Temple Mount, the enemy offered a truce. Freedom of worship would be restored to the natives in exchange for ending their violent revolution. There were some within Israel naive enough to be content and halt the fighting. A misunderstanding of Torah caused those weak in spirit and tired of war to believe that they had already achieved their objectives.

The Hasmonean faction, however, understood that they were required by G-d's Law to liberate their country and not simply live within it as religious individuals under a foreign regime. They also knew that without complete national independence, there could be no lasting peace in Judea (nor would there be freedom to worship G-d fully, as the spirit of Greece could again seek to dominate). Yehuda declared the revolution would continue until complete political independence could be won. After nearly three decades of war, the Hasmoneans triumphed and the Kingdom of Israel was restored.

When the Seleucid Greek Empire persecuted Israel, the devout heroism of the Hasmonean family awakened national aspirations for political independence. This desire for freedom, which had not strongly surfaced in Israel before the oppression, was catalyzed by cultural persecution, and the reaction it brought from Matityahu and his sons. National liberty was eventually declared and this declaration itself served as a sacred barrier against the forces of Hellenization. The very desire for national independence psychologically impedes assimilation into governing nations. Yet, without Matityahu and his sons - the holy warrior-priests who imbued the political ideal with spiritual content - the revolution would have lacked sufficient force to fight and withstand the hardships of war.

G-d demonstrated this through the miracle of the oil. The pure cruse with the seal of the High Priest shone brightly, its light permeating the soul of the Nation and bestowing upon Israel the strength to fight on until complete victory.

Perhaps the most important lesson of Chanukah is that light is not merely another creation, but in fact Creation's ultimate goal. The Maharal of Prague teaches, in Ner Mitzvah, that the world was created deficient so that it could perfect itself and be perfected through mankind with free will - to participate with G-d in bringing the world to its objective. The more G-d's light is revealed to mankind, the closer this world comes to fundamental perfection. It is the mission of Israel to elevate the world and bring Creation to the ideal Divine state it is destined to achieve.

Israel's mission, however, can only be accomplished through the Jewish People's sovereignty, as a living Nation in the Land of Israel with the Torah as our national
Political sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for proper religious observance.
constitution. Only through this criterion can Israel lift the veils of reality and expose the Divine light constantly present, thus revealing G-D as the intangible Oneness that sustains and permeates all.

While this reality of G-d's grandeur is always true, it is often hidden from Man's consciousness by curtains of perception. It therefore becomes possible for a person to acknowledge his own life while denying the existence of the G-d Who created him and provides his every moment of being. It is Israel's task to tear down the curtains and reveal the Divine light of existence - to bring the world to a state of perfection in which HaShem's Truth will be obvious to all humankind.

Although G-d's hand is hidden in day-to-day events, He continues to work through the system that He created in order to return that very system back to the full expression of His splendor. Through a Divinely guided historical process, all of existence is sanctified and revealed to mankind as the subordinate conception of HaShem. Not only
supernatural miracles, but the entire world, with all of its natural laws, is driving towards Creation's ultimate perfection through Israel's national renaissance on our soil. This idea is clearly illustrated by the last century of world history. The full revival of the Israeli kingdom will remove the remaining curtains that prevent mankind's perception of G-d's Divine unity and sovereignty over all.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto teaches. in Derech HaShem, that G-D placed forces of evil into this world in order to enable free will and human growth. This evil has the task of working to prevent HaShem's light from shining and Creation from reaching its ultimate goal. Throughout history, this evil has manifested itself as four human empires, each attempting in its own unique way to impede Israel from reaching our full potential as the holy Kingdom that will bring the light of G-d's Truth to mankind. This is the cosmic battle between light and darkness waging down through the ages of civilization.

Four kingdoms - Babylon, Persia, Greece and Edom - that have usurped Israel's reign and have dominated the Globe throughout most of world history emerged from the inherently deficient nature of existence. These empires aim to hold back G-d's light through obstructing the fulfillment of Israel's complete national framework. Each of these nations, however, has had its own distinct method for interfering with Israel's national destiny.

Knowing that the Hebrew Nation must be in Eretz Yisrael in order to fulfill our role, the Babylonians worked to physically separate the Nation of Israel from the Land of Israel. They exiled us from our borders and provided us with comfortable lives in a foreign land. This simple separation, although Jews remained Torah-observant in the exile, was enough to prevent Divine light from being revealed. The soil of Babylon was simply not conducive to Israeli holiness and our Divine national mission.

The Persians had a different approach. Haman sought to completely annihilate the Hebrews. As a descendant of Amalek, he could not stand to live in the same world as the Jewish Nation. By removing the bearers of G-d's light from Creation, he believed he could succeed in snuffing out the Divine flame.

Greece did not try to take the Jews from our borders, nor did they initially attempt a physical destruction. Instead, they strove to separate the Nation from G-d's Torah through harsh decrees and cultural pollution. The Torah of Israel intellectually threatened the Hellenists, who valued human intellect above all else and could not tolerate wisdom beyond their comprehension. Because the light of Torah was so far beyond their human grasp, and because it contradicted so many of their philosophical beliefs, the Greek Empire felt the need to uproot it from the world. They implemented tyrannical edicts, inciting Matityahu and his sons to revolt.

These three empires each attacked an essential ingredient to Israel fulfilling our purpose in Creation. The fourth kingdom, however, which first emerged as the Roman Empire and has taken on many national manifestations since, is a combination of all three attempts in greater, more destructive and more concentrated form.

Throughout the last two thousand years, the Western world (Edom) has tried its hand at all three methods on numerous occasions. Three recent examples are the terrible
The eternity of Israel will be proven through a great triumph as we reclaim our mantle.
Holocaust in Europe only six decades ago, Great Britain restricting Jewish immigration to our homeland, and the Soviet Union forcibly separating its Jews from the Torah. The world's insistence today on not permitting Israel to reign sovereign over full borders is a modern expression of this evil force, certainly aware that its end is near.

A candle flickers brightest immediately before it is extinguished; and today, the world is ready to amass itself against the bearers of G-d's Truth. As the Nation of Israel is being reborn and rebuilt on our native soil, the forces of evil are gathering all of their strength to wage a final, earth-shattering battle. In the wake of Israel's glorious victory, Edom's hypocrisy will be unmasked and mankind's thinking will be liberated from the cultural tyranny of two thousand years. Concepts of good and truth will be elevated to meanings of newer and higher significance. The eternity of Israel will be proven through a great triumph as we reclaim our mantle of leading the world and revealing HaShem's grandeur to all of mankind.


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