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Yehudah the Maccabee Arrested!

By Tzvi Fishman
12/14/2011, 10:12 AM

If Yehudah the Maccabee were alive today, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envision the top headline story:

“Israel police and the IDF announced today that a massive nationwide manhunt has led to the capture and arrest of 16 year old ‘Tag Machir’ leader, Yehudah the Maccabee, resident of Modin, who has been leading crazed and bloodthirsty Jewish settlers on violent attacks against Arab mosques and IDF bases. IDF Spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Helen Helinsky, stated that the manhunt will continue until the last Maccabee has been imprisoned.”

With the festive lighting of the Hanukah lights, the complete story of Hanukah is often overlooked. Most people remember the bravery of Yehuda the Maccabee, and the miracle of the small cruse of oil, but that’s about it. So, let’s take an abridged glance at the “Book of the Maccabees” to see how the saga began, and how it differs from our situation today.

With the Greek conquest of Eretz Yisrael, the Jews were forced to abandon the Torah and adopt the immoral ways of the foreigners. To win the acceptance and approval of their rulers, many Jews consented to worship idols and bring sacrifices to foreign gods, to leave their sons uncircumcised, and to defile themselves with every kind of licentiousness and perversion. These Hellenist Jews even joined forces with the enemy to hunt out and oppress Jews who kept faithful to the Torah. The "Book of the Maccabees" states:

“They put to death the women who circumcised their children, hanging the newborn babies around their necks; and they also put to death their families as well as those who had circumcised them. Nevertheless, many in Israel were firmly resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They preferred to die rather than be defiled by food or break the holy Covenant, and they were killed. Great was the wrath that came upon Israel.”

Appalled by the wholesale desecration of G-d, the attack on the Torah, and with the desecration of Jerusalem and the Temple, the holy Kohen, Mattityahu, moved his family to Modin. Greek officers came to Modin to force the Jews to renounce Hashem and sacrifice to foreign gods on their altars. Because of his position of influence and leadership, Mattityahu was chosen by the Greeks to lead the way in defying G-d and his Torah. When a Jew came forward to heed the command, Mattityahu slew him, along with the Greek officer, and pulled down the altar.

“Thus he showed his zeal for the Torah, as Pinchus had done toward Zimri. Then Mattityahu shouted out in a loud voice throughout the town, saying, ‘Let everyone who is zealous for the Torah and who would safeguard the Brit, follow me.’”

Mattityahu and his sons fled to the mountains, followed by all those who remained true to the Torah.

“They mustered an army and slew the (Jewish Hellenist) evildoers in their anger and the sinners in their wrath, while the rest fled to the gentiles to save themselves. Mattityahu and his comrades went about and tore down the altars, and circumcised by force as many of the children as they found in the borders of Israel, They pursued the contemptuous  and the work prospered in their hands. Thus, they rescued the Torah from the hand of the heathen and their kings, and gave no occasion for triumph to the (Hellenist) sinner.”

“When the days drew near for Mattityahu to die, he said to his sons, ‘Now arrogance and reproach have become strong. This is a time of destruction and anger. My children, be zealous for the Torah, and give your lives in behalf of the Testament of our fathers…. Of the words of a sinful man be not afraid, because his glory shall become dung and worms. Today he may be exalted, but tomorrow he will nowhere be found, because he has returned to his dust, and memory of him will have perished. As for you, my children, be strong and courageous in behalf of the Torah, for through it you will be glorified.”

“Then Yehuda, his son, who was called Maccabee, arose in his stead, and all his brothers helped him. As well as all those who were followers of his father, and gladly they fought Israel’s war. Yehuda spread his people’s glory far and wide. He donned a breastplate like a giant and girded on his weapons of war. He organized battles, protecting his camp with his sword. He was like a lion in his deeds, like a lion’s whelp roaring for its prey. He sought out and pursued those  who transgressed the Torah, and annihilated those who oppressed his people. Transgressors of the Torah cowered for fear of him. All workers of iniquity were thrown into confusion, and deliverance was accomplished by his hand. He went about among the cities of Yehuda, and from it he utterly destroyed the evildoers. Thus he turned away wrath from Israel. To the ends of the earth he was renowned, and he brought together those who were ready to perish” (From the Book of Maccabees).

Hanukah, my friends, is a lot more than eating jelly donuts and lighting candles. Hanukah celebrates the exalted holiness, bravery, and devotion to Torah, and to the Land of Israel, of Mattityahu and his sons, the most revered and renowned Jewish heroes of all time. Hanukah celebrates our nation’s victory over enemies from within and without.

Of course, times are different now. The Hellenists of today are not like the Hellenists of yore, who were at war with the Torah’s commandments, collaborating with the Greeks to uproot Shabbat, milah, the holidays, and Talmud Torah. Today's Hellenists are not total traitors to the Nation, wanting to be uncircumcized Greeks. They are Jews, however distorted, foreign, ugly, and mistaken their thinking may be. And, unlike the days of the Maccabees, when the Greeks ruled over Eretz Yisrael, and guerilla warfare was called for, today, thank G-d, Jewish sovereignty has once again been established over large portions of the Land of Israel. That means just as the uprooting of Jewish settlements is immoral and unlawful, violence against fellow Jews is immoral and unlawful as well.

We pray that the same spirit of fearless devotion of the Maccabees to Torah, to our G-d, and to our Land, will rise up amongst all of our People, and that the miracles that happened to our Forefathers, in those days, at this time, happen to us today, first and foremost, the miracle of clear Jewish thinking, epitomized by the Maccabees, shattering the darkness that surrounds us and revealing our Divine eternal light!