Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
Rabbi Yitschak RudominCourtesy

See: "War is not new to Israel" (Oct 16, 2023); "Jewish wisdom during war" (Oct 23, 2023); "Abraham's principles in war and peace" (Oct 31, 2023); "Facts and truths amid the fog of war" (Nov 13, 2023); "Samson in war and peace" (Nov 26, 2023), "The indestructible Jews in peace and war" (Dec 5, 2023).

It is not an accident that the Jewish festival of Hanukkah always coincides each year with the weekly Torah readings from the book of Genesis about Jacob and the stories and struggles between his twelve sons. Everything concerning the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the Torah, creates patterns, blueprints and templates affecting their descendants for the entirety of Jewish History until the end of time. This is codified in the principle that classical Judaism calls ma'aseh avos siman lebanim ("the deeds of the forefathers are a sign for their descendants'') or ma she'ira le'avos ira lebanim ("what happened to the forefathers happened to their descendants''). Thus, what the Torah reports about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their families are not just "stories" but they are in a way prophecies about what will happen all throughout Jewish History to the Children of Israel and later to the Jewish People.

The sibling rivalry, suspicion, jealousy and infighting between Jacob's sons, namely between Joseph and his brothers who schemed to kill Joseph but instead sold him into slavery is the "template" that determines the narrative of the events surrounding the background to the original Hanukkah story when split occurred in the Jewish People at the time between Jewish Hellenists who were those who wished to follow in the ways of the Greeks on the one hand, and on the other hand were those who wished to follow in the traditional ways of the Torah under the leadership of the Hasmoneans also known as the Maccabees.

In a nutshell, what we are talking about is the concept of unity among the house of Israel - or disunity. The split between Joseph and his brothers in the Torah presaged and in some sense prophesied about a future time when the Jewish People would be split into two main rival camps with conflicting ideologies as to how to be "good Jews"! Leading up to the events of Hanukkah and as a backdrop to the actual physical war between the Jews of Judea and the Seleucid Greeks based in Syria was another even greater and more ominous cultural war of conflicting and contradictory values and principles.

The assimilationist Hellenistic Jews (Misyavnim) in Hebrew bought into the Greek (Yevanim) notion that ancient Greek Philosophy was far superior to the ancient Judaism that was practiced by the followers of the Hasmoneans who were led by the Jewish Temple's High Priest of the time Matisyahu and his family who were not only Jewish spiritual leaders but also eventually victorious Jewish military leaders who beat the Greeks at their own game of making war during the Maccabean Revolt (167–134 BCE).

The split in Jewish Life was not over with the victory of the Maccabees but continued into Roman times that followed the Greek era with the split within the Jewish People between the Sadducees who rejected the Oral Torah and the Pharisees who upheld both the Written and Oral Torah and who were the embodiment of ancient Rabbinic Judaism.

In retrospect the divisions and the divisiveness and lack of unity among the Jewish People during the Graeco-Roman period was not the first time in Jewish History that they were majorly split. There was a calamitous splitting of the Children of Israel between 926–922 BCE when the united Kingdom of Israel split into two and there were two Jewish kingdoms: The northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. In around 722 BCE the northern kingdom of Israel was to eventually succumb to the aggression of the Assyrians and be conquered and exiled as the Ten Lost Tribes.

The patterns of history that originated with the split between Jacob's sons was manifested when ten of the tribes within the northern kingdom of Israel descended from ten of Jacob's sons were lost, as a Divine punishment, to the Jewish People who would continue first as the southern kingdom of Judah until being conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the destruction of the First Jewish Temple. When many Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to again live in the Land of Israel the country was again called Judah or Judea.

According to classical Judaism the destruction of the First Jewish Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE was because of avoda zara, gilui arayos, shefichas damim — idol worship, sexual immorality, murder. The Second Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 CE because of sinas chinam — causeless hatred, people hated each other which is the greatest cause and symptom of disunity between Jews and was followed by the longest exile of all stretching for two thousand years.

In recent history God has given the Jewish People another chance of the ingathering of the Jewish exiles to modern Israel. Nevertheless as the saying goes: "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it"! Even though the Jewish People has been blessed with incredible and miraculous success in the process of building up the new, but very old, country of Israel, the Jewish People must never forget that disunity, infighting and hating each other will only reinvoke the curses and punishments that comes with civil discord and rejection of God and the Torah.

With the advent of modern times such as from the Renaissance beginning in the 1300s to the 1500s and the Enlightenment from the 1600s to the 1700s and rise of the Jewish Haskalah movement from the 1700s to the 1800s and the growth of Liberalism, Nationalism and Socialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that many of Europe's Jews were attracted to. This was also done in a milieu and world outlook of a Secular, Humanist and even Atheist framework. These became the beliefs and ideological outlooks and philosophies of many non-religious Jews who moved to modern Israel who today make up the non-religious camp/s that were in the forefront of opposing the recent proposed judicial reforms in Israel put forth by the ruling Likud and religious parties that won a majority in the November 2022 Israeli elections.

The divisiveness and division within Jewish Israeli society prior to the October 7, 2023 Hamas attack against Israel was at broiling pot with massive demonstrations and civil disobedience and a breaking down of the social order in Israel by the minority Jewish secular camp in Israel even going so far as soldiers refusing to serve in the army with accompanying vitriolic hate espoused against religious Israelis be they Religious Zionists or Haredim. To any keen student of Judaism, the Torah and authentic Jewish History this was yet another manifestation of a deep split in the Jewish People that can be traced all the way back to the template and blueprint symbolized by the split in world views between Jacob's sons into two clashing camps.

Jewish History teaches that this kind of tragic story, essentially of what is aptly known in Hebrew as either a real or virtual milchemet achim ("war between brothers") basically a civil war, never ends happily for anyone. In the famous prayer of Shma Yisrael ("Hear O Israel") Jews declare that HaShem Echad ("God is One") because there is nothing greater than God's unity which is what true Monotheism is about, meaning belief in one God. Judaism teaches that God wishes the Jewish People in particular to emulate Him and His ways and to thereby stand out as the Chosen People and be an or lagoyim ("light unto the nations").

During the course of the demonstrations and speeches by the secular camp especially as voiced and broadcast by the secular media, they exhibited virulent and rabid anti-religious feelings and views attacking religious Jews and classical Orthodox Judaism of any form. In their frenzy they made it seem that by enacting the logical and necessary judicial reforms Israel would become a complete theocracy and even a dictatorship. Hundreds of thousands of secular Israelis were caught up in this tidal wave of insane protests against a legitimate Israeli government elected by a majority of Likud and religious voters both Ashkenazic and Sephardic.

It seems that the enemies of the Jews took all of this into account and saw it as a propitious time to attack a divided Israel that was blindingly self absorbed and riven with inner self inflicted wounds of dissent. Israel paid a huge penalty for that and it is certainly no reward from God for what happened next. Lack of unity even on the basic democratic rights of an electorate to vote its conscience to enact justified laws and being demonized for doing so legitimately, was a huge distraction with the steep price that was paid in blood.

Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin was born to Holocaust survivor parents in Israel, grew up in South Africa, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is an alumnus of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and of Teachers CollegeColumbia University. He heads the Jewish Professionals Institute dedicated to Jewish Adult Education and Outreach Kiruv Rechokim. He was the Director of the Belzer Chasidim's Sinai Heritage Center of Manhattan 19881995, a Trustee of AJOP 19941997 and founder of American Friends of South African Jewish Education 19952015. He is also a docent and tour guide at The Museum of Jewish Heritage A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Downtown Manhattan, New York. He is the author of The Second World War and Jewish Education in America: The Fall and Rise of

Contact Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin at[email protected]