Joe Ben Malin
Joe Ben MalinCourtesy

Jews the world over have put away their menorahs and dreidels. The holiday which epitomizes rejecting Galut and its influences has passed, and now it is upon us to dwell on the plethora of lessons to be learned. Hanukkah is not just about an ancient ritual that we performed inside the Holy Temple but about the events that led us to be able to sanctify the Temple and illuminate the Menorah once again. These ideas are eternal and must be made relevant to this generation and to subsequent generations too.

Before the ancient Judeans were able to take back the house of G-d, a bloody war was waged by the Maccabees against their spiritual oppressors, the Greeks. The Greeks were the embodiment of indulging in this physical world and also in having faith in man rather than G-d.

Greek warfare was not like that of the Babylonians or the Romans. Greeks first declared war on the soul of the Jew. When the Greeks conquered ancient Israel, their purpose was not to massacre all the Jews or remove them from their ancestral homeland like subsequent invaders. The Greeks wanted us to submit to their culture and religion.

Greek forces visited every village and demanded sacrifices to be brought by the people of the village. When they reached Matisyahu’s village in Modi'in, they asked the venerated sage to do the honors and bring the sacrifice to their strange G-d. Matisyahu did not just refuse to bring the sacrifice, but when a Hellenist Jew went up to bring the sacrifice in his place, Matisyahu stood up and slayed the Hellenist and his comrades.

Matisyahu struck first, killed without any concern for his own life and in doing so began a civil war within the broader war. Many Hellenist Jews were slain by Matisyahu and his sons. While slaying Hellenists and Greeks alike, the Maccabees also forcibly circumcised all uncircumcised Jews. It is not hard to imagine the extent of the condemnation that would have come from American Jewish leaders if they were alive in those ancient days …

After years of resistance and fighting the Maccabees finally prevailed. They cleansed the land from the impure rule of the foreign regime both spiritually and physically. The Greek altars and their cultural centers were eradicated. Then the Temple was rededicated and it is from there that we get the story of the oil lasting for eight days when there was only enough for a single day.

There is so much depth to the story of Hanukkah. Why do we commemorate it by just lighting a little chandelier looking thing which represents such a small miracle in comparison to the rest of the story? The truth is that all the struggles that the Maccabees endured was for the Temple and for G-d, not just for nationalism. Yes, there was a nationalist aspect to the war but what is Jewish nationalism without Judaism?

True Jewish nationalism is the desire for complete autonomy inside the boundaries of the Land of Israel. This autonomy is in order for us to do G-d’s will, to be culturally and spiritually separated from the rest of the world. Without that we are no different from any other nation fighting for land.

Nowadays, there is barely a difference between us and the rest of the world in a spiritual/cultural sense. We proudly proclaim that we are the extension of the Western world and spread values that are in sharp contrast to Judaism. There are no political maneuvers without America’s green light. One of Golda Meir’s first reactions to the Yom Kippur War breaking out was to call Henry Kissinger and beg him for help. On the call she admitted that she did not preemptively strike because America did not want Israel to start the already inevitable war.

How can we claim we have real autonomy if America acts as Israel’s puppet master? Faith in G-d is thrown out and replaced with faith in America. ‘What will America say if we do this?’ ‘What will America say if we do that?’ How about: ‘What will G-d say if we allow any more Jews to be killed because we bet on America to save us again instead of Him?’

Idol worship and Westernism are actually closer aligned than one may think. Deuteronomy 4:28 states “And you will serve there (in exile) G-ds, the works of man’s hands, of wood and stone, [G-ds which] cannot see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” Rashi explains that we did not directly worship false idols, rather we prostrated ourselves to nations which worshipped idols.

We have prayed for years to Western nations which have no sense of a true deity and whose savior they claim to be a man on a cross. In reality, many of them worship the dollar more. We have put our security in the hands of men who have no true concept of G-d and we worship their everlasting protection, recreating the same mistake Hellenist Jews made.

Just as the Greeks went village to village commanding an altar be built to worship their false G-d in return for money, jobs, and safety so too the West tells us that as long as we build an altar to worship man in the form of a polling booth in every city, we will get money, jobs, and security.

The Jewish people and the State of Israel must throw off the yoke of Westernism and serve G-d with a whole heart or all that we have accomplished until now has been a waste and a repeat of history. The time is now to learn from our mistakes and bring the Geula.

The Maccabees are calling. We must answer.

Joe Ben Malin is a dedicated Yeshiva student from America learning in Jerusalem