This week, our Chanukah vort is being sponsored by Avraham and Miriam Deutsch and family of Efrat lilui nishmas for the yarhtzeit of Avraham’s Mother Sarah Reitza bat Tzion bat Avram Yaakov and to wish Kol Am Yisrael Chanukah Same’ach! To the Deutsch family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Shem Mishmuel (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, page 78) provides this description of the Greeks in the historical context of the miracles of Chanukah:
The Greeks were known for their outstanding wisdom; their philosophers and their ideas have been tremendously influential. Thus, when they oppressed Yisrael, they were even able to reach the wisdom of Torah and enslave it to their own ends.
An Aish.com piece written by Rabbi Ken Spiro relates the Revolt of the Maccabees in this way:
The year is 167 BCE and the horrible persecution of Judaism by the Greeks is in full swing. The Greek troops show up in the town of Modi’in (a site west of Jerusalem which you can visit today off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway) and demand that the Jews there sacrifice a pig to the Greek gods.
The elder of the town, Mattisyahu (Mattathias), who is a kohen, that is of the priestly class, refuses.
“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers…We will not obey the king’s word by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.” (1-Maccabees 2:19-22)
But there is a Hellenized Jew in the town who is willing to do what is unspeakable in Jewish eyes. As he’s about to sacrifice the pig, Mattisyahu stabs him, also killing the Greek official present. He then turns to the crowd and announces: “Follow me, all of you who are for G’d’s Law and stand by the covenant.” (1-Maccabees 2:27)
Those who join Mattisyahu and his five sons – named Yohanan, Shimon, Judah, Eleazar, Yonaton – head for the hills, expecting that the Greeks are going to come back and wipe out the whole village as a reprisal.
In the hills, they organize a guerilla army, led primarily by the oldest of the sons named Judah, nicknamed Maccabee, which means “the Hammer.” Maccabee is also an acronym for mi komocho ba’alim Hashem, “who is like you among the powers O G’d,” – the battle cry of the Jewish people.
We don’t know exactly how large this Maccabee army was, but even the most optimistic estimates put the number at no more than 12,000 men. This tiny force takes on the fighting Greek army of up to 40,000 men.
It’s not just a numerical superiority the Greeks have. The Greeks are professional soldiers – they have equipment, they have training, and they have a herd of war elephants, which were the tanks of the ancient world. The Jews are vastly outnumbered, poorly trained, and poorly equipped (not to mention, they have no elephants), but what they lack in training and equipment they make up in spirit.
Most of the battles take place in the foothills leading from the coastal plain area (Tel Aviv) to Jerusalem. The Greeks are trying to march their armies up the natural canyons that lead into the mountain areas, the stronghold of the Jewish army. There’s only a few places where the Greeks can ascend and this is where the Maccabees choose to take them on.
Rabbi Spiro writes, near the top of his piece:
…It is not just a war against the Greeks, it is also a civil war – Jews, who were loyal to Judaism, fighting other Jews, who had become Hellenized and who were siding with the Greeks.
Ergo, the story above about the Hellenized Jew who obeyed the Greek king and was stabbed, along with a Greek official, by Mattisyahu as the Jew was about to sacrifice a pig, as well as the Jews’ expectations of reprisals, and formation of an army to fight the Greeks.
And so we see certain parallels in today’s Israel. The secular majority of the so-called “supreme court” (oxymoron), in a precedent-setting decision, ruled in favor of Tel Aviv merchants being able to do business on Shabbos, desecrating the day and thus desecrating the name of Hashem and diminishing and discrediting our Divine Right to Eretz Yisrael both in Shemayim, as well as in the eyes and perceptions of the nations. This, in addition to rulings such as; that against the soldier who defended his fellows by making sure a terrorist could do them no further harm, expelling Jews from Jewish-owned property in Hevron, disallowing annexation of all or parts of Yehuda and the Shomron and much more.
And we see a weak-spined, politicized, ineffectual, disunited, largely secular governmental leadership incapable, either by legislation or by other means, of bringing a judicial dictatorship to toe in accord with the spirit of why Hashem has restored our Biblical Homeland — Eretz Yisrael for us.
Unlike the two-front war Maccabees undertook, for Hashem’s Law and Covenant, against both the Greeks and the Hellenist within, we face but one foe — within, abeit a two-headed Hellenist foe: a governmental leadership swamp and a dictatorial court appointed not by head of state, but by a group of secular lawyers with no accountability to anyone.
About the current street demonstrations and blockings of traffic; perhaps these efforts opposing drafting Yeshiva students are misplaced. Aren’t we, across all sectors of Observant Jewry, better placed in focusing any street demonstrations and blockings of traffic against the spectre of “court”-imposed mass desecrations of Shabbos? Can we not reason: The Kedusha of Shabbos relates to a Real Torah Army?
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.