05 January 2012

Re-visiting Hanukah on the 10th of Tevet

10 Tevet 5772

I don't know if any of you took the time to read the Hanukah story from Book 1 and 2 Maccabees, but I did, and not for the first time. There is a very important lesson there for us in this generation, especially when we find ourselves in a similar situation - a time when we seem to be on the verge of civil war - and we're getting the worst advice possible.

We are being admonished from every direction to maintain unity - unity at all cost! And I ask you, what unity does righteousness have with unrighteousness? What unity can there be between truth and lie? "Ahavat chinam" to counter sinat chinam is a nice little slogan, but it doesn't make for a cohesive society and it doesn't address the problem of "hatred" with a basis. King Solomon taught us that there is a time for hate and David HaMelech expressed his righteous hatred thoughout Tehillim:

(5:5) "...You hate all workers of iniquity."

(11:5) "His [Hashem's] soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence."

(26:5) "... I [David] hated the congregation of the evildoers,...."

(31:7) "I [David] hated those who await worthless vanities,...."

(45:8) "You loved righteousness and you hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, anointed you with oil of joy from among your peers."

(97:10) " You who love the Lord, hate evil; ...."

(119:104) "From Your precepts I shall gain understanding; therefore, I hate all ways of falsehood."

(119:113) " I hate those who harbor iniquitous thoughts, but Your Torah I love."

(139:21-22) "Did I not hate Your enemies, O Lord? With those who rise up against You, I quarrel. I hate them with utmost hatred; they have become my enemies."

We are not Xians who are bidden to "turn the other cheek." We are Jews - Almighty G-d's representatives in this world; a kingdom of priests. We are under His absolute authority and must at all times clearly and truthfully represent His will in His world. We are not authorized to bend or break or misrepresent His will or His commandments or the terms of the covenant that was made between Him and us.

If our fellow Jew is limping along the same path as we are, heading in the right direction - TOWARDS HKB"H, then we should be willing to help in any way possible and treat them gently and kindly. But if our fellow has turned AWAY from HKB"H and is in outright rebellion against Him, it is our duty to separate ourselves from him, letting him know that he will be welcomed back immediately if he will do teshuva and turn his life around, but if he persists, he must be ostracized and I will prove to you through the Hanukah story that this is the correct action, not an all-embracing free love which condemns nothing, and no one but the righteous.

It was the anti-religious Jews who started it all...

I Mac. 1:11-15 In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, "Let us go and make a covenant with the goyim around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us." This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the goyim. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Goy custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the goyim and sold themselves to do evil.

And they were not going to stop until we had been completely consumed and assimilated into the prevailing goyisch culture...

41-53 Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the goyim accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judea; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane Sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, "And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die." In such words he wrote to his whole kingdom. He appointed inspectors over all the people and commanded the towns of Judea to offer sacrifice, town by town. Many of the people, everyone who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had.
It wasn't enough for them that they had rid themselves of G-d's law. Those who claimed to want tolerance for their lawlessness refused to extend tolerance to their brothers. who only wanted to continue to keep the covenant and obey the Lord in peace ...

54- 64 Now on the fifteenth day of Kislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judea, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The Torah Scrolls that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers' necks. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Very great wrath came upon Israel.
The "religious" Jews of that time would not fight their "brothers." So, they fled from them and went into hiding. They did not go on a campaign to right the wrongs of their "brothers." They tried to separate themselves into small enclaves just hoping to be left alone. But see how well that turned out...

I Mac 2:27-38 Then Matityahu cried out in the town with a loud voice, saying: "Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!" Then he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the town. At that time many who were seeking righteousness and justice went down to the wilderness to live there, they, their sons, their wives, and their cattle, because troubles pressed heavily upon them. And it was reported to the king's officers, and to the troops in Jerusalem the city of David, that those who had rejected the king's command had gone down to the hiding places in the wilderness. Many pursued them, and overtook them; they encamped opposite them and prepared for battle against them on the Sabbath day. They said to them, "Enough of this! Come out and do what the king commands, and you will live." But they said, "We will not come out, nor will we do what the king commands and so profane the Sabbath day." Then the enemy quickly attacked them. But they did not answer them or hurl a stone at them or block up their hiding places, for they said, "Let us all die in our innocence; heaven and earth testify for us that you are killing us unjustly." So they attacked them on the Sabbath, and they died, with their wives and children and cattle, to the number of a thousand persons.

Finally, thankfully, the leadership came to the corrrect conclusion. They had to start fighting back.

39-41 When Matityahu and his friends learned of it, they mourned for them deeply. And all said to their neighbors: "If we all do as our kindred have done and refuse to fight with the goyim for our lives and for our ordinances, they will quickly destroy us from the earth." So they made this decision that day: "Let us fight against anyone who comes to attack us on the Sabbath day; let us not all die as our kindred died in their hiding places."

Not only did they fight back against the Gentiles, but against their Jewish brethren as well. And not only for their own right to obey the Law of G-d, but they began to "coerce" the rebellious Jews as well...

44-48 They organized an army, and struck down sinners in their anger and lawless men in their wrath; the survivors fled to the Gentiles for safety. And Mattathias and his friends went about and tore down the altars; they forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel. They hunted down the arrogant men, and the work prospered in their hands. They rescued the law out of the hands of the Gentiles and kings, and they never let the sinner gain the upper hand.

The war went on for many years. And many were the traitors in our midst ...

1 Mac. 7:21- 25 Alcimus strove for the high priesthood, and all who were troubling their people joined him. They gained control of the land of Judah and did great damage in Israel. And Judas saw all the evil that Alcimus and those with him had done among the sons of Israel; it was more than the Gentiles had done. So Judas went out into all the surrounding parts of Judea, and took vengeance on the men who had deserted, and he prevented those in the city from going out into the country. When Alcimus saw that Judas and those with him had grown strong, and realized that he could not withstand them, he returned to the king and brought wicked charges against them.
Only one of the five brothers survived to see an end to hostilities and this is is how it is described...

I Mac. 13: 41-48 In the one hundred and seventieth year the yoke of the Gentiles was removed from Israel, and the people began to write in their documents and contracts, "In the first year of Simon the great high priest and commander and leader of the Jews." In those days Simon encamped against Gazara and surrounded it with troops. He made a siege engine, brought it up to the city, and battered and captured one tower. The men in the siege engine leaped out into the city, and a great tumult arose in the city. The men in the city, with their wives and children, went up on the wall with their clothes rent, and they cried out with a loud voice, asking Simon to make peace with them; they said, "Do not treat us according to our wicked acts but according to your mercy." So Simon reached an agreement with them and stopped fighting against them. But he expelled them from the city and cleansed the houses in which the idols were, and then entered it with hymns and praise. He cast out of it all uncleanness, and settled in it men who observed the law.
I Mac. 14:4,11-14 The land had rest all the days of Simon. ...He established peace in the land, and Israel rejoiced with great joy. Each man sat under his vine and his fig tree, and there was none to make them afraid. No one was left in the land to fight them, amd the kings were crushed in those days. He strengthened all the humble of his people; he sought out the law, and did away with every lawless and wicked man.

It is the Torah which unifies us and our willingness to submit ourselves in obedience to its demands. Those who flaunt the law and have no fear of Heaven are not part of us. They have removed themselves from their people. It is those who claim to be Orthodox who must put aside trivial differences and come together as one under the banner of Torah truth. But again I say, there can be no "unity" with rebels and sinners who refer to chareidi Jews as leeches and parasites and worse!

This war is being fought again...today.

IDF to supervise rabbi-soldier meetings
Yeshiva heads outraged at General Staff's decision to have army representative present at any meeting between rabbis, their students to ensure conversations do not contradict IDF values

Not at my expense
by Jacob Kirsch

...The Jewish State has come to an important crossroads in our nation's history. Our actions today, wrong or right, will determine how our society advances in the coming decades and, hopefully, centuries. But every article of news and every opinion piece I have read seems to omit a most basic truth. A truth we might not want to admit, but a truth nonetheless. We, the secular Israelis, are financing every aspect of this new fight.

We pay for it directly, by financing haredim and their large families. We enable them, by making payments every month so that they can send their 12 children to yeshivas and not hold a job. We pay the yeshivas, which in turn refuse to teach even the most basic core curriculum tenets. We pay for the legal system, which is starting to handle the problem we face. We pay for a lawyer to defend these radicals in court. Then, if convicted for calling someone a whore, or assaulting a little girl with spittle, we pay for them to sit in a jail cell until their sentence is served.

An orgy of hatred
by Amnon Levy

In recent days I’ve been quarreling with all my friends. They are good people, these friends – liberal, tolerant, moderate and sensitive to any injustice. These are people that in our complex reality were never confused between good and bad. This is why I love them, among other things. I’d like to think that we are cut from the same cloth. That’s why I’m so amazed to see how uncaring and hateful they become when a group of people known as the haredim comes up for discussion.

My liberal friends propose various steps against the haredim and religious: A cadet who cannot bear female singing will not be an officer in the IDF, said one friend. As simple as that (“as simple as that” or “at once” are words that always accompany discussions about the haredim.) A segregated bus shall be stopped! The driver and bus operators should be sent to jail. A yeshiva that will not teach the core curriculum shall be closed at once! We shall not allow primitive ignoramuses to be raised here, and at our expense no less. A neighborhood that features separate sidewalks for women shall immediately lose its municipal services! They can go ahead and choke in their own garbage.

There are more proposals that are even more terrifying. Disconnect haredi neighborhoods from electricity, water and whatnot. The same people who would quiver, and rightfully so, if such proposals were made about Gaza, forget that behind the dark clothes, odd views and challenging (and annoying) behavior lie human beings. They are different than us, but they are human beings.

I’ve been following haredi society for many years yet I don’t remember such anger. And that’s odd, because the secular fury comes at a time when secularism is winning while the haredim are on the defense. Once upon a time the haredim sought to educate us. They made pretenses of telling us where and what to eat, what to do on Shabbat, where and how to be buried, and how to get married. Some time has passed, and the seculars won most battles.

Today it’s the seculars who wish to educate the haredim. The seculars are upset by the segregated bus routes. This doesn’t upset haredi women, but it does upset the secular Tania Rosenblit. The seculars are upset that math is not being taught at yeshivas. They know better than haredi parents what’s good for their sons. The seculars are upset by the relationship between men and women in haredi society. Why can’t the haredim be like us?

I look at the holy secular anger and fail to understand it. It lacks the modesty of one who looks at another society from the outside. It has no hesitation – maybe we are wrong after all? Perhaps we failed in understanding the other?

I, for example, very much want the haredim to study the core curriculum, I will try to convince them this is needed, but I won’t enforce it upon them. Why? Because somewhere in my head I’m not certain that the core curriculum is truly important for the life meant for a haredi child. Perhaps for him math and English are less necessary than another Talmud class? In all such matters I will hesitate, because in my view when a civilized liberal looks at someone who is different, this should be done with the required modesty.

However, the seculars are furious and are unwilling to show any modesty in the way they look at the haredim. Had I been a religious Jew, I would be concerned. I would take this fury seriously and understand how I contributed to it. I would try to calm the atmosphere through some concessions.

And here I get to the heart of the matter: We need a new social covenant. The old status-quo may have secured political calm, yet caused a flare-up in secular-haredi relations. Both sides must be brave and go for a new covenant premised on a simple principle: Life in the country will be secular in every way. The haredim will let go of their need to care for our secular souls. This means buses on Shabbat, civil marriage and everything associated with a modern state.

On the other hand, the secular majority would allow the haredim to have full cultural autonomy within their neighborhoods. This means letting go of the need to education them and allowing them to live their life as they see fit. And yes, this means segregated buses in haredi population centers and tolerance to haredi education.

That’s the principle. Implementing it isn’t simple because there would be red lines, of course. If the haredim want to educate their children by beating them up, we won’t agree to. However, within the boundaries of logic, we must make every effort to accept the differences of the other.

In my arguments with my liberal friends, one of them sometimes places a hand on my shoulder and asks in a concerned voice: “Amnon, what happened to you? After all, you are secular, a devout atheist; what’s happening to you?” So here is the answer: It appears to me that being a liberal, progressive and humanist today means resisting this blatant incitement against the haredim; standing up against the bon-ton and saying: I’m not taking part in this orgy of hatred.

Make no mistake. The L-rd will raise up our righteous Mashiach and the day will come when we will be forced to fight another war with the gilgulim of the same people we fought in the past. Most of them are Erev Rav. And no amount of wishing or hopeful thinking is going to change it. Might as well start getting your thinking straight now so it won't be such a shock to you later.

...the war against the Erev Rav is the most difficult and bitterest of all. We must strengthen ourselves for this war, and anyone who does not participate in the battle against the Erev Rav becomes, de facto, a partner with the k'lipah of the Erev Rav, and was better off not being born in the first place. (Kol HaTor, Chapter 2, Section 2, Letter 'bais')

"...even if we see in them (The Erev Rav) good things like Torah and tradition and good manners and in particular they make peace with everybody and peace is the foundation of everything,...we must reject all these people even when they have good aspects in their behavior because then will be time of clarification and selection and this will be the trial and choice in those days." (Divre Simcha by Rabbi Simcha Ysachar Ber Chalberstam, zt"l)