5th Candle of Hanukah
Guest post from Jewish Path...
What Were the Maccabees Fighting For?
by Rabbi Nachum Braverman, Aish HaTorah Los Angeles
( modified and used without permission )
It is ironic that Chanukah is so widely observed in America, because it's not clear that Jews today would side with the Maccabees. The Jews didn't battle the Greeks for political independence and Chanukah can't be recast as an early-day version of Israel against the Arabs. Chanukah commemorates a religious war. The Greeks were benevolent rulers bringing civilization and progress wherever they conquered. They were ecumenical and tolerant, creating a pantheon of gods into which they accepted the deities of all their subjects. Their only demand was acculturation into the melting pot of Greek civilization and religion.
The Jewish community was divided in response to this appeal. Some believed assimilation as a positive and modernizing influence and they welcomed the release from Jewish parochialism. Led by Judah Maccabee was a small group opposed to the Greek ideal, and prepared to fight and die to preserve the exclusive worship of Judaism. (The name 'Maccabee' is an acronym for the Torah Verse - Who is like you among the gods,
This was no war for abstract principles of religious tolerance. It was a battle against ecumenicism fought by people to whom Torah was their life and breath.Today Chanukah calls to us to combat assimilation in America and to fight for our heritage.
II. PASSIVE ACQUIESCENCE
There were many who passively acquiesced. What is the use in opposing the force of history, they reasoned. We can't halt assimilation any more than we can stop the ocean tides or the passage of the seasons. Who would be so foolish as to oppose the inevitable? What chance do we have of convincing our children not to intermarry? Jewish particularism is a past value swept away on the waves of liberalism. With the barriers of anti-Semitism down and the land of opportunity beckoning, the day of cohesive Jewish community seems gone. It ís with resignation that we accept the spiraling intermarriage rate which spells our destruction as a people.
III. CHANUKAH IS A VICTORY OVER ASSIMILATION
Remember the end of the story? Finally triumphant, Jews captured Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple. (The word Chanukah means dedication and refers to this act.)
They found just one flask of oil but the flame which should have lasted one day burned for eight. It testified that our determination was enhanced by some ineffable power suffusing our efforts with transcendent glow and power. Light the candles, says the holiday to us. Act vigorously, teach, reach. Courageously and with determination. And G-d will invest our efforts with a power, permanence, and glow -- far beyond our capacity to convey.
IV. MIXED TIDES OF CHANUKAH AND XMAS
It's one of those quirks of the calendar: Chanukah and Xmas almost always coincide in December. The advertising industry will make sure that you don't forget it. As a result, many will be caught up in the mix of tides coming from Judaism and Christianity.
This is but a minute reflection of many of the paradoxes served up by the American melting pot. So why not hold it up to the light of history to see what the facts really are? You owe it to yourself before you dive into those December parties.
You could be fooled if you consider some superficial similarities: Two thousand years ago in ancient Israel under the occupation of an oppressive foreign power, a small family stands up for itself and launches a spiritual revolt. Armed with the belief that G-d is on their side, they succeed in establishing a new religious identity. As a symbol of the miraculous nature of their victory, a new holiday is instituted that revolves around candles and light. Not merely one night of celebrations, but more than a week of joyous, glowing, holiday lights. Once again, the Jewish people proves that it is a Light Unto The Nations.
You see what I mean? It's easy to confuse the Maccabees with the early Christians. So much for the history. For many young Jews today, Chanukah is joyously combined with Xmas to produce such observances as Chanukah Bushes, Christmas menorahs, Xmas Chanukah gifts, Chanukah Xmas parties and celebrations. As more and more Jews intermarry, these things become accepted as the norm and the true meanings and origins of both religions are completely ignored.
V. THE PARADOX OF TANGLED RELIGIONS
A nice, happy connection is made where none ever existed. Consider the facts:
For two thousand years, there was never a connection between Xmas and Chanukah because they were celebrated by two different religions. Christians somehow saw Jews as Christ-killers (not saviors) and heretics; hence the blood-baths of the Inquisition, blood libels, pogroms, and finally, the Holocaust. Way before the American 'melting pot', - the European 'beheading pot' existed with mostly Jewish skulls floating around in it.
The strongest argument against mixed Jewish and Christian celebrations comes from modern day, Chanukah-like occurences. As American Jews enjoying the greatest liberties ever enjoyed by Jews in their 2000-year exile from their true homeland in Israel, we should ponder well the fate that awaits us if we choose to emulate the 'mainstream' as opposed to the message of the 'few against the many.' This Chanukah, make sure you move into the correct light.
And nothing illustrates these conclusions more clearly than this: Open Orthodoxy’s New And Dangerous Halachic Quest.
(Excerpt) The YCT rosh yeshiva wrote: “’Should we be bending the halakhah to conform to our modern notions of egalitarianism?’ is a reasonable question to ask and a hard one to answer.”
Another very important YCT graduate wrote about his agenda with halacha while he was in YCT: “My immediate goal for my years in Rabbinical School is to acquire the tools that are necessary to overcome the halakhic and social impediments to change.”
And from Rabbi Katz again: “One of the most pressing tensions in the community is how to reconcile our values with our convictions; what to do when halakha points us in one direction and our values in another direction. We are tempted to follow our values but pulled to abide by our halakhic commitments. A proper resolution requires an emboldened stance towards tradition, one that allows us to cajole the tradition to reconcile itself with our modern sensibilities. [Using, of course, legitimate halakhic mechanisms developed by our predecessors when they were confronted with similar challenges.]”
These startling statements are not from Reform or Conservative rabbis; they are from people who call themselves Orthodox – Open Orthodox to be exact – and they are on an aggressive campaign to spread their poison and set themselves up as poskim. They have no inhibitions, as they lock horns with gedolei haposkim of earlier generations and feel confident to argue against them: “I rule like Tzitz Eliezer…,” “As a matter of p’sak, I am inclined against following Taz’s approach,” and, “There is no halachic issue with congregational Torah reading for women, nor any need to be concerned with kavod hatzibur when taking part in this kind of minyan. It is permissible for women to be called up to the Torah, to read from it, and to recite its blessings.”
These are quotes from some of the “teshuvot” of YCT’s heads.
Open Orthodoxy’s veering so far off the course of Torah and mesorah is breeding a generation of assimilated followers and even clergy, for whom being part of secular culture trumps being a Torah Jew. A popular graduate of YCT, who sends his four-year old daughter to public school in New York City, wrote last week about his daughter’s experience during this “holiday period”:
“Our 4-year-old is learning that different people celebrate differently and that some Jews celebrate [X-mas] and some Jews celebrate Shabbat. She felt confident enough to ask and to ask openly. I hope she continues to trust her instincts, love her faith and culture deeply, and never stop seeing the interconnectedness in everything.”
This is what Open Orthodoxy is reaping, and it’s now sowing seeds and claiming the mantle of halachic authority.One must ask oneself why it is that America - bastion of Western Civilization - is the breeding ground for all the assimilationist 'Jewish' movements.