At Hanukah, our attention is focused on the Greek "exile" which is the third of four exiles prophesied for Am Yisrael to endure through history.
- Babylon - The first Beit HaMikdash was destroyed and Am Yisrael was forcibly removed from Eretz Yisrael.
- Persia/Media - They conquered the Babylonian Empire and became the rulers of Eretz Yisrael. Their king enabled the Jews to return and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash. The Purim story took place during this time period.
- Greece - Alexander the Great conquered the Persian/Median Empire and before dying at a very early age, he divided it between his four generals. The Syrian-Greeks ruled over Eretz Yisrael during the days commemorated in the Hanukah holiday.
- Rome - As Rome grew in power, it began to take apart the Greek Empire piece by piece. Eretz Yisrael had its independence after the Wars of the Maccabees, but internal friction led to Rome being invited in to adjudicate and it never left. Uprisings and revolts against Roman rule proved unsuccessful. The second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed and the Jews who survived the slaughter were enslaved and removed from Eretz Yisrael.
The transition from Greek to Roman dominance followed an unusual and interesting pattern.
...Classical Greek culture, especially philosophy, had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of the Mediterranean Basin and Europe. For this reason Classical Greece is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of modern Western culture and is considered the cradle of Western civilization.
...Although the establishment of Roman rule did not break the continuity of Hellenistic society and culture, which remained essentially unchanged until the advent of Christianity, it did mark the end of Greek political independence.
...Greece was a key eastern province of the Roman Empire, as the Roman culture had long been in fact Greco-Roman. (Source)The Greco-Roman Empire, known today as Western Civilization, whose values are popularly touted by many as "Judeo-Christian", continued to rule in one form or another for the next 2000 years.
In the nineteenth century, Jews began returning to Eretz Yisrael in great numbers. This large-scale Jewish immigration continued into the twentieth century, due in part to rising anti-semitism and the resulting Holocaust. In 1948, the Jews were able to regain political independence for the first time since the successful Maccabean revolt against the Greeks.
Today, every Jew in the world is free to travel to Eretz Yisrael in the space of a day and to make his home there if he so chooses. Torah-minded Jews, if they had sufficient numbers, could take over the secular regime by way of the political process and change everything for the good. So, what is stopping them? What is stopping half of the Jews in the world from making their home in Eretz Yisrael? And what is stopping the vast majority of Jews in Eretz Yisrael from creating a Torah-mandated society within it? There is nothing physically preventing it.
It's the last and hardest exile of all - the one that was not prophesied, because it was never supposed to be. It's the exile of the mind. We remain in exile, even in our own land and even though we rule ourselves, because in our own minds, we are in exile. Some of us even like it that way. We prefer our illusions to reality. To the extent that we admire and have assimilated Western (Hellenized) thinking, Western (Hellenized) norms and Western (Hellenized) "values", we have enslaved our own minds and mired ourselves in an exile of our own making.
Who is in exile in this report and who is not?
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When will it end? The moment we wake up.
As we add a new candle each night of the Hanukah holiday, I pray that its increasing light will make continued slumber impossible. May we all be enlightened through its brightness to leave our personal and communal exiles - NOW!