December 26, 2003
© 2003 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved
Chanukah, the holiday of the purification and re-dedication of the Holy Temple from the hands of the Greek invaders, is a time of spiritual illumination. The lights we have been kindling over the past week, at the entrance to our homes and in our windows, shine deeply into the collective Jewish soul, reminding us of the fact that many years ago, G-d made miracles happen for a small group of Jewish men who believed in Him and in their own destiny. For this is what it really means to be a Jew, in those days as well as today: to make miracles happen. These men believed that G-d gave them the Land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the Holy Temple, and that no foreign power had a right to usurp these things much less dictate policy to them. They were hopelessly outnumbered, they were militarily inferior, they were politically incorrect, and they naively believed in the righteousness of their cause that good must triumph over evil. Perhaps this is one reason why Chanukah candles are lit the world over, even by Jews whose level of observance is ordinarily less than nominal. It's one of those rare occasions that imbues a sense of Jewish identity even to those on the edge.
Like all of Israel's enemies, King Antiochus was waging a war against the G-d of Israel. By defiling the Temple and enacting decrees that forbade Israel to serve G-d, he sought to banish His presence from the world. Chanukah is all about bringing the world's hidden light, the light of G-d's Divine Presence, back into the world. When we gaze into the candles, and recall the light emanating from the Menorah in the Holy Temple, we get a little inkling of that light.
Recently, a noted Greek composer observed that "the Jews are root of all evil." Of course, this is more than mere failure to notice what Jews have contributed throughout the course of history... it is an attempt to de-legitimatize Jews as human beings. This would certainly be one way to solve the Palestinian problem. Thousands of years after the story of Chanukah, we still seem to be the only people in the world whose right to exist is subject to debate.
Greek wisdom taught that only that which can be proven physically is real. They reasoned that if something cannot be demonstrated or understood, it is not true. They did not consider the possibility that there is wisdom beyond comprehension. The Torah of Israel emphasizes that the greatest truths of all are above the realm of human understanding.
In the Chanukah story, the war that was waged between the Israel and her Greek enemies was a war between cultures, between the idolatrous Grecian world-view and that of Israel, centered around serving the one G-d, who created heaven and earth, in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Today, Israel is still fighting that war of culture. It rages within herself as she searches for her own identity, and grapples with the meaning of being Jewish. The book of Maccabees teaches that King Antiochus was aided by "those from within Israel, who threw off the yoke of Heaven, and caused many to go astray, saying 'let us go and make a covenant with the nations who are all around us'... they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the rules of the nations... they hid the sign of their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, and attached themselves to the nations, growing accustomed to doing evil... ".
The Holy Temple is still the center of the battle, as it was in the days of King Antiochus. Those amongst us today "from within Israel, who threw off the yoke of Heaven," such as the architects of the Geneva initiative, are poised and ready to abandon the Temple Mount, symbol of all that is sacred for Israel. To them, the mountain is nothing but an albatross, a liability. They have abandoned the Holy Temple for a gymnasium.
Last week, at Israel's prestigious Hertzelia conference on security, the head of Israel's General Security Service stated that those Jews who speak about changing the reality of the Temple Mount (and thus enrage the world's Muslims) are endangering Israel's security and the security of Jews all over the world. Thus, in the view of the man who is entrusted by the government of Israel with the security of the Jewish people, to merely speak of the fact that the Holy Temple is supposed to be rebuilt one day is endangering Jewish survival! The very key and secret of Jewish survival thus becomes the danger, rather than the focal point and hope, in this ironically twisted mentality. Casting the lessons and light of Chanukah aside, he opts to "make a covenant with the nations who are all around us."
Yet the light of Chanukah that we shall light today, on the last day of the festival, reminds us that the hidden light is never extinguished. Our sages of blessed memory teach us that all of the holiday's redemptive power is concentrated in a crescendo of holiness on this, the final day of Chanukah. We can latch on to this light, as individuals and as a nation, and realign ourselves with the purpose of our existence... to be a holy nation that brings the Divine Presence back into this world.
The battle is far from over.
With blessings of Chanukah light,
Rabbi Chaim Richman
THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE
PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500