"Everyone who has zeal for Torah and maintains the covenant, let him follow me!"
(Maccabees I 2:27)
Judea,167 BCE: The Greek-Assyrian tyrant Antiochus has enacted myriad decrees intended to sever the bond between the Jews of Israel and Torah, liquidate the Jews as a spiritual entity and eradicate Torah - the covenant binding man to G-d. Matitiyahu ben Yochanan HaCohen, from the town of Modi'in, who has spent his entire adulthood serving as a priest at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, has sparked a rebellion against Antiochus. Matitiyahu could have chosen any one of the vast number of evil decrees imposed upon the Jews, to ignite the people against the Greek-Assyrian oppression, but it was the attempt to compel Jews to sacrifice a pig to the pagan god Zeus, that moved him to slay both the Greek-Assyrian soldier and his willing Jewish accomplice, and to declare, "Everyone who has zeal for Torah and maintains the covenant, let him follow me!" (Maccabees I 2:27)
Thus began the uprising of the Chashmonaim, (Macabees), a long drawn out and bloody fight which eventually culminated in the liberation, purification and rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, (although the military conflict would linger on for five more years). Why did Matitiyahu choose the incident of the pig to rally the spirits of his fellow Jews toward open rebellion, when so many other decrees were surely every bit as repugnant? Why did he single out the one particular abomination that was a direct and uncompromising blow aimed at the heart of the Divine service of the Holy Temple - the offerings of pure animals, and pure animals only, upon the stone altar, and only upon the stone altar, that stood before the Kodesh sanctuary of the Holy Temple?
Matitiyahu knew that that there is no other matter so dear to the hearts of the Jewish nation as the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and that defiling the Holy Temple and the Divine service that took place within its confines would ultimately prove a death-blow to the nation of Israel. He knew that with the fate of the Holy Temple hanging in the balance the entire nation of G-d fearing Jews would unite in rebellion, and not rest until the Temple was redeemed and the Divine service restored.
Today, Israel is again a beleaguered nation, being laid upon by despoilers from without, and by their willing accomplices from within. Today's Antiochuses come in the form of the United Nations, the European Union, and the American Administration. Their decrees are made in the name of the Hellenistic and pagan creeds that rule the West: Globalization, humanism, multiculturalism, multilateralism, relativism, peace-process-ism, I-ism, me-ism and mine-ism. The great social shapers and political mobilizers of today have no place in their planned utopias for "a nation that dwells alone," (Numbers 23:9) nor for the One G-d to whom "all tongues will swear allegiance and all knees will bow." (Alenu prayer)
Today, the nation of Israel is once again beset by decrees declaring where Jews can live and where they can build their homes and when and where and under what constellation of circumstances, (well-pondered by the International Court of "Justice" at the Hague), can they defend their lives against the murderous onslaught of their enemies. So where and when do we finally draw the line and put our foot down as a sovereign nation, a nation bound to its G-d by the covenant of Torah? What deadly indignity of the many which have been aimed like arrows at the heart and soul of our nation should we choose to rally the spirits of our fellow Jews toward open rebellion against our oppressors?
Perhaps we should take a cue from Matitiyahu, and choose, knowing full well that the spiritual life of the nation of Israel is what is at stake, the Temple Mount, home of the future Holy Temple, which has been raped and ravaged and desecrated by our enemies, as our rallying cry, "Everyone who has zeal for Torah and maintains the covenant, let him follow me!"
Ironically, Chanuka is not a holiday whose observance is centered around the Holy Temple. Chanuka is intended to be celebrated in the home. The chanukiot lamps that we kindle on each of the eight days of Chanuka are meant to shine forth from our homes, to announce loudly and clearly that our homes and the House of G-d - the Holy Temple - are inextricably bound together, that if one is being laid waste then the other cannot rest. When our own homes here in the land of Israel are being threatened, as they are, we must rally around the cause of the Holy Temple. And when the Holy Temple is being pillaged and denied, we must seek to rescue it from her enemies, through the strength of our own homes. This is Chanuka!
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven, (just back from the USA), discuss Yosef the dreamer and interpreter of Pharaoh’s dream. Who is Yosef and what is his secret? Yitzchak relates his experiences speaking to a congregation in Ohio about the Temple, and the Rabbi attempts to catch Yitzchak up on news of Israel on the backdrop of the significance of Chanukah for our time... the true story of Chanukah as it relates to our lives today as Jews.
This week's TEMPLE TALK is only one part.