The fierce struggle against the secular Jews and their allies
the Reform and Conservative factions, all of whom, in one way or another,
seek to uproot Torah and breach the walls of Judaism is an additional
chapter in the difficult test in the period before Moshiach
The specious ideologies of those attacking the Torah are many:
nationalism, messianism, atheism, reform, and even materialism --
all have been adopted by some as an ideology per se. Every
active opposition against their harmful influence demands the enlisting
of all our capabilities and steadfastness.
Quite frequently reshoim succeed materially and gain positions
of wealth, power and/or influence. They flaunt their success in an
effort to persuade others not to oppose them. The message they seek
to convey is that their opponents should prefer to "compromise"
with them and resign themselves to reality no matter how bitter it
This is the reasoning that officials of the secular Israeli government
"advise" us to follow. Actually this is what meisisim
umadichim who have tried to gain control of the nation's soul have
told us throughout the ages. "Why get involved in a hopeless battle?"
they say to convince us, although the discerning ear hears a teasing
undertone. "When faced with our superior material strength and
genuine might your failure is inevitable. Look at yourself! Look how
weak you are! Don't bang your heads against the wall! Be realistic."
Reflecting on what happened during Chanukah prompts
us to weigh our duty to fight for truth, and teaches us to pitch ourselves
into the battle for Torah observance without any other considerations.
In Mimizrach Shemesh, a compilation of shmuessim
and hashkofo delivered by Maran HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein
zt'l during the World War II golus of the Mirrer Yeshiva
in Shanghai, HaRav Moshe Binyomin Bornstein zt'l, his talmid
muvhak, cites what the Mashgiach said in those trying days about
our duty to cling to truth and to fight for it even at the price of
Our situation during the era in which the evil Greek kingdom ruled
over Eretz Yisroel certainly seemed, to anyone looking at it "realistically,"
to be totally hopeless. Greece had unlimited, absolute control over
Eretz Yisroel and the Jewish Nation. They governed not only our bodies
but even our souls. Each Jew was forced to write on his clothes and
on a bull's horn that "he has no part or inheritance in the Elokim
of Yisroel," chas vesholom. That dreadful slogan which
every Jew, from the elderly to the young, daily and constantly saw,
had an immeasurable influence.
Of course, when first seen such a slogan would truly repel him,
and the attempted coercion to heresy and to nevertheless control our
conscience would fill him with disgust. Nonetheless, as time passed
a collective influence formed, penetrating like poison into everyone's
"Reality" seems to compel a person to despair and to giving
up, engendering a feeling of being too weak to do anything against
the mighty suppressive forces being wielded against him. The only
option would seem to be surrender and passive resignation to the titanic
powers threatening the nation's existence. Each person says to himself,
"There is just nothing I can do about it," and "The predicament
is overwhelming. We just cannot fight against `forces of nature' and
concrete reality. There is nothing to do since anyway we would not
succeed in accomplishing anything."
At that point of sweeping desperation in the days of Matisyohu,
a few individuals waved high the flag of truth. They demanded that
the nation wage an apparently hopeless war with mesiras nefesh.
To do so was both "illogical" and "impossible," but
their reconsideration of what should be done and their being motivated
by an inner strength is what turned the tables.
"`I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against
their adversaries' (Tehillim 81:15). We have seen [Hashem's
destroying our enemies] throughout the generations -- and especially
on Chanukah. At that time the nation's situation was bleak and remained
that way for fifty-two years.
The Rambam writes that Greece ruled over the bodies of the Jews
of those days and even their daughters. Greece concentrated on uprooting
emunah from [the Jews] in all sorts of cunning ways. The Greeks
forced the Jews to write on their clothes and the horn of their bulls
that they had no part in the Elokim of Yisroel. Doing such
a thing makes an impression on one's heart -- `The eyes see, the
heart covets, and the body does the aveiros' (Rashi, Bamidbar
The Greeks utilized their wisdom to do evil. They were more jealous
of the Jews than the Egyptians since when the Jews were in Egypt they
had not yet received the Torah. The Tur writes that the main reason
Chazal set Chanukah [as a yom tov] was to thank Hashem. It
is not like Purim in which the Persians imposed a harsh decree on
our bodies because we had derived physical enjoyment when we sinned.
The sin on Chanukah was our being negligent in avoda (see the
Bach). This is the reason why all the decrees in those days were mainly
against our religion.
In sum, the Greeks ruled over everything -- but suddenly Matisyohu
awakened to act and everything changed.
"We see what one man's being incited to act can do. He can
actually create new worlds. In addition, we see how negligence can
also create worlds of destruction. That same Yehuda the Maccabee was,
before his awakening to action, someone called Matisyohu who could
do nothing. A moment afterwards he became a frightening warrior whose
roar was like that of a lion, as Chazal say about him. Before arousing
himself from his stupor he was powerless. Matisyohu was alone but
was zoche to Hashem's assistance because of this awakening.
"We likewise see that Hashem said to Gideon, `Go in this might
and you shall save Yisroel' (Shofetim 6:14). The world was
created for each individual since each person can save the world and
change it completely. This shows us what can happen when even one
person strengthens himself."
If not for Matisyohu, not even the memory of the Jewish Nation
would have remained. He taught us that we should always be conscious
of the power of individuals. A minority should not be frightened of
the majority and dread facing a "war against the whole world."
"Reality" did not play any role for Matisyohu and his
"chance of success" was inconsequential for him. He only cared
about the truth.
HaRav Levenstein adds that there were those who sacrificed their
lives for their personal mitzvah observance in the privacy of their
homes. Matisyohu, however, taught us that we must actively fight
against those who want to destroy our religion.
"Actually then too there were those who were moseir nefesh
for observing mitzvos, but no one until then fought openly against
the enemy. Matisyohu's awakening is what brought the redemption for
the Jews. Previously there was a hesteir ponim that made it
possible to think that no memory of Yisroel would, chas vesholom,
"We can see something of Hashem's ways. Hashem can allow an
enemy to do what he wishes even if the only thing missing is a strengthening
in Torah and mitzvos by a chossid. Then when that chossid
strengthens himself, everything turns itself over. No natural or accustomed
way of life remains and we are then zoche to miracles such
as the Chashmonaim saw. We see to what extent we must continue strengthening
Doubtless Hashem's mighty hand did this and the
whole victory was a miracle. Its foundation was, however, caused by
an awakening from below. Maran the Mashgiach says it is amazing how
such a revolution against a kingdom which ruled the whole world could
be made by so few people and even they were wearied by fifty-two years
of oppression aimed at wiping away any remnant of Judaism and terrible
decrees resulting in a feeling of total loss and hopelessness.
This principle of clinging to the truth under all conditions,
the Mashgiach says, can be learned from Yosef Hatzaddik. His behavior
teaches us about the "strength and might of the Jewish heart."
"We must reflect about the might of Yosef in the way he acted
with his brothers and the great wonder that the entire time he did
not let his father know of his living in Egypt. Let us imagine the
following: is it possible for Yosef who was Yaakov's youngest son
to be stolen from the house of Yaakov Ovinu where the Shechina
dwelled, to be sold as a slave in the house of the Egyptian sar
hatabochim, to find himself in jail, to fall from such a high level
in spiritual achievement and material standing although he surely
had done nothing to deserve all this, but still be able to subdue
his feelings? Even after he was made viceroy and surely was able to
tell his father of his living in Egypt he did not do so.
"The Ramban explains that Yosef's reason for not divulging
his being alive to his father was because he understood that his dreams
were true. He did not reveal his being alive to his father so that
his dreams would be fulfilled. (The gemora infers from Yosef
that a person should wait up to twenty-two years for his dream to
materialize.) We are simply staggered when we realize Yosef's strength
of spirit, how he was able to suffer hardship and humiliation, and
his wanting to do the mitzvah of honoring a father and the like, but
still not to veer from the truth. Yosef did this although he did not
hear explicitly from HaKodosh Boruch Hu that he should do so.
Certainly we can and should be as strong as a rock to fulfill every
halocho in the Torah. Chazal write that Klal Yisroel
says `I am a wall' (Shir HaShirim 8:10) since all the winds
in the world cannot move it."
Am Yisroel has been required to follow this
moral lesson throughout history. The Maharal's brother writes in Sefer
HaChaim (III, ch. 7) that the test of Chanukah repeats itself in
one way or another in every generation. This is what Chazal mean when
they write "all of the yomim tovim will become abrogated
except for Chanukah and Purim."
"The reason for the mitzvos of Chanukah and Purim has never
become abrogated since there are still those in every generation who
try to make us forget our Torah just as the Greeks did during these
days of Chanukah."
We understand that this has actually happened in recent generations.
From the time that meisisim umadichim -- the Enlightenment,
Zionism, and the Reform Movements -- tried to gain control over
Am Yisroel, many Jews have felt powerless and on the brink
of despair when faced with the massive power and crushing might of
those who want to erase our religion and disseminate foreign ideologies.
This troublesome reality causes many not to swim against the tide
and to either openly identify with the reshoim who want to
change Am Yisroel's image, or at least to act passively and
resign themselves to "reality." In practice, passive behavior
all too often leads to merging with these heretical groups.
The gedolei Torah have warned us not to become close to
these negative elements. They encouraged us to cling to the truth
and to weather the storm, not to succumb to the tremendous material
power aimed at us. Unfortunately, not everyone manages to succeed
in resisting them. Only the small assembly of Torah-true, who fervently
guard Judaism and the Torah's truth, have remained loyal.