Chanukah is an ideal platform to discuss Torah based concepts relating to holiness and the profane, and to address the Jewish mandate to remain a holy people. Yet the Maccabees fought for many years, and the war against Hellenism (much like the war with Amalek) rages in every generation. The battle is life-long rather than seasonal. In my opinion, the finest article ever written about Chanukah was penned by Rabbi Meir Kahane (may God avenge his blood), entitled “Down with Chanukah.” If you haven’t read it, it is essential reading. And for those who have, it is certainly fit to reread now and again.
From a philosophical perspective Judaism has always acknowledged that idolatry is more than just the worship of idols. The actual concept of idolatry takes many forms beyond specific ritualistic acts which constitute prohibited idol worship. There is also a philosophical idolatry of worshipping and venerating ideas, values, and ideologies that are foreign to Torah. In the Mishnah Torah, the Rambam describes how mankind descended from the knowledge of The One True G-d. Indeed, the corruption of man’s thought process was involved in man’s first experience with idol worship. What was initially intended to be worship in the service of Hashem, in the form of misguided but good intentions, ultimately corrupted their thoughts and actions. The result was a debased form of pure idolatry.
We also have the idolatry of those damnable “-isms,” which as Rabbi Meir Kahane often pointed out, is always pursued at the expense of Judaism. And very often in the name of Judaism. We see this clearly when modern day Jewish advocates defend liberalism, socialism/communism, feminism, egalitarianism, veganism, and pacifism, often with a religious insistence that these ideas are grounded in Torah. And there is considerable overlap and interplay between the categories.
And one of the worst umbrella isms encompassing the whole grab bag of un-Kosher goodies is Hellenism, since Hellenism often meets these criteria and distorts Jewish concepts from a goyish perspective. All while maintaining that the profane interpretation is the true one. Many self-identifying Jews today celebrate profanity in the name of Judaism and Torah. Far from distorting Judaism, they believe that the Hellenized expression is the epitome of Judaism.
Hellenism has many forms. The celebration and worship of decadence and hedonism, of the sensual turned profane is one expression of self-indulgent Hellenism. The Hellenism of the bohemian gorging from the trough of life is one that many religious Jews recognize as being contrary to Torah. But to think that Hellenism is relegated to some cliché playing out in a Tel Aviv nightclub or at some LGBGT festival is naive. Idol worship and the debasement of the sexual drive are hardly the only platforms for Hellenistic expression. Atheists are also idolaters, Self-worship, worship of the state, worship of man, worship of false institutions and false constructs are idols of a type.
And then there are those terrible new-age idols of liberalism which infect the Torah camp. The “Open Orthodox” movement (an ironic name since it is as far from orthodox thought as the North Pole is from the South) is a newer form of Hellenism proving attractive to those who are influenced by western liberalism but lack the integrity to actively join the conservative/reform movements. This is not hyperbole. How else can we explain the existence of “orthodox” Rabbis celebrating and advocating for legalization of gay marriage, abortion on demand, and rabbinical ordination for women?
Yet laxity and egalitarianism are just one side of the coin. On the other end of the continuum, we have the disturbing phenomenon of an ever-growing group of religious Jews involved with evangelical Christians today, who also fit the category. Those who partake of interfaith prayer and gatherings with Christians are as guilty of expressing Hellenism pagan as the same sorts of people they would castigate on the left. Let us not forget that one of the earliest acts of the Kohen Gadol Matityahu, addressed a public desecration involving the fusion of the sacred and profane. Interfaith activity between religious Jews and evangelicals is perhaps a truer form of Hellenistic paganism, that would have been more recognizable to the Jews in the times of the Maccabees. It was an essential component that allowed many Jews to think they could work out a syncretic relationship between Torah and the competing religions of the day. One definition of Hellenism in a nutshell. This was the challenge the prophet Eliyahu threw out on Har HaCarmel.
“And Elijah came near unto all the people and said: ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ And the people answered him not a word.” (I Kings Chapter 18:21-Machon Mamre)
The notion that religious Jews can meet and greet, pray, learn Torah, and socialize in the context of religious expressions is the essence of paganism. Neither secular G-dlessness nor frum admixtures with treif are any different. The Maccabees could not have fathomed that after thousands of years of being battle-tested, the would be mature, stable, intellectual, committed religious Jews who could fall for such a perversion. They surely could never have understood religious, recognized, prominent Rabbis falling for an evangelical ruse.
It is hard to think that Matityahu would have held his tongue. After all, this was a man who did more than speak on fateful day. And so, these eternal truths must be stated outright without any fear, because there is a great desecration of Hashem’s Name occurring. And the silence is deafening. The silence may even constitute a greater Chillul Hashem. The following is a truism|: Those religious Jews who align with evangelicals are perverting Torah and creating unprecedented obstacles for the Jewish people.
Whether sanctifying the profane or profaning the sacred, the result is the same. Desecration of G-d’s name. In personal discussions, I find that many Jews are bothered by the incursion of evangelical advocacy in Torah camps but like most people who aren’t driven by an activist streak, they neither have the will nor the tools to address these issues. Insular minded religious Jews may think themselves safe from these “modern” ideas. Yet walls erode and crumble, and many have chinks and weak-spots. No Jew is safe. Some insular communities may fancy themselves safe, whereas others are clearly more susceptible, but in an era of social media, the walls are often more ephemeral than real. Whatever corrupts the world will begin to corrupt Jews. Torah fearing Jews who were never vulnerable to the Haskalah eventually saw their Judaism torn away by communism in Eastern Europe.
Many advocates for such forbidden interfaith relationships undermine and mock the danger by pointing out that ‘only Jews without a strong background are vulnerable’. I am always floored by this untrue (but more importantly), this thoroughly un-Jewish selfish perspective. Regardless of our personal vulnerability, we Jews are responsible for one another. Personally, the ability of any missionary to either directly or covertly affect me or influence my personal values is zero. But my obligation to other Jews and to the entire nation transcends my personal self. Issues which do not affect me personally, affect the “us” of the Jewish community. So, if these issues concern me, then I have an obligation to expose and combat them. This is particularly true when one’s knowledge and nature compel them to do so.
Fact: The original Maccabees were righteous zealots. We may certainly apply the “F” word to them. Fundamentalists. In many religious communities of today, they would have been pariahs, and seen as outcasts. They would have been shunned from mainstream orthodoxy. Consider how harsh the defenders of interfaith relationships attack the few Jews today who speak out on these issues. We are girl-scouts compared to Matityahu and Yehuda HaMacabbi.
Yet the Maccabee model is essential for battles to preserve the Jewish body and the soul. The Greeks venerated the body. Judaism values it, but it is always secondary to the service of the soul. A Jew without a body is certainly a tragic thing, it is the story of untold massacres throughout our long exile. A difficult solace has always been that the Jew who retains his Jewish soul has won, regardless of the horrors done to the physical body. A surviving Jewish body without a soul is the greatest tragedy of all. We Jews always view the body as secondary.
Most Jews comprehend the dangers of anti-Semites who desire that our bodies cease to live. Yet in an era when friendly Christians praise Israel on “Fox News” and smile with Jewish politicians and pundits, some see today’s evangelical as a friend. Of course, if many could see how these evangelical friends speak out when NOT in the presence of Jews, they would be mortified. Mike Huckabee is a great example of this phenomenon. No doubt several readers are now reading this and thinking, “how dare he write this, Huckabee is a great friend of Israel!” Yet have they seen this video (warning: link is to a messianic website) where Huckabee unequivocally expresses his support for the infamous “One for Israel” ministry which preys on elderly Holocaust survivors? I challenge any Jew to watch this video and still declare that such a spiritual predator can be called a friend!
This supposed friend, is a friend precisely because he desires that there be physical Jews in existence to accept what he sees as his savior. The threat of brother Esau is as insidious as the crusader sword. Perhaps more so, because contemporary missionaries are experiencing the kind of success they never had in history. The death of Judaism is the end goal of all evangelicals. It is the very essence of the evangelical mandate. To evangelize the unbeliever. There is no such thing as a non-missionary evangelical. It is an oxymoron.
The refusal of too many Jews to see (for one reason or another), the naked agenda of many of these groups is indeed maddening. Consider “Hayovel Ministry” in Israel, headed by Tommy Waller. Over the years Waller turned his organization’s voluntarism in Jewish owned vineyards in Samaria into a lucrative business. For years, I and many others have tried to expose Hayovel’s nefarious agenda ad nauseum. (Several have been doing it for many more years than I have.) It seems that every few years, the ever-wily Tommy Waller gets caught with a mishap, and he must apologize. These periodic seasons of repentance are laughable. So, the same people who defended Waller in the early years which Waller now admits were during his “messianic period”, have continued to defend him as the years go on, even though there have been more than a few of these moments. Waller’s last public repentance occurred more than a year ago, with his insistence that he did teshuva (repentance) from what he now acknowledges was a missionary past. Should we believe him? The answer is no. We should never trust such people who can justify lying from their own religious “Paulian” doctrine. Should I trust a viper not to bite me?
In this article, I will only cite one example which destroys this whole repentance mythology and exposes that he and his organization are still committed to evangelizing Jews. As of December 2018, Hayovel still associates with overt missionaries. On their website, Hayovel sells a messianic daily planner entitled, “Daily Bread”. This is merely one of many goodies from their online shop. A cursory glance at the material says everything. The fact that Hayovel’s webpage features such an obvious messianic text illustrates that they no longer feel that they must hide their beliefs and associations from their Jewish defenders.
I doubt that most of their Jewish supporters even glance at the website. Tragically, one wonders if the presence of a messianic journal would bother them. They usually find absurd excuses to explain away blatant confessions caught on videotape. I doubt it. More importantly, what does this say about Hayovel? Would any Christian organization opposed to missionizing sell such outrageous material? The “Daily Planner” manual clearly states on the front cover that it is a “messianic text”. In the manual itself, we see numerous examples attesting to this agenda:
One particularly outrageous example in the planner is the usurping of the traditional holy blessing Jews make prior to studying Torah. As if this wasn’t repugnant enough, it is followed by their inclusion of a created “messianic style blessing” in Hebrew which invokes the name of “that man.”
Additional messianic tricks: Throughout the planner, there are references to standard texts and sources used by traditional Jews. This allows them to throw out terms such as “Artscroll” and “chabad” and share the lingo of those whose lives are immersed in Jewish Torah study. This bizarre usurping and usage of conventional Jewish names and organizations reflect the attempt to normalize the pagan with contemporary Jewish experiences. Additionally, there are frequent references throughout the manual to infamous Jewish apostates and other personalities who became leaders in the war to evangelize Jews.
Tommy Waller is crafty. He has a knack for duping Jews and the silly pilgrims who enrich him and his family, under the guise of doing “the Lord’s work.” His ability to travel the world with friends and family with ease, and to have the capital to purchase a million dollar plus complex in Missouri proves that this isn’t merely about following what he believes to be his biblical obligation. He is hardly a vow-of poverty type. Few of them are. Like many snake-oil salesmen before him, Tommy discovered the golden goose of evangelical enterprises.
And Waller knows that anytime he or his staff screw up, as they are wont to now and again, he can simply make a video where he sheds crocodile tears for the Jewish people and apologizes for the evils of the crusades. My problem with Waller and his ilk is not related to the sins of crusades. I hate him because he is still trying to destroy Judaism with his relational evangelism, whose end goal is the same as those handing out “Jews for Jesus” leaflets.
Clearly, the presence of such ideological religious materials on Hayovel’s online shop shows precisely where they stand today. Nothing has changed. Hayovel has simply mastered the rhetoric of apologetics and excuse-making, after the early years of making crude mistakes.
It helps that there are more than a few “yeshivas” run by religious Jews (and evangelicals!) feeding them with the education of learning about Jewish mores, lifestyles, and distorted interpretations of Judaism; all of which aid them in their ability to speak a more kosher tongue when dealing with Jews. Essentially these are institutions teaching missionaries how to blend in better and walk the Jewish walk. Given the naked agenda, Jews who continue to defend Hayovel are either deluded, impaired, or liars. Only a fool denies what is evident to anyone with even a rudimentary mass of grey matter.
Those who tap away, kvetching about BDS or about irrelevant goyim while ignoring actual antisemitism encompassing physical and spiritual terrorism against Jews in Israel and the diaspora, are not fighting some great fight. This is the domain of respectable activism, as expressed by the Bnai Brith or “Stand with Us”. The truly unpopular battles are left to those cursed with the gene of zealousness.
It is natural that ideological zealotry is troubling to most people. As all things, zealotry run amuck is as dangerous as the evils one may be fighting against. Naturally, zealous acts and ideas must always be articulated with wisdom and foresight, and within the parameters of halachic expression. The abandonment of the rational faculty and caving to violent urges can also represent a form of pagan worship. Yet when the Jewish heart and head are in alignment, the psyche healthy and thoughtful, the lessons of the Maccabees are eternal and essential. There is no place for the profane in Judaism. And the profane frequently dons a kipah.
This Chanukah we have another example of Jewish giving platform to missionaries. The Menachem Begin Heritage Center is hosting an event on December 5th organized by missionary Doron Keidar’s “Cry for Zion” movement. While several religious speakers are scheduled to speak, the majority are prominent missionaries, including Doron Keidar, Lars Enarson, Jon Enarson, Zac Waller, Aaron Murphy and others.(For more on this outrageous event, see Tomer Devora’s excellent blog post, The Greeks Are Back For Hanukkah). Incidentally, Lars Enarson and Jon Enarson are behind the “messianic planner” I referenced above, which is sold in Hayovel’s online-store:
Whether “open-orthodox” zealots who advocate for late-term abortion, gender neutrality, and gay marriage, or daati-leumi types who partake of interfaith prayer and Tanakh study sessions with evangelicals in the Knesset, contemporary religious Jews are susceptible to modern-day paganism. Strange fires in the name of Torah have teased and tempted the best of Jews at times, but they are particularly appealing to the ignorant (willful and otherwise), the emotionally vulnerable, the insane, and the corrupt.
A final reminder: Fighting for these critical spiritual issues won’t make you popular. On the contrary. You will become decidedly unpopular, outside very small circles who care and think about these troubling issues. If you choose to fight this battle, your beloved blog readership will shrink, blog carnivals will wince when you submit posts, and you will not be invited to “glatt kosher cheese and wine events,” popular among religious hasbara’s avante-garde.
And this is the mild stuff. Many of the people active in these causes will actively malign you with lies and slander. They are terrified that their actions will receive the exposure they have so-far been able to avoid. After all, these are the types of people who brazenly give Samaria tours to noted missionaries Jim Garlow and Rosemary Schindler of the notorious Skyline Church which has a messianic congregation. These are people who actively ignore the warnings of more than a few righteous converts to Judaism, who came from that evangelical world and know precisely how relational evangelism works. They are the experts, and yet these Jews will malign and denigrate righteous converts.
I understand that this isn’t a good sales pitch to get more Jews to fight. In truth it makes no difference. There is no way to mask it. There are no simple solutions. This is a bloody fight and the other side doesn’t fight clean. They hit below the belt if you point out obvious, public, outrages. The hell with popularity. At times the only model for Jewish survival is the Maccabean sword to fight for the purity of Torah and Hashem’s message. Certainly, this is so in a metaphorical sense, yet when extreme circumstances arise, it is equally correct in the most literal of senses.
Those who fight for these critical Torah issues can take comfort with the fact that Matityahu himself would have approved. The reality is, that the fight for authentic undiluted Torah truth has always been the domain of the few. From our forefather Abraham to the Maccabees, to modern day battles continuing today, nothing ever changes. The few among the many.
Let the clarion call of Matityahu shake our souls to the core. Chanukah Sameach!
*(The opinions expressed above are those of the author and not necessarily of The Jewish Press Online)