Ask a secular Jew why we celebrate Chanukah and he will likely conjure up images of Schwarzenegger-like Maccabees heroically defeating multitudes of Greeks while regaining freedom for the Jews of Israel.

But the Jews reconquered the Bais Hamikdosh from the Greeks. in the year 3597 (165 B.C.E.) The Greeks however continued to occupy much of Israel for years to come. The kingdom of the Hasmoneans did not materialize until nearly a quarter-century after the miracle of the Chanukah lights. In 3698 (63 B.C.E) the Roman Consul Pompeii conquered Jerusalem and Israel became a vassal state to Edom. This time table reveals that the rabbinic establishment of Chanukah was a thanksgiving for the return of the avodas Bais Hamikdosh (the Temple service) accomplished through the mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) of Jews against seemingly insurmountable odds. This resulted in the flowering of the Oral Law represented by the Mishnaic Period. We commemorate this by lighting a menorah whose oil symbolizes the knowledge of Torah.

There is yet another insight regarding the Chanukah epic which is not as widely known but appears in the writings of Torah personalities as diverse as Rav Nachman of Breslov and the late Rav Yitzchak Hutner. The real Chanukah celebration is not merely the commemoration of a Jewish revolutionary war against the Greek occupiers of Eretz Yisrael (although on the surface our celebration and texts certainly refer to this victory). The inner meaning of Chanukah is the celebration of the results of a civil war that pitted Jew against Jew with the traditionalists emerging victorious. Here is how it worked:

The period of Chanukah is referred to by our rabbis as Golus Yavan — the Grecian Exile. The rabbis also refer to the many Jews who adopted the Hellenistic practices of their Greek rulers as misyavnim  – Hellenists. As Rav Hutner points out during no other point in our long periods of exile in Bavel (Babylon) and Mitzrayim (Egypt) do the rabbis refer to the Jews as misbavlim or mismatzrim. Yavan was unique in its ability to penetrate to the very innards of
the Jew to contaminate or compromise his inner most religiosity.

This is alluded to in the Maoz Tzur liturgy when we recite: U forzu chomos migdolie (they penetrated my fortress-like towers) v’timu kol hasmanim (they rendered impure all the oil representing Jewish wisdom and values). This is the darkness of Yavan; the ability to corrupt the Jew through the siren calls of progressiveness and modernity . 

The Jews were captivated by Greek art philosophy and sports. The commentator Bach writes that the young priests began to frequent the Grecian sports arenas as they forsook the Temple services; a transgression that triggered the evil occurrences of Golus Yavan.

This is the explanation the Al Hanisim liturgy that tells us Hashem gave over the Jewish apostates into the hands of those who toiled in the pursuit of Torah. The war wasn’t merely Greek evildoers versus tzaddikim it was also Jew against Jew.

Thus Chanukah is the final frontier the very last major Jewish holiday. You can separate the Jew from the pagan but you can’t get the secular influence the drive to ape what is perceived as progressive or modern out of the Jew’s kishkas (innards). That is the final and the hardest task before Moshiach arrives. That’s why Chanukah is the longest holiday. Symbolically it takes eight long days of purging to clean our inner oil.

If you’re nodding your head and thinking that the current misyavnim in Judaism are Reform Reconstructionist or Conservative Jews who adopt modern anti-Torah values you’ve comprehended only half the lesson of Chanukah. The other 50 percent is that while many followers of these alternate forms of Judaism may be excused as ‘tinokos shenishbao’ — a halachic term for those who don’t know better — the right-wing Torah community also contends with its own brand of misyavnim.

Surprised by the above statement? What would you call it when chassidim honor Senator Schumer as a scion? of their particular chassidic group — despite the fact that Schumer’s legislative priorities on the moral issues mirror those of the ancient pagan Greeks who embraced the homosexual agenda? Or when New York politicians who happen to be Orthodox vote for the Dignity For Students Act a most dangerous form of homosexual legislation and not one rabbi or organization knows about this betrayal or publicly criticizes it?

Or how about when Jerusalem Mayor Lupolianksi has to be so politically correct while visiting Boro Park — Boro Park! — that he refuses to speak out against immorality and no one questions his silence in the face of a planned quarter-of-a-million-person homosexual breach of Jerusalem’s chomos and megdalim (walls and towers)?

Not one Orthodox organization has done anything of significance to rally our community against this sacrilege. Have the leaders of those groups forgotten — or do they simply prefer to ignore — that Matisyahu and his sons not only declared a revolutionary war on the Greeks who were an international empire but concurrently declared a civil war on the misyavnim Jews who were aiding the defilement of Yerushalayim?

It’s been five weeks since we publicly pleaded with Agudah the O.U. and Young Israel to provide us with dynamic Hashmonaim-like leadership. The sound of misyavnim-tainted silence is deafening. I ask the following questions of these organizations:

Why is it dignified and proper for Agudah Knesset Member Eichler to be featured in the international media continuously heckling Prime Minister Sharon while he is warned and ultimately expelled from the Parliamentary chambers? Was Daas Torah consulted before he engaged in these unseemly histrionics? Or was he just another politician playing to his audience whose anger we all share regarding Sharon’s cuts of subsidies for large families?

Why can M.K. Eichler scream about money and why can’t he and his colleague Mayor Lupolianksi express similar outrage about the planned defiling of Hashem’s courtyard?

Why do the two Agudah-associated haredi papers often write puff pieces about politicians who are contaminating the wellsprings from which we drink but an article seriously dissecting their horrific contradiction of our Torah values will never appear on their pages? Why is this not misyavnim of the right?

Why is the statement of Rav Shach zt l (quoted in Rav Meir Vallach’s Hagadas Rav Shach) declaring his Daas Torah that the homosexual agenda must be vigorously fought both in the U.S. and Israel no longer operative?

For that matter why is Rav Moshe Feinstein’s ruling that All who heed our words should do all in their power to publicly oppose the homosexual agenda basically disregarded by the organizations that presume to speak for the Torah community? What has changed since Rav Moshe’s demise? Aren’t we the Torah public entitled to know why this policy is no longer followed? If the Maccabees had made all these political cheshbonos of whether it was logically possible to defeat either the might of the Greek army and its predominant culture or their fellow Jewish Hellenistic politicians would we be celebrating Chanukah today?

Finally I ask — I beseech — our leaders: When are we going to get some cogent in-depth answers to these serious questions that assail the hearts of thousands of yeshiva-educated Jews who are seeing an ever-growing disconnect between the hashkofah (Torah perspective) we were taught in yeshiva and the real politics practiced by our Torah bureaucracies?

The Posuk says Ask your zekainim and they will answer you. With the encouragement of gedolim of yesteryear I asked and received an answer far different from the sha shtill policy practiced today. Things haven’t gotten better. Az tzitut vey shreit min. If it really hurts us if the message of Chanukah really resonates we must cry out with the same dignity (or perhaps lack thereof) which Knesset member Eichler exhibited in the Knesset. Did he really change anything by his outbursts? Perhaps not but he showed his constituency that he feels their pain. Dare we do less for kedushas Yerushalayim? 

When I go to Washington to enlist the help of sympathetic non-Jews and they agree to extend it but ask what your fellow rabbis are doing why should I have to funfer (equivocate)?

We deserve a comprehensive answer. If it can’t be given in this forum use any other media outlet or gathering to give this issue a thorough airing. We deserve this hadracha (guidance) — it’s our right. And it’s what the light of Chanukah is all about.


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Rabbi Yehuda Levin is a longtime Torah pro-family activist. He hosts Levin@11, Thursday evenings, on 620 WSNR AM radio; episodes are also available on YouTube. He can be reached at