Monday, December 6, 2010

Going to War With Nature

During the time of the Maccabis, under the rule of the ancient Greeks, the practice of the Torah was forbidden by law. There were only three mitzvos, however, whose observance were punishable by death: Shabbos, Bris Millah and Rosh Chodesh.

In order to understand why these were the three commandments singled out for the death penalty, we have to understand what the Greeks stood for. The god of the Greeks was nature. Survival of the fittest ruled their lifestyles. Athletes were their priests, gymnasiums their temples. Deformed babies met horrible and wholly unnatural deaths. Men, as the stronger gender, were considered holyer than women. They believed in the perfection and superiority of nature.

You can now imagine how offensive shabbos was to these people. What is shabbos? It's a commemoration of how our G-d created nature, their god, and then rested. And Bris Milah? Think about it. We believe that a man's body, as created by nature, is imperfect. Therefore, we have a ceremony, perform a surgery, and by instruction of our G-d, we improve upon the creation of nature, their god. Rosh Chodesh was perhaps the most insulting to them of the three. In the times of the Beis Hamikdash, when a witness would go to the beis din and testify that they had seen a new moon, the beis din has the power to make a major decision. Is the witness correct? Has there been a new moon? If they decide that indeed the witness is reliable, and there has been a sighting of the new moon, a new month would take place. And if not? Any natural forces which run on a monthly cycle would be pushed off until the beis din would accept testimony and declare Rosh Chodesh. So with the observance of Rosh Chodesh, the yidden were telling the Greeks: "not only has our G-d created your god, but when He was finished, He gave the power to control your god over to us."

With the ban on these three mitzvos, as well as the entire Torah, the Greeks weren't just declaring war on the Jews, they were instigating a war between the natural (their force) and the supernatural (our force.) And, as we all know, the supernatural won over the natural.

We've all heard how the Jewish calendar isn't like the secular one. We don't progress through time like a timeline, going further and further from the event until it is a mere memory celebrated by some fireworks or a decorated tree. Our calender is a circle. Each year, as we pass through the months, the same kochos that were put into the world for that month thousands of years ago are in the world today. We all know the Pesach is a time of redemption, and Elul/Tishrei is a time of Teshuvah, but what is the spiritual strength imbued in the world during Chanukah?

The answer lies in our description of the battle between the Maccabim and the Greeks. The battle between the Natural and the Supernatural. Just as the Yidden won of the Natural in the times of the ancient Greeks, we have the power during Chanukah to win over our natures. During this spiritual era, we have the power to go to battle with our yetzer harahs- and win!

Ah Freilichen Chanukah everyone!

Based on a Shiur by Rabbi L. Keleman.

1 comment:

itsagift said...

That's a beautiful thought. Thanks so much for taking the time to type it all up here and making sure it is clear and easy to understand, even though it's a deep one.

A Freilichen Chanukah to you too!