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Chanukah and the Taliban: The battle from without and within

America is fighting a war; a good and just war, a war on terrorism. At least that’s what they tell us on the radio and in the newspapers. The President makes eloquent speeches and the Defense department gives us up-to-the-minute updates about every single rock and cave enclave that was flattened by American bombers. But do we really feel like we’re at war? Other than what we read and learn from the media, would we even realize that a war is going on? Alright, you’ll tell me, “What about the Anthrax scare? It’s right in our own backyard.” (Or in the case of New Jersey, right in our own servant’s quarters!) But this too, seems to be removed from our daily lives, with the exception that I haven’t won a Reader’s Digest Million Dollar sweepstakes in weeks! It would seem that the battle is raging on two fronts; Abroad, the Taliban is all but tripping over the towels on their heads to get out of the way of the American fighters, who are there to exact vengeance and justice for the brutal attack on America. While, thank goodness for Tom Ridge and the Homeland Security bunch, we are going to overcome the enemy that is attacking from within – if we could only figure out who that is!

You would think that this war has little or nothing in common with the holiday of Chanukah. Why should it? Instead of the weak and few attacking the big and strong in a perverse attempt to correct the ills of the world, and then getting demolished by the invincible coalition armies, the story of Chanukah is just the opposite: The big, strong and invincible army attacks the land of the weak and few, and eventually gets beaten themselves by the handful of soldiers using guerrilla warfare to protect their own land and religion. However, as Chazal tell us many times over, “Ma’aseh Avos Siman L’bonim” – “Actions of the fathers are a lesson to the children.” There are more than just a few uncanny comparisons between the events of thousands of years ago and those that are occurring around us as we speak. Not only that, but we, the Jewish people, can learn so much from what happened then and apply it to our own times and events.

As we all know, the miracle of Chanukah was two-fold; The Jews were forced to go out and wage war on the advancing Greek army and through the Might of Hashem, they were victorious against great odds. But then they came back home to the Beis Hamikdosh and miraculously found a sealed jar of pure olive oil which they used to light candles that burned for the next eight days straight. Hence the comparison to the battle abroad and the challenge from within. The Hellenists attacked and killed Jews as a way to impose their influence on them and to take away their Jewish values, morality and spirituality. Their main objective was to stop the practice of Judaism and force everyone to adopt their lifestyle. Once again, the comparison is clear: The purpose of the terrorist attacks and the brutal loss of life was an incomprehensible attempt to stand up to and alter the American way of life. How many times, over the past few months have we heard a top official of some sort utter the phrase, “We will not allow the terrorists to change our way of life!” That is their goal and they feel that this justifies killing innocent people. The Taliban and the Hellenists – two terrorists in a pod! But it doesn’t stop there. R’ Sholom Schvadron ZT”L writes that the Chashmonaim had quite a time selling their war, the people needed to be convinced and prodded that indeed the war against the Greeks was necessary. Mattisyohu Kohen Gadol, a good Jewish public relations spokesman, was what made all the difference. Likewise, today, a good Jewish public relations spokesman, Ari Fleischer, is constantly urging the American people to be vigilant and supportive, and the only way the country can remain steadfast in their fight against terrorism through the long and cold months ahead, in unknown terrain and against unyielding and fanatic guerrillas, is through a P.R. blitz that will encourage patriotism and urge on the nation. And of course, in both scenarios, the good guys end up winning! (I hope!)

Obviously, the Jewish people do not live their lives in a vacuum and current world events affect them in many ways. The gemara says, “Misfortune does not come into this world only on account of the Jewish people.” My Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Chaim Stein Shlit”a asked, could it possibly be that the tragedies that occurred and the thousands of people that were killed on that fateful September day, were a result of the sins of the Jewish people? The goyim have no sins that could have attributed to this terrible punishment? The answer, he explains, is that misfortune comes into this world in order to teach the Jewish people, to warn them and exhort them to be better, for Hashem is obviously finding them lacking in areas of spirituality and if they do not take heed, Heaven forbid, something tragic could happen to them. Being that the attacks came just days before Rosh Hashanah, when the entire world was about to be judged based on their merits and faults, he said, it was an appropriate time for such a warning to be sent. It was up to us to take heart and better ourselves.

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Now, just as in the miracle of Chanukah and in the events of today, a two-fold battle is being waged – abroad and closer to home – so too, a similar battle is the order of the day with each and every Jewish family. R’ Moshe Sternbuch Shlit”a cites a parable about a king and his soldiers. Every leader and every nation, the world over, maintains two distinct sets of soldiers to protect the king and the national security. The first, and usually larger group, is the one that patrols the borders, who are sent out in the interest of the nation to uphold its values and, when necessary, fight the battles needed to bring this about. The paratroopers, the marines, the Navy seals and the border police come to mind. Their job is to keep the boundaries of their country safe from any and all threats, in order to allow life inside to continue on as usual. The second group of soldiers are those that stay close to home, to protect the king’s safety and thwart any attempts to harm the leader. The Royal Guard and the Secret Service, just to name two, would fall into this category. They enjoy a closer proximity to the king, including his palace and his amenities, and some are able to establish a close relationship with the person that they are sworn to protect. However, to say that one set of soldiers is more valuable than the other would be foolish, and dangerous I might add, for one without the other would prove valueless. What good would protecting the king do if the entire country were to become overrun and conquered by an outside enemy? On the other hand, protecting the perimeter vigilantly while allowing the leadership and authority of the nation to be deposed, would cause any country to implode from within. Each group serves its purpose in equal value for the proper equilibrium of a nation.

Says R’ Moshe, maintaining a Bayis Ne’eman B’Yisroel, a proper Jewish household, and serving Hashem, is no different than that of protecting a country. The two sets of soldiers represent the man and the woman. The man is given 613 commandments, not including thousands of Rabbinical mitzvos. His main job is to stay close to his King, to honor and protect Him, by vigilantly doing His bidding, learning His Torah and performing His mitzvos, and in general, raising up the Name of Hashem in the eyes of the world. He enjoys a close proximity to Hashem and its his sole purpose in life. However, if not for the efforts of the second set of soldiers, the Jewish woman, he would not be able to accomplish his goal. Being that she is not responsible for as many commandments as the man and seemingly cannot reach the level of Torah and mitzvos as her counterpart, one would think that she cannot be privy to the inner sanctum of the King. However, her efforts in maintaining the sanctity and modesty of the Jewish home, her job of educating and instilling generations of Jewish children in the ways of the Torah, her tireless efforts insuring that yiddishkeit will continue to flourish and never be forgotten, are just as valuable in the eyes of the King, and He does not require a close proximity with her, to have a close relationship to Him. Her relationship to Hashem is just as deep and tight as that of the man, but it is expressed in a different manner, one in which an inner presence is not needed. By coming together as one and utilizing the capabilities each one was endowed with, a man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother, will create the ultimate protective force field as well as a vast treasury of spirituality needed to truly build a proper Jewish home.

This is a valuable lesson that we learn from the story of Chanukah, where two great miracles occurred on two battle fronts, and the sanctity and security of the Jewish people were upheld both from without and within. The actions of those great tzaddikim/warriors will serve as a blueprint for their descendants and it is we, in this day and age, who must emulate them. When a woman and man will work in harmony to establish a beautiful Jewish home in the tradition of our great ancestors, protecting the boundaries of influence and instilling the values that have made us a great nation, coupled with the action and performance of Torah-life and mitzvos therein, a mini Chanukah storyline is played out. The burning light of spirituality and religious observance, together with the courageous battle of ideology, values and morality, will win out against all attempts at Hellenization, assimilation and even “Talibanization”!


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