I am pretty much, without a doubt, the least qualified on the team to write a column about the Maccabees. That is not stopping me.
I first learned about the Maccabees a couple years ago doing a study on the book of Daniel. I was so humbled and impressed by this group of people that loved their G-d so much that rather than submit to what was being demanded of them, that they offer sacrifices to anyone other than the G-d of Israel, or to eat unclean food, they would spark a revolt.
I ask a girlfriend of mine who knows me pretty well, if she knew about the Maccabees. Well, of course she did. “HOW could you know about the Maccabees and NOT tell me?”. She said she figured I learn about them in time. And so I did, and I fell in love.
The first thing that captivated me was Mattathias and his response. When he was told by the king’s officers that he was honored, a leader and to come be the first to sacrifice as all the Gentiles, people in Judah and those LEFT in Jerusalem had done(seeing as how Antiochus’s troops had slaughtered 40,000 and sold another 40,000 into slavery when he defiled the temple), he refused. He didn’t form a committee, he didn’t have an emergency conference with is sons, they didn’t do a feasibility study of defeating Antiochus, debate if he would be called racist, islamophobic, homophobic, hoplophobic, xenophobic. He just said
“Though all the nations that are under the king’s dominion obey him, and fall away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments : yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the covenant of our fathers. G-d forbid that we should forsake the law and. the ordinances. We will not hearken to the king’s words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left.”
And, he really meant it.
As some Jews had been happy enough about blending in with the king’s people (they picked the WRONG king) they had also become his enforcers. They were already breaking the Torah themselves, so what’s a little selling out of your fellow Jews who are trying to hold to the correct King’s law? So while Antiochus was determined to wipe out Judaism, he was perfectly willing to use the religious leaders to convince the people that the horrible idea of turning away from their G-d was a GREAT idea. Not much has changed today has it?
When an appeasing Jew stepped forward, the kind of person that tries to appease a tiger, hoping it will eat them last, Mattathias killed him. He would NOT tolerate a sacrifice to a pagan idol, a false G-d in HIS name. None of it. He then killed the king’s officer that was forcing the people to do this wicked thing. He recognized evil for what it was. He didn’t try to rationalize it away, make it better or listen to national leaders that didn’t have the people’s best interests at heart. How can I say that? I wasn’t there? Because the people weren’t being allowed to worship THEIR G-d as they had been commanded to. They were being prevented from it, forbidden. In the most horrific of ways. Where in the beginning, perhaps they chose to assimilate, not wanting to be “intolerant” before long, it became mandatory. Horribly mandatory. Convert or Die.
One of the things those that who chose to rebel with Mattathias soon faced was the king’s army attacking them on Shabbat. When word reached the army at Jerusalem they rode out into the desert to stomp out these upstart Maccabee Partisans. The army commanded them to come out. But rather than profane their Sabbath, they chose to die, around a thousand of them, with their wives, children and livestock. They were faithful even unto death. Unfortunately, as my team mate Y.B. has pointed out,
Dying Kiddush Hashem (in sanctification of G-d’s name) is far too big a habit for Jews. We do it all the time. We’re really good at it. We have a backlog of those who have so died good for the next few thousand years, don’t you think?
The Maccabee Partisans then held a discussion and decided
“If we all do as our kinsmen have done,” they said to one another, “and do not fight against the Gentiles for our lives and our traditions, they will soon destroy us from the earth.” On that day they came to this decision: “Let us fight against anyone who attacks us on the sabbath, so that we may not all die as our kinsmen died in the hiding places.”
I don’t think Satan and the king’s army needed any help trying to wipe Judaism off the face of the earth. They were doing well enough on their own.
Other soon joined the Maccabees, and the rebellion grew. They went after all that were breaking the law. And it was about G-d, Torah and his law. There was none of this, “well, you have friends in high places”, or “they know people” or__________. It was very simple, and very fair. It was a Jewish land, and these were Jewish laws.
Lest you think that the people were converting and violating G-d’s laws because of something taught in Antiochus’s Common Core school, I will relate just a bit of Hannah and her Seven Sons. They deserve Capital letters. The first son made it plain that he would not violate the Torah by eating pork. What followed was having his tongue cut out, he was scalped, his hands and feet cut off, and while he was still breathing he was fried alive. In view of his Mother and Six Brothers, who all encouraged each other to die bravely but not give in. And NONE did, the Mother, after watching all of her sons suffer the same fate, was killed. Many of the Sons informed the king that though he had earthly power over them now, there was a Power greater, and he had NO power over that king. That the king should make no mistake, he absolutely would be called to account for his mistreatment of them and their nation. But that king was as arrogant or perhaps even more than rulers we see today. The battle was arrogance against the courage of their convictions and faith in their G-d. They perceived the horrors that had befallen their nation as punishment for having turned away from him.
When Mattathias died, he appointed his son Judah military leader, and his son Simon as the one to go to for wisdom. Father must have known his children’s strengths. Judah won amazing victories. His speech I love is:
But when they saw the army coming to meet them, they said to Judah, “How can we, few as we are, fight against so great and strong a multitude? And we are faint, for we have eaten nothing today.” Judah replied, “It is easy for many to be hemmed in by few, for in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between saving by many or by few. It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from Heaven. They come against us in great pride and lawlessness to destroy us and our wives and our children, and to despoil us; but we fight for our lives and our laws. He himself will crush them before us; as for you, do not be afraid of them.”
When he finished speaking, he rushed suddenly against Seron and his army, and they were crushed before him. They pursued them down the descent of Beth-Horon to the plain; eight hundred of them fell, and the rest fled into the land of the Philistines. Then Judah and his brothers began to be feared, and terror fell upon the Gentiles round about them.
Judah didn’t fight for fame, glory to meet some celebrity or get a video game name after him. He fought for G-d, for his way of life, and because it was the right thing to do. Some fights are worth having. He suited up, showed up ready to fight and leave the outcome to G-d.
Eventually Judah and the Partisans often using guerrilla tactics retook Jerusalem. They disposed of the desecrated alter, cleansed the temple and built a new alter, new vessels to be made and everything was to be done properly, according to the law. For the Menorah, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol, high priest was needed. The Menorah was to burn through the night, every night. And while only one such bottle, enough to last for one night, was all that could be found, it lasted eight nights, which was the amount of time it took for a fresh supply of oil to be available. Some doubt that miracle to be true. I do not.
But whether or not THAT miracle is true, I think making one bottle of olive oil burn for eight nights is no big thing, ein ba-ya, for the G-d that created the olives, the trees, the land. I think the amazing miracle is that three years to the day that the madmen of Antiochus pillaged Jerusalem and defiled the temple, it was back in Jewish hands, holy and rededicated from what began as a one man revolt. And that one man had raised really good and righteous sons.
Please know, this is the “Cliff Note” version of the Maccabean Revolt, from a person who has been in love with them for two whole years because she has only known about them for two whole years. I believe you will get a far better column from someone far better qualified to write it.
I know that most people think of Hanukkah as a “Jewish holiday”, some think it’s the Jewish version of Christmas. But I’m telling you now, Christians NEED to learn about Hanukkah! They NEED to know WHAT and WHY it was! They NEED to understand it, and they need to learn it very, very fast. And some Jews need to re-learn some lessons too. Hanukkah is equally as important for all of us now. Why would I say such a thing?
Because in the beginning some of the Jews were fine with the new lifestyle that was being brought in by the Greeks, the new gymnasiums, the “freedom” from all those bothersome holy laws. Tolerance, acceptance, go along to get along. Love, joy, peace and kumbaya and all that. And then the gloves came off. They were forbidden to practice their faith, forbidden to serve G-d, to worship him. Defiance was costly. I consider dead to be very costly.
Mattathias didn’t start the trouble, he didn’t go to Jerusalem looking to right the wrongs when Antiochus and his crowd showed up in Jerusalem and said “Burn this Bitch Down”. But when evil showed up on his doorstep he knew it for what it was and he didn’t muck about sorting it.
This country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Yet, in the country there are cities that are being told they can not have a float that had a religious statement on it because ONE person complained to an atheist legal group. The Ten Commandments are removed from schools and government buildings (and if ever there was a place they NEED to be, it would be government buildings). Sometimes by legal action, threats of legal action, or just choice. Army Chaplains are forbidden to use the Bible in suicide prevention classes. Children are told they can’t meet to pray before or after school on school grounds and humiliated for choosing to read a Bible during “free reading” period. So, what can the kids learn about in school? Islam. Several states have had people beginning to talk on FaceBook and to the media about the children coming home with assignments that are proselytizing for Islam. Part of the new Common Core standards lessons. Pamela Geller has been all over this. Reports from Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina all detailing similar events. Apparently there will be no lessons in the classroom on Judaism or Christianity. Unable to practice our religion freely? Check.
Physical violence? Did you know there is a place in America where it’s not safe for a Christian or Jews to go? The Maccabees were Jews who were able to resist and fight back because they were ARMED. They didn’t win battles with Judah’s winning smile. They fought. Yet we have far too many in America that can’t wait to put us all in a position of being in the position of the Warsaw Ghetto again where only the “State” has the means to enforce either freedom or tyranny. In many countries in Europe there is an increasing rise in Anti-Semitism, and Jews are becoming unsafe and afraid to disclose their religion. These kinds of attacks are something Jews in Israel have been dealing with for a very long time. Author Professor Phyllis Chesler said after 9/11 and the attack on the twin towers she went over and typed in her computer “Now we are all Israelis.” And we are right back where we started out, in Israel. The land of Miracles.
The shape our country is in now, we need Maccabees, we need them badly. People that will not bow down to the false king of “Political Correctness” nor allow the sacrifice good people on the alter of “tolerance” by them being put out of business, or having their TV show canceled because they talk about the Tanakh or the Bible. Nor because they choose to talk about G-d. We need people who recognize evil and teach others how to recognize it. We must become the Maccabees of today.
You know, life has been beyond hectic for me these last couple weeks. Mind numbingly, over-overwhelmingly so. The interesting thing was, as I wrote this column, I began to have a sense of peace, and calmness. The first I’ve had in some time. It was as though G-d wrapped a warm quilt around me and said “My child, I’m still in the miracle making business. They may not be on your time table, or in your way, but I still make them. Every single day, I make them. Breath.” And I did.