Monday, December 22, 2008

Not Afraid to be Unique

Peled said that Israelis want to celebrate Christmas because they do not want to feel culturally isolated from the rest of the world.

"Celebrating only Hanukka set us apart, makes us different. People don't want to feel that way. They want to be part of world," she said.

With these words, Tamir Peled, has signed the death warrant of the Jewish people. Explaining the increasing visibility of Christmas decorations in certain places in Israel, Peled says that many Israelis don't want to be different. They feel that Chanukkah sets them apart, something that they are uncomfortable with. This desire to fit in, to be alike the nations, is the slow end of the Jews.

The Greeks were one of the most tolerant and universal-minded peoples in the ancient world. It is doubtful that they oppressed or persecuted any other people besides the Jews. How did a people known for its openness and love of philosophy come to commit so many atrocities against the Jews? It is hard to understand how the people that gave the world democracy, Plato and Aristotle, were the same ones as those who murdered Chana's 7 sons before her eyes for not bowing to an idol, or martyred the saintly Rabbi Eliezer for refusing to eat pork.

Alexander the Great and his Hellenistic successors wanted to unite the world under Greek culture and philosophy. The ancient pagans were the ultimate in relativism as they syncretized gods and beliefs with great ease. The Greeks adopted the gods of the nations that they conquered and in return gave them their Pantheon. The only people who refused to do this were the Jews. The Jews insisted on circumcising themselves, alone of all the ancients, did not eat the same food as non-Jews and did not share in any of their customs. The Greeks were outraged when they discovered that the Jewish Temple contained no idol or statue. They forbade the circumcision, the mark of the covenant between the Jews and G-d. They decreed that anyone caught studying Torah, the divine laws, observing the Shabbat, the holy day, or keeping kosher was to be put to death. They outlawed the Sanhedrin's proclamation of the New Month, the obligation which gave the Jewish people mastery over time.

The Greeks did not wish to eradicate the Jews physically, nor did they wish to destroy them. Rather, the Greeks wanted to put an end to the Torah, G-d's laws which set the Jewish people apart. They desecrated the Temple, and erected a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies. They built giant sports arenas and theaters in Jerusalem and the countryside to try and entice the Jews into the Greek culture. In fact, many of the rich and elite became known as Hellenizers because of their affinity for the Greek culture. The Greeks polluted all of the oil in the Temple, reserved for kindling the Golden Menorah, symbolic of their desire to stamp out the Torah and its light.

Oil characterized the Jewish people because just as oil does not mix with other liquids, so too do the Jews not mix with other nations. Just as oil always rises to the top, Jews always rise above the mundaneness and triviality of the world, and above the attempts of those who wish to wipe them out. The prophet Bilaam called the Jews "a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." (Numbers 23:9) The essence of the Jewish people is to be separate, to be distinct and to be holy. The Uniqueness of the Divine is paralleled by the uniqueness of the Jewish people, G-d's chosen vessel through which to reveal His Oneness and Majesty. G-d chose the nation of Israel to bring consciousness of G-d to the entire world, and to spread the light of Torah.

Many Jews unfortunately do not want to be alone. They hate their Jewishness, their choseness and distinct-ness with a passion. Deep down, they are afraid of being unique. These Jews want desperately to be accepted. Little do they realize that it is their Jewish destiny to be different. Our Father Avraham was called the 'Ivri' because he stood on one ever, side, while the entire world stood on the other. In a society that worshipped the forces of nature and paid homage to tyrants, Avraham had the courage to stand apart.

Our Sages tell us that Israel was redeemed from Egypt by virtue of the fact that they retained their identity. The Jews did not change their Hebrew names, adapt their dress to meet Egyptian fashion and spoke only their Hebrew tongue. Throughout the ages, the Jews resisted assimilation and were therefore able to outlast any other nation.

When Jews wish to become like the other nations, it is the beginning of the end. As G-d says: "If you sever yourselves from the other peoples, then you belong to me; but if not, then you belong to Nebuchadnezzar and his fellows." (Midrash, Sifra 93d) In the United States, Judaism is disappearing rapidly in a Silent Holocaust of assimilation, with a 50% assimilation rate. According to research, non-Orthodox Jewry will be largely extinct within the span of 3 generations if the current trend prevails. In Israel, the absurd political situation is a symptom of people of little faith desiring to be accepted by the world. The Israeli government and a large segment of the population are willing to sacrifice land, retreat, withdraw and compromise, all to be accepted by a world that stood silently as European Jewry chocked and burnt in the gas chambers and ovens. Such a government of lemmings is leading the nation of Israel back into the ghettos of exile.

The Jewish nation did not survive 2000 years of exile in order to simply be a cultural club. We are told that G-d created the world for the sake of Israel. In order for G-d's Truth to be revealed to the world, He needs a chosen people dwelling in a holy land living by divine laws. Our ancestors rose up against the Greeks so that they should be able to keep the Torah freely, and not be overwhelmed by Greek cultural influence. "Ye are My witnesses, saith the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He; before Me there was no God formed, neither shall any be after Me." (Isaiah 43:10) That is our mission, our calling. Tamir Peled's words, which echo those of the Hellenizers before him, are a death sentence to the Jewish nation.

This Chanukkah, let us discover what makes us unique and may we spread the light of Torah around the world. May G-d illuminate the darkness that clouds of lives, speedily in our days.

Cross-posted from For Zion's Sake


Safiyyah said...

Shaalom BK:

We have these same dynamics in Islam. Although we have our two Eid celebrations which make us unique, some Muslims still celebrate the festivals of other faiths. Or Thanksgiving. Or Mother's Day, etc. etc. Some Muslims do not want to be left out in America where we are mostly surrounded by non-Muslims.

In a country like America, where Muslims (and Jews) are surrounded by those celebrating Christimas, many people do feel left out. As you know, my mom was a Christian and my father was Jewish. We were raised in an "interfaith" household. We celebrated Channuka and Christmas - Easter and Passover.

Only my Jewish grandmother was "not afraid to be unique." When I asked her why she didn't celebrate both holidays like my parents did, she replied something to the effect, "we are Jewish. It's not what we do. It's what they do."

Simple as that. She didn't put anyone else or their faith group down, she simply and clearly reiterated that we were unique, not like anyone else.

Good post.

Ralph said...


I read your comments with interest, particularly your concluding paragraph and especially the last seven words viz: "we were unique, not like anyone else."

I suggest to you that what I refer to as 'True Blue' Christians are also unique and do not celebrate easter, christmas and other 'Roman' festivals but adhere to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth who said "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."
"Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."

Should one have a problem in being 'left out of', or avoiding, activities which G-d condemns?

Safiyyah said...

Greetings Ralph:

Exactly! One should not have a problem in being "left out" of activities not permissible by Him.

As you know, many people are at various points on the journey to the One. Thus, I think this is where the confusion is for some.

Also, I understand that the Unitarians fit the description of the Christians you describe?

See my blog. I have made a post, inspired by this on from BK, titled "Fully Muslim"