On Rabbi's and Politics

  1. Cause for Redemption
  2. The High Road to Salvation
  3. Two Paths
  4. ‘I will hasten it in its Time’
  5. Torah Luminaries and Political Leaders
  6. Royal Rabbis

Cause for Redemption

Question: Why do the Rabbis today not stand up with strength and
courage, like Mattityahu in the days of the Maccabean revolt, and lead
the Jewish people in a religious re-awakening and an all-out war with
the Arab enemy? Why do they not take as their role model the
Maccabee’s who dared to engage the Greeks and the Jewish Hellenists in
battle?

Answer: Mattityahu the Hasmonean priest did not begin his revolt when
Hellenism gripped the Jews, and our beautiful and holy city of
Jerusalem changed her complexion and took on the appearance of a
Hellenist city. Even when Hellenism had infected the Holy Sanctuary
itself, and the High Priests of Israel took upon themselves Greek
names and frequented the athletic games in the coliseum that stood
adjacent to the Temple Mount more frequently than they performed the
Divine worship in the Holy Temple, no revolt was instigated.

The revolt did not begin until things became virtually unbearable as a
result of religious persecution – when the Greeks, aided by
Hellenists, began to force people to practice idolatry. The vast
majority of pious Jews fled to the hills and the caves, and when they
were caught, they sanctified God’s name by giving their lives rather
than committing idolatry. Mattityahu the Priest chose the path of
active resistance and initiated the Hasmonean revolt.

The High Road to Salvation

Even so, this is not the ideal path to redemption. Ideally, Israel’s
redemption should pour forth from a genuine inner awakening and true
desire on the part of the masses. For, as a result of strengthening of
faith and Torah study, the nation will become united around Torah
values. This, in turn, will lead to the land’s liberation and the
construction of the Holy Temple. Such was the case in the time of
Samuel the Prophet and King David. It was the impact of the Prophet’s
Samuel’s educational activity that unified the nation and readied the
people for accepting upon themselves a king who would lead them in
realizing truly Divine ideals.
This was King David’s uniqueness. He initiated and brought about the
creation of the kingdom of Israel according to his own premeditated
plan. The judges that preceded David were different. Each of these
Judges rose up in response to enemy attacks from without. In order to
defend Israel and rebuff such assaults, each Judge united the people
and uplifted their spirits. David, though, took premeditated and
calculated steps in order to unite the Jews. He began by assisting
King Saul in his war with the Philistines, and when in time, Saul’s
jealousy of him grew, David chose to leave the public arena in order
not to cause a rift in the nation. Even after Saul’s death, David took
slow and calculated steps. He began by establishing his kingdom in
Judea. When the time was ripe, after the nation had accepted his
leadership, David made Jerusalem the seat of his kingdom. This step
was taken so that the entire nation would rally around the city of
Jerusalem, thus becoming the holy capital. In battle too, David’s
driving force was apparent. Rather than waiting for them to build up
strength and attack, David engaged the surrounding enemies in war.
Hence, till this day we proclaim: ‘David the King of Israel is alive
and enduring!’ It was David who established the kingdom of Israel.
Generally speaking, though, our salvation flowered in response to
difficulties and hardships which plagued the nation.

Two Paths

The first path calls for bringing the Redemption via our own active
initiative, like Samuel the Prophet and King David who displayed human
effort and were aided from above. This is ‘Redemption by choice,’ and
this is the preferred path.
The second path plays itself out via Divine intervention. Seeing the
hopeless plight of the Jewish people and their inability to advance
toward the desired elevated goals, God covertly intervenes in
historical events, creating a ‘no choice’ situation by virtue of which
the Nation of Israel is forced to take a stand and free itself. This
is a ‘no choice Redemption’ and it is riddled with difficulties and
hardships. To some degree, the redemption of Chanukah was of this
latter sort, for it began as a reaction to the barbarous decrees of
Antiochus.
We, of course, yearn for a redemption which comes about as a result of
the ascent of the entire nation through faith, Torah, and the
settlement of the Land of Israel. We pray that in this manner the
Kingdom of David will be restored, leading to a peaceful and pleasant
redemption. Concerning the verse in the Book of Isaiah: ‘The least one
shall become a thousand and the smallest one a strong nation. I the
Lord will hasten it in its time,’ the Sages teach us: If you are
worthy: ‘I… will hasten it.’ If not: ‘… it will come in its
natural time.’

‘I Will Hasten it in its Time.’

There also exists a possibility of a redemption that combines both of
the paths we have mentioned. This sort of process is essentially ‘no-
choice,’ as illustrated in the twenty-sixth chapter of Ezekiel, yet
contains an element of human effort. This, in fact, is the literal
meaning of the passage: ‘I the Lord will hasten it in its time.’ Into
the midst of a natural ‘in its time’ process of redemption enters the
miraculous element of ‘I will hasten it.’
The more active a part we take in the process of our own Redemption –
through settling the land, education, kind deeds, and above all
through delving into the Torah of the Land of Israel, which directs
the Jewish people toward the Divine goal of preparing the world for
the Heavenly Kingdom – the more acceptable will be the suffering which
accompanies the Redemption and the birth-pangs of the Messiah.

In our next posting, Rabbi Melamed will relate to the following topic:

Torah Luminaries and Political Leaders

Question: Why did the revolt of the Maccabee’s not begin until forced
idolatry reached the hometown of Mattityahu the Kohen, Modi’in?

This and much more…

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