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Channukah 5773- The lure of the majority

December 9, 2012

In the text of the Al HaNissim prayer we insert into the Amidah and Birkat HaMazon (Grace after meals) it contains the following text:

In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will.

What did they do? They created a society in which the attractions to a physical lifestyle, the pleasures of the here and now were supreme. This is the siren call of the Yetzer HaRa (evil inclination), it attracts us to the easy and pleasurable, constantly tempting us to err and to follow it. It is the hallmark of the Yetzer HaRa that it is persistent and constantly assailing our desires and inclination towards physicality and pleasure. We see that in this weeks Parsha when the wife of Potiphar is trying to seduce Yosef: she is constantly at him, tempting him, trying to get him to follow physical desire. Yosef is strong enough to resist, many people are not and end up falling for the temptations of the bodies natural inclination to pleasure.

This was the trap of the Greeks, they did not forbid. Instead, the Greek empire had a syncretic model: “We have conquered you, so you should join us, adopt our culture and ways as they have been proven stronger than yours, in return we will incorporate the best parts of your culture into ours and we will all emerge stronger. ”

Thus the hedonistic lifestyle of the Greeks was held out, a temptation to a conquered people, an easy and pleasurable way of life, indulging in the majority culture, integrating and being welcomed by them. The sages teach us that many Jews succumbed at that time, and even after Mattisyahu and the Maccabees defeated the Greeks, Hellenised Jews remained and persisted even into the era of Roman rule over the Jews. The call for Matisyahu to sacrifice a pig in the Temple was not a call by the Greeks to destroy Judaism, but a call to syncretistic, to call the Jews to join the majority, adopt some of their ways and become one with the rest of the Empire.

While the particular aspect of Hellenic culture of the idol worshipping Seleucid Greeks of over 2000 years ago no longer exists, we see descendents of their philosophy today, we see the siren call of the majority, the easy lure of the physical and the abandonment of the spiritual. Those of us who keep Kosher, how often when we are in mixed company, and there is a delightful, non-Kosher spread which everyone but us is enjoying, does someone turn around and say some variation of “Come on, look how good all this is, why not just enjoy it?” Or how many of you when amongst your fellow students (now or when you were younger) would have your non-Jewish or non-observant Jewish friends say “Come on, its going to be a great party tonight, you can be with your family, go to shul etc next Friday night?”

Its simple statements, no malice intended, no conscious call to damage the person’s cnnection to G-d, just friends chatting and wanting to spend time together. Some of us have the strength to say no, others succumb to the siren call, and it goes from one exception, to many exceptions, until one day the person turns around and wonders how they ended up so cut off from Jewish practice. Some may return at that point, others shrug and don’t see any problem with their new lifestyle. This was the dangers of the Greeks, not the outright opposition of the Romans with their laws trying to destroy Judaism, that kind of hard line stance is guaranteed to produce rebels, the way of the Greeks is more subtle, and thus harder to fight against. The sages taught that the army of Matisyahu was tiny, the vast majority comfortable within the Greek Empire. For most, being comfortable within the majority meant they weren’t going to jump into rebellion. This is stated directly in the Al HaNissim prayer

You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah.

Today the siren call, the lure to leave Judaism comes strongly from secular culture and from the missionaries in the majority culture around us. most of the time it is easy to spot them, their behaviour obvious and their message clear, “Leave Judaism to become Christian/Muslim/”. Those are easily avoided by those uninterested in their message, even by those who while uneducated in Judaism and unobservant but wishing to retain their Jewish identity. They are the antagonism of the Roman Empire, the obvious message which is easily refuted and which is not attractive to many. On the other hand we have the modern equivalent of the Greek call, the lure of the modern and the majority, the easy life, the acceptance of the accolades of the majority and the acceptance into the majority culture. The “messianic jews” and their ilk represent this stream. They hide their antagonism (or at least most do, anyone who has been on Yahoo!Answers will be aware of the animosity and hostility of the “messianic jews” against those who reveal the truth about them) and their siren call is one to find a way to be accepted into the majority culture by accepting a syncretic religion.

The message of the “messianic jews” is no less false than that of the ancient Greeks; the polytheism of the trinity and an opposing spiritual entity (the devil) no less than the polytheism of the ancient Greeks, yet the “messianic jews” would like their victims to believe that miraculously their attempt to syncretise Judaism into their polytheistic faith is somehow more acceptable than any other attempt. Yes, for those that are educated the deceit is easy to spot and ignore, for the uneducated, as in the time of Matisyahu and the Hasmoneans, the deceit is not as easy to spot. Matisyahu could take up the sword against the Greeks, our tool is the pen, education. Our weapon in combatting the lure of the deceit of the modern-day Greeks manifested in the “messianic jews” is the truth, the dissemination of knowledge to those at risk. For us, the internet can be a tool to fight the lies and deceit, to reveal the hidden pig waiting to be sacrificed on the altar of the Temple, the polytheistic message of the “messianic jews” they try to behind altered terminology and using Hebrew terms to replace familiar English ones.

This Channukah, let us all undertake to undertake the education of our fellow Jews, to spread knowledge that will illuminate, that like the lights of the Chanukiah we will light for the 8 nights of Channukiah will dance before them and open their eyes to the true beauty of Judaism and counter the false message of the dishonest missionaries in “messianic judaism”

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7 Comments
  1. mama maccabee :) permalink

    Every believing Jew who remains steadfast against the assimilationist attempts to obliterate God’s covenant with Israel and replace it with antithetical beliefs and values from what is in God’s Torah, is essentially a modern “maccabee” today.
    Am Yisrael Chai

    • For sure, we all have a duty to stand against those trying to entice Jews to other religions. We all need to be Maccabees, looking to restore those who have been lost.

  2. Yedidiah permalink

    As a non-Jew who was raised Christian, I can agree with everything you wrote. I was part of a “Hebraic Roots movement” Christian church in a metropolitan city in the USA, whose pastor gets along very well with the local Orthodox Rabbi and who also has strong ties to Israel, including the Chief Rabbi of Efrat in Israel, who visited the church on several occasions. That exposure lead me to considering joining a Messianic “Jewish” church, somewhat naively thinking that it might be a good pathway to perhaps one day converting to TRUE Judaism. I was very mistaken. I discovered that these “MJ’s” (who were/are very typical “MJ’s”) were more evangelical and “fundamentalist” Christian than MOST Christian Churches. So, I went back to the church where Christians know they are Christians and don’t pretend to be some type of “new Jew”. A church that truly loves Israel, as it is, & that loves Jews who truly love being Jewish and who practice Judaism. They know that “Yeshua” is 100% Jesus (or vice versa) and that there is no such schizophrenic thing as a “Hebrew Yeshua” and a Christian “Greek Jesus”.

    I might be called a “back sliding” (or worse) type of Christian, but I no longer can believe in any type of Jesus or “Yeshua”. I seen a long time ago that “MJ’s” were typical Christians (albeit more cultish than most). The church I was a part of celebrates the same holidays (& pretty much the same way) as “MJ’s” do. And speaking a little more Hebrew than many Christians makes “MJ’s” no less Christian than speaking Spanish or French makes Christians in Mexico or Spain or Canada or France somehow makes them less Christian or somehow non-Christian.

    “MJ’s” are indeed Hellenic or Hellenistic despite attempts to discredit the invented “Greek Jesus”. They need to rethink (or discover for the first time) what Chanukah is really all about. And those Jews (or ex-Jews) who proudly call themselves Christian, have a slightly different problem than “MJ’s”, but a theological problem none the less.

    • Of course I agree with what you have to say, though accusing all of Christianity of being Hellenistic is a stretch. In accusing “messianic judaism” of being the inheritors of what the Greeks did, I was not referring to actual beliefs, but rather the enticement to join another religion because it is easier, more accepted and better socially.

      • Yedidiah permalink

        I would never say “all of Christianity”, but many Christians or “MJ’s” take selected verses in the NT to attempt to prove their theory that there are 2 Jesuses; a “Hebrew Yeshua” and a “Greek Jesus”. But Greeks, Romans, & other “believers” and church fathers saw no difference; they accepted all of Jesus or Iesous or Yeshua. We have Paul and early Christians (especially Marcion & Marcionites) talking about “Judaizers” or in other words, they believed that there were other Christians who were trying to make “Jewish that which was not Jewish”. Early Christianity had many Gnostic Christians and Platonists.

        The more one studies early Christianity the more one sees Hellenism as a very strong, if not the primary influence on the authors of most NT texts and on both non-canonical and canonical early Christian writings. One good scholarly study is Thorlief Boman’s book, “Hebrew thought compared with Greek”. Little of the NT can not be equated with Greek or “Babylonian” thought.

  3. Kay permalink

    We Messianics believe in one God, the Almighty of Yisrael. A Messianic Jew is a completed Jew because we have acknowledged Messiah Y’shua and our sins have been forgiven through the blood of the Lamb of Elohim, Y’shua El Yakar. The biblical trinity is not 3 deities. The Father (Yah) is God, The Son (Y’shua) is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. ONE GOD! Y’shua is Elohim in human form. How else could the God of Yisrael save His people and forgive their sins forever? He had to become human in order to be our perfect Passover Lamb. I think its awesome that Almighty Yah loves His people so much that He stepped out of Heaven to be our spotless sacrifice at Passover and resurrected on Firstfruits! I look forward to seeing Y’shua on His throne in the Temple in Heaven.

    • “Your “messianic jewish” theology is 100% Christian and completely divorced from anything Jewish. No matter how much you want to try and pretend the trinity does not violate the fact that G-d is one, singular G-d, it is immaterial- it does violate the Torah injunction and it does split G-d into multiple parts. Lets display other elements in your statement above that show how your “messianic jewish” theology has nothing to do with Judaism:

      “our sins have been forgiven through the blood of the Lamb of Elohim, Y’shua El Yakar”- here you directly call Jesus G-d-referring to him as your “dear god”. On top of that, you seem to think that there is a lamb of G0d needed for forgiveness- sorry, no such thing exists. Forgiveness is through repentance. For the most serious sins the Torah does not describe any sacrifices being brought since sacrifices were only brought for sins done accidently, and then only for those sins that had the penalty of Kares, spiritual excission, such as a Jew abandoning Judaism!

      “Y’shua is Elohim in human form”- a 100% pagan concept, gods in the form of men. G-d states directly he is not a man, nor does G-d become a man except in Pagan mythologies. No such concept ever existed in Judaism until the advent of Christianity and its syncretic nature, taking in elements of the Pagan mythologies of those who joined the early church.

      “How else could the God of Yisrael save His people and forgive their sins forever?”- How does G-d forgive us? Through what hetaughtus in the Torah! Through repentance through charity, through prayer, through sacrifices (when the Temple is standing), through the annual half shekel that was collected and so on. The Torah and Tanakh are replete with ways for atonement, none involve human sacrifice and none involve Pagan concepts of G-d becoming human!

      “He had to become human in order to be our perfect Passover Lamb” A 100% Christian concept! The Pesach sacrifice was never a sin sacrifice! It had nothing to do with forgiveness or atonement! The original sacrifice in Egypt was a demonstration of the rejection of idolatry practised by the Egyptians as the lamb was holy to them, subsequent sacrifices were a Korban Chagigah, festival sacrifice tied to the celebrating of Pesach and the affirmation of the covenant between G-d and his people. There was no element of forgiveness or atonement tied to it- that is a purely Christian invention mad eup to try and justify a messiah that failed to do anything that the messiah was meant to do.

      SO thanks for the opportunity to show how thoroughly Christian “messianic judaism” is, its always nice ot have it come from “messianic jews” themselves

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