| Point of View |

Rise and Shine

The profound teshuvah of the Chashmonaim turned around an entire nation. Maybe ours can too


ere in Eretz Yisrael, there is a growing sense of despair, as public Shabbos observance wanes and seems on the point of disappearing. For many years, we were blessed with relative quiet on our streets as public transportation was shut down for Shabbos, and now, city after city is crossing the line that defined Israel as a Jewish country. One by one, supermarkets and malls are opening to lively commerce as the Shabbos Queen is pushed aside to mourn in her abandonment. And we look on helplessly, because we truly don’t know what can be done about it. More passionate speeches in the Knesset? At this point, it seems that all we can do is turn our eyes away and be thankful that we can still keep Torah and mitzvos, still honor Shabbos, in our own homes and communities. Really, what else can we do?

Well, for one thing, we can consider how we might model ourselves after the Chashmonaim. What empowered them to bring about a change, even before they embarked on a military struggle against their Greek oppressors and the Hellenists among their own people? Rav Eliyahu Dessler ztz”l gives us a perspective on Chanukah that is absolutely applicable to our times and the aggressive incursion of secularism in Eretz Yisrael we are witnessing today. Perhaps we can learn from the Chashmonaim what it takes to turn the tide and bring a few rays of light back into the darkness that seems to be rapidly encroaching on us.

Rav Dessler ztz”l writes: “With their mesirus nefesh, the Chashmonaim merited to reveal the fact that the inner light of the Torah can never be extinguished, and it is destined to stand before the darkness of concealment in every generation. It was in order to inculcate this lesson that the miracle of the oil was revealed and its memory perpetuated. We don’t find any mere historical remembrances in the Torah or Chazal; any remembrance that was instituted is to teach us something essential for our service of Hashem. A person is meant to recall the miracle and be awakened to learn from it.”

Rav Dessler goes on to explain the reason the Greeks and their Jewish imitators succeeded, then and now, in propagating secular Hellenism among the entire Jewish People, and what we can do in emulation of the Chashmonaim so that we, too, might be worthy of miracles and wonders.

A spiritual war preceded their military victory, for secular Hellenism is not simply a problem that needs to be eliminated. The cause of such a state of affairs is the Jewish nation itself, as we find in Tanach: “And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the eyes of Hashem, and they forgot Hashem…” (Shoftim 3:7). In the days of the Chashmonaim, too, because the people began associating with the Greeks and partaking of their culture, the gezeiros of the Greeks descended upon them to the point of desecrating the Beis Hamikdash. Only then did the people wake up to what was happening to them.

Rav Dessler continues: “And when they put their lives on the line in defiance of the gezeiros, and separated from the deliberate sinners, and stopped the Hellenists and their culture from taking over Jewish life, they merited great salvation.”

Rav Dessler goes on to clarify the principle that there is no such thing as only one individual being responsible for a sin. The sinner grew up within a certain social milieu, and in one way or another, the people around him influenced his choices. And it works the other way as well: When an individual does teshuvah, he creates a platform on which others, too, can build. Through hidden channels that connect all Jewish souls, one person’s genuine, deep teshuvah actually has the capacity to influence others. And on a person-to-person level, this is expressed in the pasuk from Mishlei which we’ve quoted so often: “As in water, a face reflects a face, so is the heart of man to man.” The children of the Chashmonaim did teshuvah not only on the superficial levels of thought and behavior, but on a deep and profound level, truly separating from and cleansing themlves of Greek culture, with a profound recommitment to clinging to Hashem.

And, Rav Dessler explains, since their teshuvah went so deep and sprang from the innermost levels of their souls, it spread out through those hidden channels, effecting multitudes in their own generation and in generations to come. Chazal instituted their teshuvah for posterity through the mitzvah of the Chanukah lights. For the Chashmonaim merited this deep teshuvah not only for themselves, leading to their miraculous military victory, but for us as well, and it is the light of that return to their essential selves that we commemorate “bayamim haheim, bazman hazeh.”

So today, this is how we emulate the Chashmonaim as we face the sweeping influence of neo-Hellenism   through deep and honest teshuvah. What does this mean in practical terms? That we, who still keep Shabbos and hold it dear, increase our connection to Shabbos in a major way, whether by investing more attention to the halachos of the day, or by nurturing our love of Shabbos by delving into the kedushah of the day, until we feel the light of Shabbos shining forth from our hearts.

When we strengthen the reign of the Shabbos Queen within ourselves and our own communities, that holy influence will spread. It will encompass those among us whose observance is lax, and even travel through those hidden channels to reach the secular communities who know nothing of its light. For even as secular Israel celebrates its supposed triumph over the restrictions of Shabbos, we know that many pockets among the secular population have begun to keep Shabbos — not as full-fledged baalei teshuvah, but as Jews who recognize the importance of staying connected to an eternal spiritual heritage. These groups turn off their electronic devices, make Kiddush, and have a festive meal — and as an aside, shouldn’t we encourage them to become even more connected to kedushas haShabbos?

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 791)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Tagged: Point of view