There was a time when the Jews lived in a society advanced beyond all others. This society allowed much freedom, way beyond the repressive monarchies of old. There was democracy. Aesthetics were important so people built beautiful, palatial homes, with landscaped laws and breathtaking sculptures. Styles flattered the figure and obesity was on the wane as society promoted trim, fit, muscular builds honed in state-of-the-art gymnasiums. Now, living in those times you had a choice. Be a “Torahdik” Yid but still gain the sophistication of society. Join a gym, build a mansion, dress with flair, and, of course, get a degree from a university. Or, you could be a narrow-minded fanatic, such a fundamentalist that you move your family out of Yerushalayim to Modi’in because you don’t want your children influenced by the “Torahdik” Jews who preach Torah Im Derech Eretz as they juggle Bais Hamikdosh and cultural venue time.
If you lived in that time, would you live the life that promoted Torah Judaism equally with the deep philosophical studies and psychology, that combined a reverence for Torah studying with a joint degree in the justice system of the day, that included outings to Talmudical study halls, as well as to cultural places of interest including the great Coliseum….? Or would you be the one who stood up screaming Mi LaHashem Aylay?
Are we repeating history, my friends, or what?
A quiet storm erupted in Williamsburg a few years ago regarding a new Kriya system instituted in a school that was melding foreign ideas of psychology into their Chinuch. At issue was a girls’ school that had, without much fanfare, done away with the old method of teaching Alef Bais in its proper order. Rather, the school structured the learning based on easiest to hardest, starting with the letters yud, vuv and nun, exactly in that order. Yavan. Rather telling.
Has our generation totally gone Misyavni? Or are there still enough of the Meatim to stand up and scream, “Mi LaHashem Aylay?” And why do the Jews continue to stray this way, generation after generation?
Eliyahu HaNavi once was able to prove to the Jews of his times that only G-d was worthy of worship. All the Jews at Mt. Carmel saw an amazing miracle and, with one voice, acknowledged that only Hashem was Ruler of the world. Next day, it was business as usual in the idol worship. Why? Because when the Jews came home from Har HaCarmel and discussed the awe of the moment, that moment of knowing, “Ain Od Milvado” someone would inevitably say, “uber vus vet men essen.” It was good and fine for Eliyahu to prove Hashem – quite inspiring in fact. But, a man must live, must have two cars in the garage, must have a few vacations a year, ah, it is too scary to rely on Hashem for Parnassah. There was in fact some sort of Koach that the Avodah Zara was perceived to have over Parnassah, and they thought it was Hishtadlus for them to do the idol worship. All agreed it was inspiring to see the miracle Eliyahu HaNavi pulled off…”but you have to be realistic” you need money “a mentsch darf leiben”. And, therefore, the impact of the moment faded away.
The Greeks understood this well. One of the first things, before outlawing any Yiddishkeit, was to insist that the Jews engrave on the horns ‘I have no portion in G-d”. What were the Greeks trying to do and what horns are we talking about? Agriculture was a big industry in that time, the main source of Parnassah. The Greeks began the crumbling of a G-d centered life by making those who ploughed to focus that Parnassah was not G-d’s domain. That was the beginning of the end.
Last night we lit the first candle in every home. Did we gaze at that flame and ask ourselves what it meant? Did we realize that the miracle of the untainted oil is that the providence of Hashem is beyond our realistic expectations and that we must never live our lives with the Cheshbon of the Yavanim?
(Submitted by a YW reader)