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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

 By Yochanan Phaltual - Shavei Israel Administrator, India

The reason behind the Maccabean war is the clash between two totally different values and culture. The Greek trying to infiltrate the value systems to every culture they conquered.
When the Greek empire and its culture and ways of life reached the land of Israel, it met with incredible resistance from the Jewish people. Things came to a head when Antiochus, the Greek King finally outlawed the most essential practices of Judaism. The sages refused to back down and were willing to risk everything to preserve the Jewish way. The resulting conflict became the miraculous story of Khanukah.
Everywhere in the world there is as in the past a kind of resistance movements against other cultural invasions. Even in India during the colonial rule of the British, a resistance political movement by the Hindus against Western culture and values let to the foundation of Hindu Nationalism and the birth of the political party Bharatya Jana Sangh, the precursor of the Bharatya Janata Pary (BJP), the second largest political party in India next to the Congress (I) Party.
Today, the BJP champion the cause of Hindutva (Hinduness) and likewise the Shiv Sena party (chauvinist/extremist party) supported a broader Hindu Nationalist agenda. The Shiv Sena protested against the Western values like Valentine’s Day by accusing western civilization as misguiding the Indian youth when they have their own festivals like Holi and Diwali.
Even in China, the political power set up were constantly fighting to escape the grips of western cultures and values which can subservice the course of Chinese society. The Communist Party tries to eradicate or put under control the Western values like – constitution democracy, promoting universal values of human rights, notion of media independence, civic participation and the pro-market ‘neo-liberalism’.
So, the war of assimilation and infiltration continues.
We won the battle of assimilation and resistance over 2000 years ago on Khanukah, but our opponents like the Greek in the past still continue their invasion of alien culture. Then where is our battle field today? To be able to delineate the foreign values we should take note that assimilation takes its form in many different ways and in different degree.
We have Hellenized (assimilated) when we prefer to party and games and sports than to pray. We’ve assimilated when we care about what we look like on the outside and not what we feel like on the inside. We have assimilated when our chief goal is to accumulate wealth/economy rather than to be simply more spiritual and observant Jews. And we have assimilated when we host lavish Khanukah Kut celebrations with feast but fail to give the Kut an authentic Jewish education and Torah values.
The war that the chivalrous Maccabees fought for as they contact the alien culture still continues. Like the oil of the Khanukah refusing to compromise its uniqueness and never blending with other foreign harmful values, we dare not assimilate like the Maccabees.
As we burn the lights of Khanukah, let us bear in mind that we are the torchbearers of morality and civilization for all mankind – a light unto the nations. And let us re-illuminate the flames of redemption and Torah Ohr.

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