13 December 2009

Chanukah, just a festival of lights?

Since Chanukah and a certain non-Jewish event sometimes coincide, secular circle lump them together, and Jews and non-Jews to cheerily wish one another “happy holiday.”

This seems to promote
darkei shalom, “ways of peace”, acceptance and goodwill between the Jewish people and the gentile nations.

Similarly, Chanukah is often presented by some as a holiday celebrating religious freedom. They say the story of Chanukah teaches this: The Jewish people wanted to practice their religion, the ancient Greeks oppressed them and denied it, so the Jewish people courageously revolted and won, recovering their right to religious freedom. What then is the message of Chanukah? The celebration of religious freedom, or, in modern terminology, pluralism.

It is indeed necessary to seek creative ways to
explain difficult concepts in Judaism, but it is unacceptable to water down the message in the process. In this case the above presentation detracts from the message and turns Chanuka on its head.

But Chanukah is not pluralism and its message could not be more different.

The Talmud states that the light of the
Menorah was “testimony to all the world’s inhabitants that the Divine Presence rests amongst the Jewish people. From it [the Menorah] light goes forth to the world via the “windows that were wide and narrow.” The windows of the Beis HaMikdash were narrow inside and broad outside, so that light could go out to the world. This light reached the entire universe, for the nature of light is to spread ever further without limitation, until the ends of the universe

What was the message of this light that shone to all the nations, and that was restored when the
Temple was recaptured? It was the light of the Divine Presence, the holy light of G–d’s absolute Truth. This is the significance of the one jar of oil untouched by the Greeks with the seal of the Kohen Gadol intact. This represents a level of pure truth, uncompromised and unaffected by foreign values.

Any falsehood necessarily conflicts with this truth. Other religions do contain elements of truth stem from Judaism (e.g., the concept of G–d’s oneness promoted by Islam, and the concept of the
Moshiach used by Christianity, since they also contain falsehoods, they are incompatible with Torah. For only Torah is the “Torah of truth”, the absolute truth, and the other religions are, well, poor imitations.

It is necessary to respect all mankind since they are created “in the image of G–d,” and to maintain peaceful relations. But it is wrong to distort the truth to make Judaism more palatable to the secular mind. Pluralism is a secular value that maintains that all beliefs are equally acceptable and legitimate. The idea is pure nonsense, for two opposite beliefs cannot both be true.

The Torah rejects this fallacious philosophy and teaches that there exists absolute truth—the Torah—and everything else, which is a mixture of truth and falsehood; there exists absolute goodness—the Torah—and everything else, which is of a mixture of good and evil.

Thus, the Torah does not teach that it is good for non-Jews to follow other religions, or no religion, doing whatever they please as long as they don’t harm (or preach to) others, those philosophies are basd upon principles at odds with the divine doctrines of the Torah.

Rather, it teaches that all mankind should recognize the One G–d of the Jewish people, and unite to follow the Noahide laws as prescribed in the Torah. This is the true message of Chanukah to the world. Accordingly, the Rebbe wants organizers of public Menorah lightnings to publicize the importance of adhering to the Noahide laws.

To set the record straight: In the time of the second
Beis HaMikdash the Jewish people sought to serve the one true G–d, the path of absolute truth and goodness. The Greeks, who followed the lifestyle of hedonism and paganism, sought to prevent this. However, the Jewish people fought courageously and won. Truth triumphed over falsehood, good over evil.

So may it be for us, especially with the coming of
Moshiach, who will reveal the absolute Truth of G–d to the entire world and automatically vanquish atheism, paganism, and all other non-Torah beliefs forever.

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