(Torah Portion Miketz) Rebel Against the…
When the Greeks ruled over the Land of Israel and overtook our Temple in Jerusalem, they forbade the Jews from practicing their religion. They banned circumcision, forbade observance of the Holy day of Shabbos, and forbade establishing the lunar calendar, which determines when the holidays are to be observed. They also outlawed the study of the Torah.
The observances of the Jews conflicted with the culture of the Greeks, who were committed to an idolatrous and decadent lifestyle with self-indulgent ideals. The Greeks hoped to persuade the Jew to embrace their culture, and to a degree, they were successful in luring Jews to follow their philosophies.
One of the tactics the Greeks used to enforce their decrees was that they removed the front doors of the Jewish homes so they could easily spy and see if they were observing any of their laws.
Then, a small group of 12 men, belonging to the Chashmanayim family, began a revolt against the powerful and massive Greek army. Three thousand men, armed only with simple weapons and their complete devotion to G-d, miraculously defeated the Greek army, regaining the Temple and acquiring religious freedom.
What gave these Jews the gumption and Chutzpah to revolt against the mighty Greeks?
The nature of a Jew is such, that when he or she is stripped of their religious freedom it bothers them and feelings of resentment stir within them. At some point they find the inner strength to resist and rise up against their religious oppression.
We saw this during the Chanukah miracle, and more recently in the Soviet Union, where Jewish Refusniks did amazing things to observe, practice and teach Judaism in the face of torture and incarceration. In the end, through their perseverance and determination, they gained their freedom!
Thank G-d, we live in a time when basically we have our religious freedoms. However, our inner strength that expresses its desire to connect with the Almighty and His Torah and teachings which is brought to the fore through religious oppression is not there, and we may fall complacent with a mediocre level of observance.
I have found an interesting way to motivate ourselves, from within, to ascend higher levels of appreciation of Judaism.
A number of years ago, I read an appreciation written in memory of Rabbi Yaacov Rosenberg, a dean of a Yeshiva, which catered to bright, undergrad, unaffiliated Jewish students, who wished to be exposed to the depth and beauty of Torah and become intellectually and religiously stimulated.
Rabbi Rosenberg was once conversing with a student who sported a long ponytail. In the midst of their talk they began talking about the underlying reason he wore a ponytail. He told the Rabbi that it represented his inner rebellious nature to stand out and be different than others.
The Rabbi then shared with him an amazing concept that can help anyone struggling with rebellious feelings.
“I really appreciate your rebellious nature. ‘So why don’t you utilize it to rebel against your own rebellious nature – by cutting off your ponytail!”
Guess what? This creative reasoning resonated within this young man and he took off his ponytail!
Over the years I’ve often thought to myself and shared with others this valuable and significant four-word axiom, “Rebel against the Rebellion.” It has helped many people deal with rebellious feelings and expressions towards religion, relationships and personal struggles.
What happens is, their inner rebellious nature remains however they exercise it in a positive and motivating way.
We today, possess the same rebellious energy that propelled our ancestors to rededicate the Temple and fight for their religious freedom during the rough period of the Greek dominion. The blessings of our freedom allows us to stir up this rebellious nature to motivate ourselves to rededicate ourselves to our religious ideals despite all the glitter that seeks to lure us away from our connection to G-d and our tradition.
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family