The Big Collision
Planets. Meteors. Stars.
Every once in a while we hear astronomers predict, and usually pretty accurately, that bodies in
space will collide and crash.
Sometimes this has an effect on us earthlings, other times it has no repercussions for us whatsoever.
What happens when it's not two stars or planets, but two worlds that collide? That's exactly what
happened a little over 2,000 years ago. The result of this collision is celebrated each year on
Chanuka recalls the clash of two worlds: on the one hand, the Jewish world of faith and Torah,
based on pure monotheism, with its concept of holiness permeating daily life down to the
minutest detail; on the other hand the Gentile Hellenistic
culture, with its polytheistic and largely materialistic concept of life.
By force of arms the Greeks attempted to impose their culture on others. However, their aim was
not to eradicate indigenous cultures, but rather to Hellenize and assimilate them.
Thus, the Greeks were willing to recognize the Torah, or even accept it, as a perfect and beautiful
literary creation, a work of poetry, wisdom and profound philosophy, provided it was
considered a human creation, something like their own mythology.
As such the Torah could be, nay, ought to be, changed and
modified from time to time, so as to harmonize with the novel ideas and mores of the period, which,
of course, would do away with the permanence and immutability of mitzvot such as Shabbat, the
laws of kashrut, circumcision, etc.
Thus it was not the suppression of the Torah that they aimed at, but at its acceptance as G-d-given
word, as G-d's Torah.
Similarly, they were not averse to the moral and ethical values contained therein, but they prohibited
the Divine statutes -- the so-called "supra-rational" precepts -- which more than any others
distinguish the Jewish way of life and make it specifically
Jewish, holy and pure.
Moreover -- and this was the greatest danger posed by the Greek penetration of the Sanctuary --
they favored, and actually
endeavored to bring about, the rekindling of the menora,
specifically in its hallowed place in the Sanctuary, whence it should spread its light everywhere as
before, except that its light should come from oil that had the Greek "touch" -- the
touch that defiles the oil.
The menora, which was kindled with pure and consecrated oil,
was the visible symbol of the purity of the Jewish way of life; its Perpetual Light flashed this message
from the Holy Temple to every Jew wherever he might be. The Greeks were resolved to change this.
Indeed, there were Jewish Hellenists who felt that a "touch" of the more "modern" and
"sophisticated" Greek culture ought to be applied to Judaism and Torah.
But a handful of Hasmoneans recognized that this "touch" is the fatal blow that strikes at the inner
sanctum of Jewish life.
Divine Providence saw to it that a cruse of oil, pure and
uncontaminated, should be found with which to rekindle the
menora, and that it should not only hold its own, but grow
and spread and keep the Perpetual Light burning.
What was true in those days is just as true in this season, in our day and age; what is true of the
Jewish people as a whole is also true for every individual Jew.
Under the assault of environmental influences, a Jew may find his "Sanctuary" -- his attachment to
and identification with G-d, Torah and mitzvot -- invaded and contaminated by ideas and mores
which are alien to the Jewish way of life, incompatible and
inimical to it.
But in the inner sanctum of his soul there is always a "cruse of oil" that remains pure and holy -- that
spark of G-dliness which is his Divine soul, which is indestructible and beyond reach of defilement.
The Jew has but to kindle it; although it may seem like a tiny light at first and of brief duration, it is
sufficient to light up one's whole being until it becomes a Perpetual Light.