Monday, December 22, 2008

Who Will Be the Next Mattisyahu HaKohen?

I received the following e-mail from a friend, asking for ideas on how we can answer the call of "Mi LaShem Alai!" "Whoever is for Hashem, Join me!" in this generation. Any thoughts/feelings would be appreciated.

Chanukah is upon us, B"H. I think for most of us, maybe for the first time in our lives for those of us in this generation, we can feel a tangible darkness in the world - maybe a touch of the darkness that must have been felt in the days of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and the Chashmonaim. The world has changed dramatically in such a short time - with Kevitzas HaDerech, a shortening of the way. The world that we grew up in seems remarkably different - overnight. In a way that's Lo B'Derech HaTevah - unnatural. H" seems to be shaking the rope, to see who can hold on in these days before the coming of Moshiach. Who would have thought even 2 years ago that people would lose sleep over whether or not the bank in which they have their money would be in existence the next day. Who would have thought that retirement savings, and the monetary futures of so many, could possibly vanish in an instant. Who would have thought that what happened to the Kedoshim in India could happen, let alone pass with the world just moving on business as usual. Who would have thought that pieces of our heart and soul, pieces of Eretz HaKodesh, and Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, could be put up for grabs, for nothing - Lo Lishmah. A close chaver of mine recently visited a well known Rosh Yeshivah who told him that our current matzav is maybe a shadow of the times that the trains were headed for Rachmanah Litzlan - at that time, who wouldn't have given their very lives to stop those trains. So what do we do now?

I heard a shiur from Rav Shmuel Brazil, shlita, b'shem Gedolim (Darchei Noam et. al.), who said that there is a Kasha (question) as to why we light the menorah on the first night of Chanukah. After all, the Yidden found the Pach Shemen (jug of oil) at the time, and had the oil for the first day of Chanukah. The Nes then occurred and the oil stayed lit for another seven nights so that they could make new oil - and so we light the Menorah on those successive nights to commemorate that miracle of the oil, but why on the first night? He explained al pi the Sefarim HaKedoshim that we light the menorah on the first night to commemorate the military victory of the few yidden, the Chashmonaim, who fought and defeated the Greek army. This is clear from Al Hanisim which makes no mention of the Menorah really, rather it talks about the victory of the few over the many. So why then do we light the menorah the first night, if we're commemorating the military victory? The answer he gives, to me, is life changing. When Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol saw our enemies bringing the head of a chazer, a pig, on the mizbayach, the alter, it was the straw that broke the camels back for him. He felt that tzarus of the Ribbono Shel Olam. That such a thing could be. A pig on the altar in the Beis HaMikdash. He couldn't take it anymore. He decided that was it. "I'm going to destroy the Greek army." And so he gathered "his boys" and together they destoyed an army. He had an Aish Kodesh, a holy fire, in his heart, and with complete and total Emunah and Bitachon in H", used that Aish Kodesh to destroy an army. It was Lo B'Derech HaTevah - completely unnatural.

There is a concept that we find in chassidus - That when there is an "arousal from below" - someone who gives themselves over, with body and soul, with "mesirus nefesh", for the kavod of the Ribbono Shel Oilam, this mesirus nefesh brings about an "arousal from above", a corresponding outpouring of Divine compassion, which brings about salvation. And so, when Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol became the zealot for H", initiating an "arousal from below", his Aish Kodesh brought about a tidal wave of divine compassion, which he used to wipe out the Greek army. And so, we light the menorah on the first day of Chanukah, because it was that Aish Kodesh from Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol that led to the victory against the Greek army, against all odds, and so we light the Menorah which burns with that very Aish Kodesh.

We see the same pattern during the times of Purim, with Mordechai and Esther. It took one man - Mordechai, to change the world. Mordechai, with complete and total Emunah and Bitachon in H", knew that the Yidden needed salvation. He had an Aish Kodesh inside of him, and used that Aish Kodesh to ultimately bring about the salvation of our people. He placed that Aish Kodesh into the heart of Esther HaMalkah, and in turn she risked her life, to approach Achashverosh, against all odds, to save the Jewish Nation. Earlier in history, after the Yidden left Egypt and encountered the Yam Suf in front of them, and the enemy behind them, they also felt there was no way out. It wasn't until Nachshon ben Aminadav began to walk into the ocean, up to his neck, that the sea split and the nation passed through on dry land.

The lesson is so pure. So simple. We need to have Emunah and Bitachon that H" is going to bring about our salvation. We need to have the Mesirus Nefesh of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol, and Mordechai HaTzadik. We need to know that it doesn't matter if all the odds are stacked up against us. It doesn't matter if there is an army, or an ocean, in front of us. It doesn't matter if, B'Derech HaTevah, in a natural way, there doesn't seem to be a way out of our current situation. We need to trust, with all of our hearts and souls, that when it comes to H" - as the Heilige Nesivos Shalom, the Slonimer Rebbe Z'TL, points out - "V'Harbe Imo Fedus" (Tehillim 130) - H" has an infinite number of ways in which to rescue His children. And when it comes to His children, it doesn't matter where we are, or what we are doing - just as He took us out of Egypt, and dusted us off from 49th gate of impurity, so to He will bring us out and redeem us from our current matzav, or situation.

It seems as if the same winds that were blowing in the world during the days of of Yetzias Mitzrayim, during the times of Mordechai HaTzadik, and during the times of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol are blowing once again. So what's our Avodah? What do we do - when the darkness in the world seems so thick. When the cultures around us seem to be Greek once again. When Persia seems to be rising once again in power. When the flood waters seem to be rising all over the world. The answer seems clear - H" wants us to be like Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol. He wants us to be like Mordechai. He wants us to be like Esther. He wants us to be like Nachshon ben Aminadav. He wants us to fight against all odds, just like they did - against the "armies of the world", in their various forms. He wants us to walk into the ocean, the mayim rabim, up to our necks, while trusting in Him with all of hearts and souls. He wants us fear nothing, and nobody, except Him! He wants us to know that He can and will save his children, once again, because He loves us. But we have to have faith - We need to have Emunah. We have to have Bitachon. It doesn't matter how dark the world seems. It doesn't matter if the banks are collapsing, if the markets are tumbling, or if the dollar is down and out. Nor does it matter who sits in the Oval Office. It just doesn't matter, for as we say in Shemoneh Esrei, "Ki Vecha Batachnu, V'Al Chasdecha HaGadol B'Emes Nishanenu"" - For in YOU we trust, and upon Your kindness that is great in sincerity and in perfection do we rely. There's only H", and He wants us to light the Aish Kodesh once again. He wants US to BE like Mattisyahu.

Chaunkah is here. Lets all dig deep inside of ourselves, and beg H" Yisbarach to help us to bring out the Mattisyahu that is there within each of us, and with that Koach, or power, bring about an "arousal from below" to light up the world with our Aish Kodesh, and beg H" Yisbarach to grant us, in his infinite compassion, an "arousal from above", to bring a complete salvation for our people, in our days, with the coming of Mashiach Tzidkeinu.

-Dixie Yid

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Menashe said...

The most beautiful thing about a Rebbe, a true tzaddik (as opposed to merely a talmid chochom), in my opinion, is not just his own gadlus. It is that he is able to awaken that direct connection to Hashem, that aish kodesh, within each of us. Mordechai, Nachson, Matisyahu, were all great but would not have been able to accomplish anything were it not for yidden joining them.

I'm obviously biased but I feel that the Rebbe (of Lubavitch) gave us a clear mission and purpose in these last few days (relatively speaking, but may it be literal!) before vias moshiach, and how we can accomplish it. May we see it bkarov mamosh.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

I think we need Moshiach ben Yosef for this one. What do you think?

-Dixie Yid

Neil Harris said...

This was a great letter. One way to feel like Mattiyahu is to really think during Chanukah about Hashem's involvement and the Hashgacha Partis in our lives (based on an idea in Michtav M'Eliyahu).

Once we realize that Hashem is with us, then answering, "Mi L'Hashem..." comes easy!

Anarchist Chossid said...

The level of Matisyahu and of Mordechai are the levels of unreasonable mesirus nefesh. Not just unreasonable from the point of view of the world, but unreasonable from the point of view of Halacha.

There was no requirement from the point of view of Halacha to davka attack the Greeks — it would be enough to just sit it out in the mountains. The same way, there was no requirement to publicly teach children Torah (as Mordechai did). Not only that, but these were actually questionable things to do from the point of view of Halacha (which is why there was some doubt whether to make Chanukah and Purim parts of Yiddishkeit). So, both Mordechai and Matisyahu went into the etzem of Yiddishkeit and did unreasonable mesirus nefesh.

It says that Hashem, Torah and Jews are connected with three knots. If Jews are connected to Torah and Torah is connected to Hashem, that’s two knots. What is the third one? The third knot is direct connection of a Jew to Hashem. First, Jew is connected to Hashem through Torah. Then, he reaches the level where his essence is connected to Hashem’s Essence — and at that point, Torah needs the Jew (the deepest meaning of “lishmah”), not vice versa. And a Jew creates a new dimension in Torah. (Of course, in order to reach this level, one needs first to go through the previous level properly.)

Bichlal, this is aspect of Oral Torah, in particular, Chanukah and Purim.

Anarchist Chossid said...

(I forgot to add that this is what Chassidus teaches us: to look for pnimiyus in the world and in Torah and to be able to reach the pnimiyusdike level where one’s etzem is connected to Hashem’s Etzem and is able to reveal the etzem of the world and of Torah. This connected of a Jew’s etzem to Hashem’s Etzem is what motivates for mesirus nefesh. When enough Jews strive to get to that level, we will have revelation of Hashem’s Essence in the world.)

yaak said...

Great email! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Part of our liberation from Egypt was the period, before the splitting of the sea, when the Jews followed HaShem's mysterious command to turn back in the direction of Egypt. It might have seemed to some that we were headed back into the same horrible conditions we had just left. However, this short doubling back was really to inspire our sincere tefilla and it actually set the stage for the total destruction of our enemies.

What today may feel like the start of a rerun of our most painful recent history may actually have a similar purpose---which would make our tefilla now a critical part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

...and as we also know from Kerias Yam Suf, there was a moment when tefilla had to be followed by action, as highlighted in this article.

Anonymous said...

There are many ways we can all become the matisyahu in our dor. We must first start by getting our kinderlach excited about mitzvos. We must throw the rote observance of mitzvos out the window!! We shouldn't be just observing the mitzvos, we should be LIVING the mitzvos! when kids see their parents displaying chavivas hamitzvos, it will change the face of the current matziv with kids today. I feel many kids become disinterested in yiddishkeit, and then, slowly go off the derech, simply because the mitzvos in their home were done in a dry way. I am not saying that this is the only reason, but I feel it may be a big part of it.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


I guess we could be Matisyahu's by diving right into mitzvos with all of our hearts, like Nachshon into the Yam Suf. Instead of just wading in the waters of Torah, we have to totally immerse ourselves so they are what we live for, and not a sideline only done out of sense of obligation and guilt. This avodah is a big part of what my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger drills into us as well. I have to agree with what you're saying!

-Dixie Yid

Margelit said...

What the Rebbe taught us is to take the bringing of Mashiach into our own hands. Here are some folks who are doing it.