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CULTURE OF SELF-WORSHIP

Roy Neuberger - Dec. 19, 2014


The “wicked Greek kingdom” in the time of the Maccabeans was so dangerous that we commemorate our liberation thousands of years later. What was the problem? How exactly did the Greeks attempt “to make Your people Israel …. forget Your Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of Your Will?”


The father of Greece was Yavan, the fourth son of Yefes, the son of Noah. "Yefes" means "beauty" in Hebrew, and the legacy of Yavan was the worship of human beauty. The Greeks worshipped themselves! In the words of Eliahu Kitov zt"l, "all idolatry is abominable, but when man himself becomes a deity and all of his faculties are utilized to serve himself, this is the most despicable form of idolatry." (Book of Our Heritage)

The Greeks attempted to introduce the culture of self-worship into the Jewish culture. But subservience to the L-rd of the Universe and self-worship are incompatible by definition. The Greeks could not abide the Truth, namely that this world has a Master and that human accomplishments are gifts from Above. As we say daily, "Master of all worlds, not in the merit of our righteousness do we cast our supplications before You, but in the merit of Your abundant mercy. What are we? ... What is our strength? ... are not all the heroes like nothing before you ... the wise as if devoid of wisdom and the perceptive as if void of intelligence?"

This is anathema (a Greek word!) to the Greek philosophy, which looks upon man as if he were the cause of all his own strength and brilliance. One has to be in love with oneself to believe this, and the Greeks were in love with themselves. Torah punctured their fantasy. They had to fight Torah if they were to maintain the illusion of their own greatness.

Greek culture is embedded in the culture of Rome, which supplanted Greece as the major Western power over the past two thousand years. The conquerors absorbed the values of the conquered. The Western World today, the descendants of Rome, is also infatuated with itself. If it weren't, then it would not have been able to impose its will upon the world to the extent it did. We are surrounded by a culture that believes its own lies, whether it be the lie of evolution or the fantasy that the industrial revolution would usher in a new paradise on earth.

The idea that "the people" have the intelligence to govern themselves is also a product of self-worship. The Torah idea of government is based upon laws which originate in Heaven, not on earth. "Separation of religion and state" is totally antagonistic to the Torah. Hashem's law extends to "arba kanfos haAretz ... the four corners of the world."


There is a reason that the Torah envisions a monarchy. There is a reason that we are waiting desperately for our king, Moshiach the son of King David. A king on earth is a reflection of the existence of the King of Kings, and a righteous king who ensures the rule of Torah in the world is the ideal governor of mankind.

Today's world reflects the world of Chanukah, the quintessential holiday of the exile, the only holiday which begins during the period of the waning moon during the darkest period of the year. We live today surrounded by a culture which worships itself, and this produces a threat which is reaching terrible proportions. Multitudes of falsely-confident people are asserting themselves. Each group has its own view and this means that increasingly chaotic and aggressive confrontation are inevitable. The clash of violent groups is becoming prevalent throughout the world. Governments themselves are headed by people who encourage this chaos.


Furthermore, Israel has produced its own modern-day Hellenists, who plunge headlong after their own ideas, regardless of the guidelines of Torah and the Rabbis whose rulings are the only means by which our nation stays on the proper path.


Between our enemies without and our enemies within, we are now in a period of worldwide darkness resembling the situation at the time of the original Chanukah, and we need the zeal and courage of a contemporary Judah Maccabee to reassert the purity of Torah and dispel the darkness brought about by people who worship themselves and try to obscure the light of G-d with their arrogance.


If this were simply a fairy tale it would be one thing, but the threat is real and dangerous, just as it was in the days of Judah Maccabee. Our very lives are at stake because an orderly society cannot survive the darkness brought on by the challenge to Torah.


It would seem that we are rapidly reaching the point of danger. The hordes who believe only in themselves are assuming power, but they do not realize that there is a limit to G-d's tolerance when His world tips over too far into the realm in which evil predominates. At a certain point, He draws the line. Every Sabbath we say, "When the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them until eternity..." (Psalm 92).


G-d's patience will not last forever; defilement has a limit. As we read on the Sabbath during Chanukah, "Not through armies and not through might, but through My spirit, says G-d, Master of Legions." (Haftaras Chanukah, Zechariah 4:6) The enemies of Torah are numerous, but they are doomed to fall. "Rabos machashavos ... many thoughts are in the mind of man, but only the will of G-d prevails." (Proverbs 19:21)


May the menorah from the Holy Temple soon illuminate the entire world!

 

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