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In my regular column in Haaretz, my new article: “Hanukkah, or Why We Celebrate a Civil War“
Unity is how we defeat the Hellenistic separatism within us, and become modern-day Maccabees, warriors of the light.
Next week we (Jews who observe Jewish festivals) will celebrate Hanukkah, a.k.a., the Festival of Lights. But the miracle of finding a tiny jar of oil that should have held just enough oil to light the menorah for only one day, yet it lit for eight, is only the end of the story. Its beginning was much grimmer and bloodier, yet it also underscores the eternal battle of the Jew—to preserve the values of brotherhood and mutual responsibility above all else.
Our mission, the legacy of our ancestors to bring the light of unity to the world
In the year 167 BC, a Hellenized Jew stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol in the worship place of the priest, Mattathias the Hasmonean. This was a routine procedure, part of an orchestrated campaign run by the Seleucid Empire to force the Hellenistic culture and belief system on the Jewish people. To their aid, the Seleucids used Jews who were taken by the charm of the Greek culture and philosophy to infuse the Hellenistic culture into Jewish life and force it on those who did not want it. But the Seleucids and their accomplices had not met Mattathias before. As the Hellenized Jew stepped forward in an attempt to carry out the government official’s order, Mattathias rose and slew both the Jew and the official.
Fearing the government’s retribution, Mattathias took his five sons and together they fled to the mountains surrounding their city, Modiin. There they could protect themselves while inflicting more casualties on the Hellenists.
Hearing of Mattathias’ act of defiance, Jewish dissidents began to stream toward the mountains to join Mattathias and his sons in their struggle over the fate of Judaism. Thus began the revolt of the Hasmoneans.
The Jewish Civil War
We may not like to think of our joyous Hanukkah festival in such dismal terms, but the revolt of the Maccabees was not against the Greeks, as Hanukkah children songs describe, but against our own rogue brothers. It was a civil war. For at least the first year of the revolt, the fighting hardly targeted Seleucid soldiers. The majority of fighting took place between the Maccabees, as the Hasmoneans and their troops were called, and the Mityavnim—Jews who espoused the Hellenistic culture or converted into the pagan Greek belief system. Only much later, after the Mityavnim were defeated, did the Seleucid armies join them in an attempt to crush the Maccabees.
Why a Jew Would Fight a Jew
Contrary to what many in our tribe like to think, our nation is not like any other. Maimonides tells us (Mishneh Torah, Chapter 1) that when Abraham fled from Babylon, he did so because he realized that brotherhood was the only remedy to mend the ruptures in his homeland, yet Nimrod, King of Babylon, persecuted him for his conviction.
Centuries later, Moses officially united us into a nation when we committed to love each other as ourselves and be “as one man with one heart.” Without this commitment, we are not Jews; we return to being the individualistic outcasts who fled their home tribes and have not yet found the uniting principles of mercy and love of others that will turn them into a nation. Without these tenets, we become each other’s enemies.
The war between the Maccabees and the Hellenized Jews is never ending. Within every Jew there is a Hellenist.
Yet, love of others is unnatural. The Torah tells us that “Sin crouches at the door” (Gen 4:7). Since our inception, we have had to fight the evil inclination in our midst. There have always been members of our nation who renounced the way of brotherhood and opted for the path of selfishness. Still, if we abandon the legacy of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, who will be a light unto nations? Who will show the world that when egoism reigns, as it does today, the only remedy for our society is to cover it with love of others?
We must remember that the whole of our Torah, as Rabbi Akiva taught us, is “love your neighbor as yourself.” The Talmud also writes (Masechet Shabbat, 31a) that when a proselyte came to Hillel and asked to be taught Torah, Hillel replied, “That which you hate, do not do unto your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah.”
Therefore, the war between the Maccabees and the Hellenists was not over land. It was about maintaining the Jewish adherence to the Torah—the law of brotherhood. The Jews who chose Hellenism abandoned that law in favor of worshipping the ego, competition, and power, and wanted to impose their dogma on the Jews who remained authentic.
Had the Jews succumbed to the agenda of the Mityavnim, there would have been no one left to show the world the path of mutual responsibility and care. This, in turn, would have denied the world of an example that it is possible to transcend the ego and unite, and the world would have been doomed to destruction by ego-driven wars.
For this reason, the Hasmoneans had no choice but to destroy those Jews who wished to prevent their brethren from fulfilling their task—to be “a light unto nations” and to show the way to unity. The victory we celebrate on Hanukkah is not over the land we reclaimed from the Seleucids. We celebrate our victory over those among us who wished to deny the world of a shot at unity, a shot at lasting happiness and peace.
The Hellenist Within Us
The war between the Maccabees and the Mityavnim is never ending. Within every Jew there is a Hellenist whispering that it is better not to unite and be like everyone else, chasing egoistic pleasures. After all, isn’t this the way of nature?
Hanukkah reminds us we must never stop fighting our internal Hellenists. The history of our people proves that if we give up on unity, hatred will prevail. The victory of the Hasmoneans did not give Israel a lasting peace. Less than two centuries after their heroic triumph, unfounded hatred conquered even the best of us and inflicted the ruin of the Temple and our exile from our land.
Yet, our mission, the legacy of our ancestors to bring the light of unity to the world, has not changed or waned over the years. As I have shown in many of my writings, the nations sense that their inability to be at peace with one another is our fault. They hate us for their hatred of each other, and even the most flawless reasoning will not convince them otherwise. You cannot reason with a gut feeling.
Today’s world needs unity more than it needs clean air, and it really needs clean air. The more people’s relationships deteriorate on all levels of human interaction, the more they will blame us for it. We have been, are, and always will be the chosen people—not to dominate the world in any condescending way, but to lovingly introduce it to the method of connection through our personal example.
The changes in our world are accelerating exponentially. We are growing more vicious and violent by the minute. No one knows when an all-out war will erupt, but the risk of an eruption is growing ever more imminent. This Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, we must remind ourselves that the light the world needs now is unity, and that we are the ones called upon to light it.
In these days of high political tensions, our tribe is more separated than ever. Yet, this is also our chance to choose whether we want to become selfish Hellenists or caring Maccabees. We are the ones who must light the flame of unity among us and put it on our windowsills for all to see and follow suit.
Brotherhood is how we defeat the Hellenistic separatism within us and among us. This is also how we learn to love our neighbors as ourselves, and how we become modern-day Maccabees, warriors of the light.
May we have a happy and united Hanukkah!
From Ynet article 12/22/16
Question: In the first year of the development of an infant, should a mother pay attention to something more than love and concern?
Answer: A mother should pay attention to all the states that she gets from the Creator, primarily through her love for her child, and through her child as well.
Answer: Our reality exists precisely because in it, through investing effort, we can gradually attain the upper world and equivalence with the Creator. This is how we gain our independence.
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 9/18/16
Answer: The Creator was made from a desire to bestow, to enjoy, to love, like a big, kind, warm mother.
Nobody created the Creator, He exists all the time, beyond time, movement, and space. And what was created by Him exists temporarily.
Each one of us can have his own Creator until we unite and realize that all of this is one single force. That is how the world exists.
We need to discover the Creator and come into direct contact with Him. And then you will see who it is and what it is.And the others will achieve direct contact with Him and discover who this is and what this is. And then in the connection between you, you will be able to clarify together whether it is the same Creator for all of you or not, and it will become clear to you that He is one.
From KabTV’s “News with Michael Laitman” 11/30/16
From my column in Ynet: “Who Is Running ISIS?”
Daesh [ISIS] stands at the head of the list of threatening phenomena at the conclusion of 2015. Who is really running the murderous terrorist organization, and what is the connection between the shaming on social networks of a former prime minister who was sentenced to prison and lecturers who were sent with ministers?
The rising world star of 2015 is undoubtedly Daesh—an organization that was crowned with the strongest and most sweeping brand name for this year, thanks to its widespread outbreak into the depth of international consciousness. Throughout the entire past year, hideous snuff films were posted on the social networks including: beheadings, rapes and murders of women, showcase attacks throughout the world, and stabbing and trampling attacks in the streets.
Daesh, the extremist terrorist organization, is indeed presenting the most brutal terrorist performance on the world stage, but if we take a deeper look, we will discover that we are also connected and we have a responsibility in this story (1).
Daesh is Here
The Book of Zohar indicates that we are all networked in a system of invisible connections. Imagine a network that closely links each one of us to every other person, a kind of network of thoughts and emotions that flow between us and dictate decisions and what we do in our lives.
Similar to a person, this network of connections is divided into two main parts: head and body. Each organ in this system has a defined role (2). The people of Israel serve as the “Rosh – head” (“Israel” = “Li-Rosh” – “I have a head”), and the world functions as the “body” (3).
When an ordinary person wakes up a bad thought, violence against another Jew, or even just an uncontrollable urge to “kill” or to “stab,” this thought within the “head of the system” necessarily transforms into a command in the “body of the system.”
It is not only extreme acts such as murder, stabbing, or severe violence toward others, even when I curse a driver who passes me wildly on the highway or I erupt at a clerk at the NII [government agency] or at the neighborhood children who are disturbing my rest, even then I am arousing evil.
The problem with thoughts is that they are immediately realized in the blink of an eye. Somewhere in another place, someone already goes to act out “my thought” in action against another person. As is written in The Book of Zohar (VaYehi): “Israel causes the rest of the peoples to lift their heads in the world.”
According to that perception, when a terrorist stabs a Jew in the streets of Israel—the root for this abominable deed is the direct result of those countless negative thoughts that pass through our minds and are also expressed in our negative attitudes toward each other (4).
The Hidden Connection Between the Relationships Between Us and the State of the World
These days we are dealing with increasing waves of global hatred toward the nation of Israel (5). Recognizing the fact that specifically here, in the system of relationships that we build between us in the nation of Israel, the fate of humanity is decided, and when hatred breaks out between us, it “awakens” hatred throughout the world through that hidden system of connections.
Were the enemy not so cruel, we would continue to fight and quarrel with each other.
Suddenly a terrorist murders hundreds of people in Paris. The enlightened world blames us as being responsible for the deed—an example is Sweden, which marches at the head of the haters camp, it is not ashamed to point an accusing finger at the nation of Israel as being responsible for world terror. A Daesh leader contending with many war fronts turns specifically to threaten the Jews and anti-Israeli organizations call from every stage possible to boycott us.
We must understand that things are decided for the good or for the bad on a more internal stratum. Bad thoughts and negative attitudes between us invite a hostile attitude and anti-Semitic actions toward us because “No calamity comes into the world except on account of Israel” (Yebamot 63a) (6).
Connection Is Our DNA
By virtue of our role as the “head of the system,” we must inject the power of connection, the power of vitality, into the rest of the peoples (7). This connection is our essence as the chosen people even from the days of our father Abraham who gathered us into a single nation from a jumble of foreign tribes in ancient Babylon (8).
In a sense, we must admit that Daesh are our “friends”—not because of the destruction and cruelty they bring into the world, but for the necessary uncovering that has been imposed upon us to change the basis of the relationships between us, and first and foremost, the thoughts that we scatter around the world (9). A change like this will lead us from brotherly hatred to love of Israel.
As strange as it all sounds, it is up to us to “thank” Daesh, because were it not for such a cruel enemy, we would continue to fight and quarrel with each other. Daesh grants us an opportunity to actualize our function as a people—to connect between us as one person with one heart and to restore the force of positive connection to the world. The beauty is that when we connect between us, the threat of Daesh will dissipate. This terrorist organization is “activated” by us like a puppet on strings; so when we unite—Daesh is afraid! (10).
The Real Enemy Is Us
The most important task before us is to unite against our real enemy – the separation, polarization, and division between us. We are guilty of making it possible for terrorism and all the evil in the world to run wild. The way to contend with the growing hatred is to apply the wisdom of connection—the wisdom of Kabbalah, by means of which we can elevate the value of unity above the growing egoism and self-concern (11).
The separation between us makes it possible for the ideology of Daesh to occupy the center of the world stage. It is an ideology that is based on the false unity of hatred. In contrast to it stands the ideology of unity of love for others, “And you shall love your friend as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18); only through its power can we neutralize every enemy from the evil power that nourishes
it and win the affection of the world (12).
So what will happen in 2016? It depends on our thoughts!
1.“The Holy One Blessed be He made Israel the heart of the whole world. And that is how Israel among all the nations of the world, as a heart among the organs. And just as the organs of the body cannot exist in the world for even a moment without the heart, so all the nations cannot exist in the world without Israel” (Zohar for the People, Parshat Pinhas, 152)
“There is an intermediary phase between the totality of the world and the Creator, and it is the Israeli soul, which is very exalted in its root, and it is really a part of the divine, and it is the intermediary that connects between the totality of the world and the Creator. And through it the abundance and vitality and the existence of all the worlds is drawn; and so everything depends on Israel” (“Likkutei Halachot”, Birchat HaReiach and Birchat Hodah”, Halacha 4).
“The peace of the worlds dwells within this nation” (Bereshit Rabba, Parshah 66).
“Israel brings its light to the world, as it is said (Isaiah 60:3), ‘And nations shall walk at thy light’” (Midrash Rabba, Shir HaShirim, Parshat 4, Paska 2).
2.“You have no organ found in a person that doesn’t have a person correspondent to it in the world. For just as the human body is divided into organs and all of them stand on different levels, each one correcting the other, and all of them are one body, it is the same with the world, all of these people in the world are all various organs, and stand on different levels. And when all are corrected, they will really be a single body” (Zohar for the People, Parshat Toldot, 3).
3.“The word “Ysar-El” (Israel) are the letters of “Li Rosh” (the head (mind) is mine). This means that he believes he has a mind of Kedusha (Sanctity)” (Rav Yehudah Ashlag, Baal HaSulam, the article, “Shamati” 143).
“Israel are the first and foremost receivers of all the abundance, and from them it is distributed to the whole world. And so Israel is called ‘Li Rosh’, meaning that they are the head phase, receiving the blessing first, and after that coming to the world” (“Be’er Mayim Chayim”, Parshat Trumah, Chapter 25).
“…a branch that extends from the internality is the people of Israel, which has been chosen as an operator of the general purpose and correction. It contains the preparation required for growing and developing until it moves the nations of the worlds, too, to achieve the common goal. The branch that extends from the externality is the nations of the world. They have not been imparted the qualities that make them worthy of receiving the development of the purpose one at a time. Rather, they are fit to receive the correction at once and to the fullest, according to their Higher Root” (Rav Yehudah Ashlag – Baal HaSulam, “A Handmaid that is Heir to Her Mistress”).
4.“…this is why the world was created filled with so many people, each with his own thoughts and opinions, and all are present in a single world. It is so deliberately, so that each and every one….is incorporated in all the alien notions and thoughts of the entire world.” (Rav Yehudah Ashlag – Baal HaSulam, Shamati 33).
“Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon said, ‘Because the world is judged according to the majority, an individual is judged by the majority of his deeds. So if he performs one good deed, happy is he for tipping the scale for himself and the world to the side of merit; if he commits one transgression, woe to him for he has tipped the scale and for himself and the whole world to the side of guilt’” (Kiddushin 40b).
“The essence of the creation, choice, correction and destruction of the world, all of these depend upon Israel” (“Siach Yitzhak,” Part 2, Likkutim 1).
5.“How many troubles upon troubles there will be for Israel, and all the nations and their kings will testify against them together, and many evil decrees will be aroused. And all of them will come against them with one testimony, bringing troubles upon troubles, and the last will make the first forgotten” (Zohar for the People, Parshat Shemot, 96-98).
“It is a fact that Israel is hated by all the nations, whether for religious, racial, capitalist, communist, or for cosmopolitan reasons, etc. It is so because the hatred precedes all reasons, but each merely resolves its loathing according to its own psychology” (Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag – Baal HaSulam, The Writings of the Last Generation, Part One, Section Nine).
6.“Were Israel to store up good deeds before the Holy One, Blessed be He, no people in the world would stand against them. But Israel causes the rest of the nations to raise their heads in the world. Because if Israel were not sinners before the Holy One, Blessed be He, the rest of the nations would surrender to them” (Zohar for the People, Parshat VaYehi, 412-413).
“When Israel sins, God forbid, then the Other Side truly has power to overcome the power of Israel” (Likkutei Halachot, Hilchot Tisha B’Av and Fasts, Halacha 4).
7.“Kedusha (the Sacred) extends from Israel to the whole world” (Zohar for the People, Parshat Emor, 92).
“…the Israeli nation was to be a ‘transition.’ This means that to the extent that Israel cleanse themselves by keeping the Torah, so they pass their power on to the rest of the nations” (Rav Yehudah Ashlag – Baal HaSulam, “The Love for the Creator & Love for the Created Beings”).
8.“At the age of 40 Abraham became aware of his Creator…and he began to stand up and proclaimed with a loud voice to all of the people, and informed them that there is one God for the whole world that should be served. And he went and called and gathered people from city to city and from kingdom to kingdom…until thousands and myriads gathered to him, and they were the people of the House of Abraham. And he planted in their hearts this great principle, and he wrote books…and this increased among the children of Jacob and those who accompanied them, and a nation was made in the world which knew the Creator” (Maimonides, “Mishnah Torah”, Sefer HaMeda, Hilchot Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1).
“The secret of the unity of the world dwells in Israel” (Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, “Ohrot HaKodesh 2” 415).
9.If it is impossible to blow a Shofar suitable for redemption, the enemies of Israel will come and trumpet for the redemption in our ears. They will trumpet and make noise in our ears and will not let us rest. Amalek, Hitler,may their names be erased, and so forth, awaken the redemption. This national scourge of the ‘Jewish problem’ there is a kind of redemption even in that, however one should not bless this Shofar” (Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, “Ma’amrei HaRaiah”, Volume 11).
“This Zionism therefore sees the Jews – as separate people united against their will by a ‘common enemy’. But it will not see the Judaism – the single block which aspires to exist in its unity even without any external compulsion. This is the main deficiency, which is discovered in all of its ways and deeds” (Ahad Ha’am, “The Congress and its Creator”)
“We are a people. The enemy involuntarily consolidates us into a people, as it always has been in history” (Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl, “The Jewish Nation”).
“All of the global noise…primarily only comes for Israel. They are calling us now for a great and sacred role, fulfilling it willingly and consciously, building ourselves and the whole ruined world together with us” (Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, “Igorot HaRaiah” 2, page 324).
10.“Every king or leader, although we see him rule for a long time, and it is in his hand to kill and to give life, enrich and impoverish, is nevertheless not a true king, because he does not himself have dominion or will because (Mareh Yehezkel Bamidbar Parshat Naso) ‘The heart of kings and princes is in the hands of the Creator’” (“Yismach Moshe”, Parshat Nitzavim).
“When there is love, unity and friendship between each other in Israel, there is no place for any calamity to fall upon them” (Meor VeShemesh, Parshat Nitzavim).
11.”The wisdom of truth teaches us about world unity, the side of equality that is to be found in all of existence to the highest, the image of the form that is created and how to go in the way of this light without an obstacle” (Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, “Ohrot HaKodesh 2”, 393).
12.“Reduction of the bad qualities in Israel, which provides the vitality of the idolaters, gradually reduces the idolaters. And everything depends on Israel” (“Arvei Nahal”, Parshat Lech Lecha).
“When Israel are like one person with one heart, they are like a wall against the forces of evil” (Shem MiShmuel, Parshat VaYikahel).
“The children of Israel were made as a guarantee for correcting the whole world with the power of Torah because everything depends on the children of Israel. Just as they correct themselves, all of creation is drawn after them” (“Sphat Emet”, Sefer Shemot, Parshat Yitro).
“Building the world, which is presently collapsing at the feet of the terrible storms of swords filled with blood, requires building the Israeli nation. Building the nation and the discovery of its spirit is one thing, and it is entirely united with building the world, which is crumbling and waiting for the full power of unity and elevation. And all of this is found in the soul of the congregation of Israel” (Rav Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, “Ohrot”, 70, 16).
“And all the nations will acknowledge and recognize Israel’s merit over them, until the realization of the words, ‘And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord’ (Isaiah 14:2), and also “Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and set up my standard to the peoples: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried on their shoulders” (Isaiah 49:22).” (Rav Yehudah Ashlag, Baal HaSulam, Introduction to the Book of Zohar, 69).
From Ynet article 12/30/15
New Life 470 – Hanukkah Then And Now
Dr. Michael Laitman in conversation with Oren Levi and Tal Mandelbaum ben Moshe
What special meaning awakens from this holiday specifically nowadays, and why in each generation do they rise up to destroy us, and what miracle do we expect to happen for?
Hanukkah talks about ideological clashes between two approaches to life: materialistic versus spiritual. The Jewish elite adopted the materialistic approach from the Greeks. They abandoned the altruistic approach of love of others.
Abraham taught connecting with love, being one, and discovering the one supreme force. When we unite and become one, we are similar to the one supreme force, and then it shines on us. But a connection like this requires a struggle against the egoistic tendencies that naturally awake in us.
When we stopped working on connection, we lost the connection with the upper force, the Light of life left the world. As a result, troubles from the outside world come upon us. They forced us to once again connect. It happens in waves. Today we are in a similar state. We live in Israel, but there is no connection and love between us during normal times.
During two thousand years we were living among the other nations of the world and caused their development There is an upper energy in nature called Light, which can connect between differences. Our task is to bring this Light to everyone. We want to be as Europe is, each one for himself and to just be left alone. And this is anti-Israel. Mutual guarantee is the foundation of the nation of Israel and without it we have no right to exist.
The darkness of day is the lack of our ability to grasp that if we don’t unite, we are not a nation. Strong egoistic urges awaken in us, hatred and separation, so that we can help each other to rise. Each person is like a keg of gasoline, which can explode at any moment. It is specifically from within the great darkness that the Light arrives.
Hanukkah symbolizes that the world is waiting for us for the Light, for the force of life that will connect everything in harmony.
From “New Life 470 – Hanukkah Then And Now ,” 12/11/14
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Preparation for the Lesson
Lesson on the Topic: “Spiritual Movement”
Writings of Rabash, “Rungs of the Ladder,” “The Miracle of Chanukah”