John StembridgeWhere Are the Maccabees Today?

Editor: This article was printed in The Jewish Xpress magazine at Chanukah time. It’s message is fitting for for all times – and with the theme of this issue.

The Jewish people throughout the ages have been challenged with two choices: strict observance of all the mitzvot of the Torah or compromise and assimilation into the culture of the nations. Such happened in 137 B.C.E. when Antiochus Epiphanies rose to power during the Greek era.

At that time there was a group of renegade Jews that encouraged everyone to “enter into a covenant with the Gentiles . . . some received authority from the king to introduce non-Jewish laws and customs” (I Maccabees 1:11-15). These repudiated Israel’s Holy Covenant with HaShem and stopped the circumcision of their sons. They even built a Gentile style stadium in Jerusalem.

At the same time another group arose led by Mattathias and his five sons: John called Goddis, Simon called Thassis, Judas called Maccabaeu, Eleazar called Avaron, and Jonathan called Apphus who challenged the assimilation efforts of Antiochus.

When the King’s officers pled with Mattathias, “You are a leader here, a man of mark and influence … with your sons and brothers at your back. You be the first now to come forward and carry out the King’s orders. Then you and your sons will be enrolled among the King’s Friends; you will receive high honors, rich rewards of silver, gold and many further benefits” (I Maccabees 2:17-18).

To which Mattathias responded with a clarion voice: “Though all the nations within the king’s dominions obey him and forsake their ancestral worship, though they have chosen to submit to his commands, yet I and my sons and brothers will follow the Covenant of our Fathers. Heaven forbid we should abandon our law and its statutes”(I Maccabees 2:19-21).

Antiochus had desecrated the Temple, sacrificing swine, or pig’s blood to idols within its sacred walls. Then commanding the Jews to eat pork, disregard the Sabbath, circumcision and Holy Feast days in order to substitute his pagan holidays.

Although it required the sacrifice of their lives, Mattathias and his sons successfully overthrew the regime of Antiochus and his pagan customs. The Temple was cleansed of idols and pig’s blood. They found enough oil to light the seven-candle menorah for one night. But miraculously it lasted eight nights. Therefore we have the nine-candle Chanukah Menorah. [Chanukah, sometimes spelled “Hanukah”, is Hebrew for “Dedication”. In John 10:22 & 23, we see that Jesus observed this “Festival of Lights”.]

Dim Light

The assimilation of our generation is even worse than Mattathias: We no longer have a Temple in which to obey all 613 mitzvot of the Torah, no Levitical priesthood, offerings and sacrifices. All the tribes are yet scattered to the four corners of the earth. The two houses of Judah and Israel are not yet reunited. Therefore, we have been without a prophet, priest or king 2,000 years.

Who among our generation cares? Most during the “O So Low” Oslo Accord, have been willing to give away the Temple Mount, Hebron, and all of our holy places. Most do not care that all the tribes are not regathered or the two Houses re-united before the coming of our Holy King Mashiach.

Our restaurants and grocery stores are full of those buying and eating their fill of pork, stone crabs, lobsters, etc. in total disregard of the Mitzvot.

P.M.’s “Light” Statement

To this date, only Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in our 54-year history cared enough that we are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. He did something about it. On Rosh HaShanah 2,000 he went to the top and read the words of the prophet Ezekiel from the 37th chapter. So that the world will know that our destiny is to be regathered to worship the Almighty from the sacred heights of the Temple Mount.

He read about the “dry bones” scattered among the nations awakening to the “Sh’ma” (voice and commandments of HaShem). As they began to hear His voice there was a shaking, rattling and trembling as the bones came together until each found his proper place in the skeleton called “Israel.”

Then sinews came upon the bones and skin covered the sinews. Then HaShem placed His Ruach (Breath or Spirit) into the regathered tribes from all the earth. He said these bones were the “WHOLE HOUSE OF ISRAEL.”

Finally, HaShem unites the two Houses of Judah and Israel and they give us our Holy King Machiash.

Will Light Shine Again Now?

How many of us reading this in the JewishXpress really care that we are still scattered, without a Temple, without a Prophet, Priest or King?

Are any of us today willing to leave the comforts and assimilation of the West to return to help reclaim and redeem all of Eretz Israel with justice, sweat and tears as the Tenach declares? The survivors of the Shoah (Holocaust) have redeemed a sliver of Judea and Samaria. But what about all the rest of Eretz Israel – Judea, Samaria, the Temple Mount and all of our holy places that yet need to be reclaimed and redeemed with justice?

Are you willing to lay down your life like Mattathias and his sons? In every generation, G-d has had a Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, or Mattathias. Who will it be in ours? Will your name be named among the lovers of Zion and Jerusalem? I want to be among that number. I hope and pray that you do, too.

“The Lord shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning . . . for they shall be as stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land. . . .” (Zach. 9:14-17).  -