Hanukkah and the Idols in Our Temple

The culture war in 167 BCE and today.

Jews are commanded to display the Hanukkah menorah in a window as a public declaration of faith.

For “progressives,” faith is a dangerous thing that leads to confrontations at school committee meetings, opposition to abortion-on-demand and gender-neutral toilets and a refusal to use preferred pronouns that don’t reflect reality.

The Syrian Greek occupiers of the Land of Israel in the Second Century BCE set up idols and ordered Jews to worship them – or else. The leftists who occupy the cultural heights of 21st.century America have set up idols in our Temples and order us to worship them – or else.

The Hanukkah story recounts a struggle that was the first war of national liberation, a civil war and a culture war.

The Greeks of the Seleucid Empire said to the Jews: “C’mon on, man. We’ve got it all – philosophy, art, architecture and theater. Don’t stay bogged down in your primitive, parochial, fundamentalist religion. Step into the light. Embrace multiculturalism, science and progress.”

The Greeks of today (call them secularists or leftists) tell us to get with the program -- abandon your ancient, antiquated concepts of the sanctity of life, God-given rights, just two genders, and marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

In both cases, choice was/is irrelevant. Antiochus IV outlawed the practice of Judaism, including circumcision and Torah study.

Secularists of modern America have outlawed what they call transphobia (a public recognition of gender reality), First Amendment freedom of religion and speech, states’ rights (when it comes to abortion) and parental protest against educational tyranny.

In both cases, one side clings to faith and tradition, while the other displays an elitist disdain for what stands in its way.

The revolt against the Greeks and Jewish Hellenizers started not in Jerusalem but in the backwater village of Modi’in.

Our costal elites despise Middle America as the land of Neanderthals in MAGA caps. They refer to red states as “fly-over” country. They want to civilize us by forcing us to embrace their ideology, which holds pleasure is the highest value and religion is an encumbrance to la dolce vita.

They apparently have it all – the White House and Congress, the mainstream media, Hollywood, academia and a large part of the federal judiciary. And they’re prepared to do anything to advance their cause – indoctrinate, censor, penalize, and rewrite history and the Constitution.

Their war on religion shows just how far they’ll go.

Religious expression in the public schools is verboten. Judicial nominees are grilled on whether their faith will influence their decisions. During confirmation hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court in 2017, Secularist Inquisitor Dianne Feinstein told Barrett, “The dogma lives loudly in you.”

For Democrats, Marxism or Zoroastrianism is no impediment to service on the federal bench. But Catholicism is downright dangerous and probably unconstitutional to boot.

We saw it in the COVID edicts of New York and California. In 2020, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo restricted attendance at houses of worship to 10 to 25 people – even St. Patrick’s Cathedral which can hold up to 2,400. The only logical explanation for this is animus toward religion. (The High Court overturned it.)                      

The idols the left has set up in the Temple of Self-Government include abortion as a right that supersedes all others, licentiousness, gender fluidity (a man who thinks he’s a woman in fact is a woman) and bathrooms open to everyone. Chicago just eliminated separate bathrooms for boys and girls in its schools.

But these idols are lethal. Marriage is becoming obsolete and society is suffering the consequences (including children raised in fatherless families). Girls are raped in restrooms by boys in skirts. In New York City, more abortions are performed on African American women than give birth. People are losing their jobs for refusing to bow down to one or more tenets of the Sexual Revolution, and fertility has taken a nosedive, which will eventually lead to depopulation.

The Hasmonean revolt started in what the Syrian Greeks might have called flyover country, when an elderly priest named Mattathias killed a Greek official and a Jewish Hellenizer who set up an idol in the public square and took to the hills crying “Whoever is for God, follow me!” He ignited a guerilla movement that would liberate Israel and cleanse the Temple in Jerusalem.

Our Hasmoneans are alive and well. They include right-to-lifers, parents in revolt against the indoctrination of their children, opponents of Drag Queen Story Hour and advocates of a spiritual reawakening. Virginia’s gubernatorial election was a minor skirmish compared to what’s coming.

The culture war in which we are now engaged is also about despair versus hope.

In describing Hanukkah’s culture war, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (late chief rabbi of the United Kingdom) wrote: “The Greeks, who did not believe in a single, loving God, gave the world the concept of tragedy. We strive, we struggle, at times we achieve greatness, but life has no ultimate purpose. The universe neither knows nor cares that we are here.”

“Ancient Israel gave the world the idea of hope. We are here because God created us in love, and through love we discover the meaning and purpose of life.”

“Tragic cultures eventually disintegrate and die. Lacking any sense of ultimate meaning, they lose the moral beliefs and habits on which continuity depends. They sacrifice happiness for pleasure. They sell the future for the present. They lose the passion and energy that brought them greatness in the first place.” And that’s why America is on the road to ruin, far more than the economy or national security.

On Sunday night, we lit the last Hanukkah candle as a declaration of faith. May its light guide us to a brighter tomorrow in a land of freedom and hope.

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