Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chanukah and Parshat Miketz, Taking Responsibility

First to credit those who unintentionally gave me the ideas for this blog post.  My mind was pretty blank tonight, and then I checked the links Shy Guy had added to his comment on the previous post.  The third link was perfect, Mikkeitz/Chanukah: How (not) to bring the Redemption by Daniel Pinner.   And then Isramom sent me a link to a short shiur Chanuka: Leadership Without Prophecy - the Maccabean Challenge by Jeffery Woolf.  The two messages work together, at least in my mind.

Woolf discusses the process and history of how the Jewish People, their leadership learned to make decisions without the Prophets.  They had to learn how to take responsibility.  For instance the Holiday of Chanukah was established after cessation of prophesy.

Parshat Shavua Miketz,  Genesis 41,1-44,17, includes the story of how Josef finally was freed from Egyptian jail.  I find the ending of Daniel Pinner's article in Tomer Devorah very interesting.  He compares Josef's trusting, or counting on the Royal Butler for his release from prison like the mistake the Macabees made after the great Chanukah story:

Jewish forces were winning victory after victory over Seleucid forces throughout Judea, and their eventual victory seemed guaranteed.
And then in 161 B.C.E., Rome – the up-and-coming super-power – recognised Jewish sovereign independence, and Yehudah (Judah) the Maccabee, the son and successor of Matityahu who had founded the Maccabean dynasty, signed a treaty of military alliance with Rome. Shortly afterwards Yehudah was killed in battle, and his brother Yonatan was elected in his place. There followed a long period of uncertain rule in Israel – rival Jewish groups and the remnants of the Seleucids all vying for power.
In 139 B.C.E., the Roman Senate formally recognised Judæa (the Latinised spelling) as an independent country.
The Hasmoneans saw this alliance and treaty with Rome as a veritable salvation: for a small nation fighting desperately for its independence against a mighty superpower, winning the protection of another powerful country seemed the pragmatic thing to do. But the repercussions were horrendous: within a generation the Hasmoneans would become Hellenised, and Jewish infighting would effectively give Rome control over Judæa...In 69 B.C.E. Queen Shlom-Tziyon (Salome) Alexandra died – the last monarch to reign and to die as an independent ruler of an independent Jewish state. Her two sons, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, both claimed the Judæan throne, and a civil war broke out between the two brothers and their respective followers. Hyrcanus forged an alliance with the Roman Empire, and the Judæan civil war ended when the Roman General Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) entered Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. insupport of Hyrcanus, who thereby defeated his brother Aristobolus and became High Priest and vassal king of Judæa.
Such is the result of entrusting Israel’s Redemption to human allies. God’s Name is not sanctified by Israel relying on Rome or France or America for salvation. His Name is sanctified when Israel, His Nation and His representatives in this world, fight their own wars and win their own victories in His name without mortal allies...For failing in this test Joseph spent an extra two years in captivity. When the Maccabees failed in this same test, they descended rapidly into the very Hellenism that their grandfather had given his life to fight against, and very soon became corrupt dictators, holding power against their fellow-Jews at the point of Roman spears – and eventually, those self-same Romans with whom they had forged alliances and treaties destroyed them along with the same Holy Temple that their predecessors had fought to liberate and purify.
This is the inevitable result of trusting in human allies instead of in God for the Redemption. As with Joseph in this week’s Parashah and as with the Maccabees in the Chanukah episode, relying on foreign nations for our Redemption guarantees failure. Our salvation will come not from treaties with America or from Chinese technology, nor from deals with Arab terrorists, but solely from God and from our trust and reliance in Him.

With responsibilities, comes mistakes. May we learn from them and do much better, G-d willing.

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