How does Israel, throughout the ages, prevail over enemies that are much mightier? The secret is that before they overcome the enemies, they must overcome nature. How do they overcome nature? There's only one way - emuna. In the account of the splitting of the Red Sea, the Torah reveals Israel's template for victory: "On that day, Hashem saved Israel from the hand of Egypt...and they revered Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in His servant Moses" (Exodus 14:30-31). We learn that true emuna includes the belief in Hashem and in His righteous servants - the true tzaddikim and spiritual leaders of Israel - in every generation.
The belief in the true tzaddik triggered the miracle of Chanuka. How?
200 years before the destruction of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the wicked King Antiochus wanted to solidify his vast Syrian Greek empire by destroying Judaism and turning Israel into a secular nation that conforms to Seleucid (Greek-Syrian) culture and paganism. In doing so, he marched with his vast army upon Jerusalem, defiled the Holy Temple and erected an idol on the altar. He made Torah study, Shabbat observance and circumcision punishable by death, for he knew that without Torah, the Sabbath and circumcision, the Jewish People would disappear, Heaven forbid, within a few decades even without war. But that wasn't all...
Antiochus in his evil cunning knew that in order to subjugate the Jews, you must subjugate their spiritual leader. He therefore sent a task force to the town of Modiin, the home of Mattathias the Kohen (priest), a revered, holy and courageous leader, the tzaddik of the generation. A Hellenist - an assimilated Jew who served as one of Antiochus's administrators - had the Greek-Syrian soldiers erect a portable altar. He then prodded Mattathias to be an example for the populace, to pledge allegiance to Antiochus and his regime, and to sacrifice a pig on the altar. On the spot, Mattathias pulled out a dagger from his priestly cloak and killed the administrator. He and his five sons - Yonatan, Shimon, Judah, Elazar, and Yochanan - routed the task force and sent them packing. Knowing that they would soon return with an entire army, Mattathias cried out, "Whoever is for Hashem, follow me!" (Exodus 32:26), the same battle cry that Moses used when the Levites rallied behind him to kill those who worshiped the Golden Calf.
By virtue of the simple faith that a handful of peasants who believed in Hashem and in Mattathias His servant, armed with nothing more than spears, bows, rocks and their unwavering emuna, they fought under the leadership of Mattathias and his sons, aka the Maccabees, as Mattathias’ sons, in a dazzling guerrilla campaign against the massive well-armed forces of the Seleucid army. The rest is history. With Hashem's help, the Maccabees prevailed, recaptured and reconsecrated and rededicated ("Chanuka" in Hebrew) the Holy Temple, rekindled the holy Menorah, and dedicated eight days to thanking Hashem. This is the miracle of Chanuka that we celebrate every year.
Don't think that Chanuka was something that happened 2200 years ago, and that's it. It's still happening today, as you'll hear in this week's emuna shiur and EmunaNews broadcast.
Whatever you do, you don't want to miss today's (Wednesday) EmunaNews/Emuna shiur and live broadcast from Jerusalem, entitled "Israel's Victory," which will take place, G-d willing, in the ground-floor main sanctuary of the Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva on 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street in Jerusalem at 7PM Israel time; the shiur is open to the public - both men and women are invited. You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in on time. If you are not able to view today's broadcast live, then G-d willing, you'll be able to see the video tape of it later this coming week on Lazer Beams.