Thursday, December 22, 2011

Out of the Mothballs and into Reality

By Moshe Feiglin

"And it was at the end of two years and Pharaoh had a dream." (From this week's Torah portion, Miketz, Genesis 41:1)

Another two years in the dungeon for Joseph. Twelve years in all. And why is he in the dungeon in the first place? Because he didn't want to sin with the wife of the Egyptian minister? This is his reward for doing G-d's will?

Joseph does not break. He clings to his faith. From the depths of the dungeon, we cannot possibly understand the entire story. Only after the fact do we understand that every moment in the Egyptian dungeon honed Joseph for the position that he would take. When the moment came – "and they hurried him from the dungeon." When the moment comes, nothing can stand in its way. Not trickery and not the situation that seems completely hopeless. When a person clings to his faith, does the right thing and does not give in to despair he is positioned so that when the moment comes, reality hurries him out of the dungeon.

We are now celebrating Chanukah. Much will be recalled this week about the miracle and the Maccabees' victory over the Greeks. We have a lot to learn from their dedication, perseverance and the leadership qualities of Matityahu and his sons. Just like Joseph, they clung to their faith, persevered and led the nation until they established the independent Jewish state – both physically and spiritually. But no less important than studying their successes is to study the end of the independent Hasmonean state. The Jews' loss of identity caused the disintegration of the Israeli kingdom after the reign of Queen Shlomzion. Israel under Hasmonean rule became a protectorate of Rome.

The Holy Temple was still standing and the enlightened Romans allowed for freedom of worship – almost. But the core principle was missing. The idea of perfecting the world in the kingdom of Heaven had become meaningless. For if the Nation of the King of kings is ruled by others, if the holy service in the royal palace – the holy Temple – is being performed with permission from the Roman king – then what kind of perfection of the world is taking place? It is nothing more than a caricature of G-d's supreme reign, nothing more.

To be 'religious' one does not need a nation. One can be a Moslem or a Christian from any state. But to make G-d supreme over His world, He must rule over the Nation, the Land and the royal palace. This is the vital Jewish connection between nationality and religion. When the Jewish Nation is not free, Judaism is detached from its destiny and merely exists as moth-balled religion.

The other side of the coin is true as well: When the Nation is free but is not loyal to the commandments of the King, Judaism exists only as moth-balled nationalism. Historically, the religious mothballs preserve Judaism longer and better than the nationalist moth-balls. One way or the other, both nationalism and religion are limited and cannot guarantee the existence of our nation and certainly not the fulfillment of its destiny. We must re-connect the loose ends and mold them all into Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount: sovereignty and religion all wrapped up into one; the fulfillment of Jewish destiny and Manhigut Yehudit's goal.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah

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