18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Wannabe or Maccabee?    

Wannabe or Maccabee?

The Maccabee's entire struggle was a fight to remain what they were—Jews, dedicated to HaShem, His Torah and His Land. And now, we find ourselves with a similar script...


Chanukah, 2012. A time for reflection. A time of light, of  thankfulness....a time when the Jews cholesterol levels rise  collectively, as we dine on latkes and jelly  doughnuts for eight days straight. A time when a little spinning top takes center stage, and the history of our nation, the few against the many, unfolds. It is the story of the ancient Maccabees, and  the story of the Jewish people, now—today.
Today--today I watched a couple of powerful clips made to educate the Israeli public at large, about the critical fifteen second span, from when a rocket is fired from Gaza, until it hits the ground in the South of Israel. Fifteen seconds! In the video, which is quite visually jarring, to say the least, the viewer is asked the question—Who would you save in fifteen seconds? Your Mama? Your child/husband/sister....fifteen seconds! 

In the time of the Maccabees, we too were the few against the many. Back then, the Assyrians used the most harmful implements of war at the time to try to eradicate the Jews. These days, the Arabs fire rockets into Israel, made from metal and fertilizer. They are  weapons of doom, sent to remind us that just as we look to the heavens to see if there are any more objects of destruction coming our way, G-d forbid, so too should we look up at the heavens for our salvation. Just like in the times of the Maccabees, we find ourselves in a similar setting, in the same Land, but with a different cast of characters and weaponry. Yet, the goal is the same; the complete annihilation of the Jews, HaShem protect us. Sometimes ,when we try so hard to emulate the other nations, to strip ourselves of the princely garb we have been vested with, in exchange for 'street clothes'--we are sent these kinds of wake up calls, which force us to act in unity and royalty, a people set apart.
So—am I a Wannabe? Or am I a Maccabee?Am I trying to morph myself into something I am not? Or am I proudly waving the banner of my Jewishness? When the Jews try their hardest to bow down to the cultures of other nations, and continue to give them platitudes, we are always—without fail—  made to remember that we are a people fashioned in the image of our Creator—HaShem's chosen nation. Pre World War Two Germany was comprised of Jews who had pledged total and absolute allegiance to their 'Fatherland'. In many cases, Jews in Germany were Germans above Jews. Unfortunately, they were sent a brutal reminder that the nations of the world do not appreciate when we 'infringe' on their territory. So—do we become Wannabees or do we stay Maccabees?


Nothing Much Has Changed
On Rosh Chodesh Kislev in 2012, Hamas took the opportunity to remind us once more that being a Jew a few thousand years ago, and being a Jew today—really hasn't changed much. Beginning Rosh Chodesh, Israel was treated to a constant volley of rockets. For the first time in years, the siren sounded in Tel Aviv, the city we all thought to be 'untouchable'--a city not usually  within range of these air borne explosives.
The Shabbat after the first attacks, I patted myself on the back for being a good, conscientious Israeli citizen; I followed the orders of homefront command, and left the radio tuned in to a 'silent station' (meaning, they only broadcast in case of an emergency). I lit my candles, and sat down to talk to HaShem a bit, every few minutes my train of thought interrupted by the constant blare of the radio.
“Red alert! Red alert! A rocket has been fired to Ashkelon...”
“Red alert! Red alert...Ber-Sheva!”
“Red Alert! Red Alert! Ashdod...”
I did my best to concentrate, praying for all those whose Shabbat would be spent running in and out of  bomb shelters, loud sirens breaking the quietude that is our day of rest. As I prayed, another announcement broke the blessed silence.
“Red alert! Red alert! Yerushalaim!”
My mind suddenly froze as I leapt to my feet. Yerushalaim! The heart of our land, the soul of the Jews! Yerushalaim! When had a rocket ever managed to reach Yerushalaim?! And then other thoughts ricocheted around my head, suddenly focusing on just one—we are not so far! We are but a twenty to thirty minute drive away!
I ran upstairs to where all of the kids in the building, ours included ,were playing. And then, I metamorphosed into chicken little, and announced to all and sundry, in my very special histrionic way, that it appeared that the sky was falling—in Yerushalaim, G-d forbid!
A bit of pandemonium ensued, as peoples eyes rounded like saucers. Yerushalaim! It cannot be! But it was.
That whole Shabbat we were treated to a constant litany of red alert  announcements over the radio, and each time our hearts would contract as we waited to hear which city had been targeted next. In the still of the Shabbos night, the sound of fighter jets flying overhead hummed in the background . All through the night, and all throughout the following day, the red alert siren worked overtime, as those who announced the impending danger kept rattling off city after city in their somber voices. We were constantly being reminded that  there are people out there bent on destroying us—simply because we exist. Because they see the Maccabee within us, and they just can't stand it.


And Closer to Home
Later that week, our family decided to take a trip to Ikea here in Israel. After all, life goes on as much as possible. So-- we piled into the car and headed for Rishon le Tzion. After a couple of hours of roaming the stadium like shopping center, I was swallowed up into the vortex that is Ikea. It became so easy to forget that outside of this pleasant little planet of  materialism and all things beautiful and coordinated, a war was taking place not too far away. But HaShem has His way of sending 'little' reminders...
There we were amongst the carpets and brightly designed sheet sets, when an announcement was made over the loudspeaker. Of course, I didn't understand a word of what the lady was saying. Suddenly, everyone began to walk at a rapid pace towards an exit. I did a mental run through of the rules and regulations of shopping ettiquette, and thought it strange, but plausible, that maybe they were announcing that they would be closing soon, even though they didn't seem to give one ample warning, from the looks of it. And then I perked up and thought that maybe it was the Israeli equivalent of the Kmart blue light special, and everyone was taking advantage of some great deal or give away. That is, until I ran into my daughter who quickly burst that bubble  with one ominous sounding sentence. “We are going to the mamad.”
The mamad, for all those unfamiliar with Israeli lexicon, is actually a safe room, built to withstand things like rocket attacks, which we apparently seemed to be under at the moment. The nice and helpful Ikea workers pleasantly and efficiently herded everyone into the safe room, while wearing their very bright and happy yellow polo shirts. It was quite surreal. We all stood inside , murmuring quietly, standing together. I looked around the room at all the different stripes of Jews who were being 'forcibly' united by some fiery rockets in the sky. I spotted the one  obviously Arab woman in the crowd, and thought of the irony of it all. How is it possible that she was perfectly safe in a room full of Jews, circumstances not withstanding, and yet, I can't say a lone Jew could be said to feel safe in a room full of Arabs if the situation were reversed? It's only because we are Maccabees, and the traits of being a peace loving, nonviolent people—no matter what the state of affairs—is what sets us apart from the rest of the world.
All of a sudden we felt some vibrations. I looked at my daughter. “What was that?” I asked.
“They probably just closed the door,” she said. After a few minutes, we were let out of the safe room, and everyone resumed shopping as if nothing had happened. Unfortunately, those 'vibrations' turned out to be a rocket which exploded not too far away. Just a 'small' reminder just in case I forgot that I am Jewish, and the world is going to continue to make sure I don't forget.


What's Your Choice?
So—are we Wannabees? Are we so busy wanting to be what we are not? Are we compromising on the core—our very essence, in exchange for all things superficial? Are we all so busy buying into a culture so foreign to our souls, that it has taken over our hearts? Are we willing to sell our Land so cheaply just to gain favor with a world that will never accept us anyway? What would the Maccabees have done? Their entire struggle was a fight to remain what they were—Jews, dedicated to HaShem, His Torah and His Land. No matter what the cost. And now, we find ourselves with a similar script—what will we choose?
The messages today are no longer subtle. We have lost the vision and the will to remain steadfast to all that we have held dear for generations. The Jews in America are stubbornly ensconced in their comfortable cocoon—so HaShem sends Hurricane Sandy. The areas most obviously affected were the ones with the most concentration of Orthodox Jews. HaShem took the houses. He has taken the jobs. Obama is in the White House again—need it be any clearer? HaShem sent a mini Kristallnacht in Venezuela—will anyone come? France and the rest of Europe is seeing a revival in the popular past time of Jew hating—our brothers and sisters—we are waiting for you! What will it take? Are we Maccabees? Or is our destiny forever to be Wannabes?
I'll never forget the reaction of a local Israeli taxi driver when he heard we had made Alyiah from America. He was so proud! He turned to me, and he said, “When Jews make Aliya from America, it is really special. You come because you WANT to come—not because you are running from something.”
That was seven years ago. Now, the tides are literally changing.
HaShem wants us to unite as in the times of the Maccabees, carrying the torch of our heritage proudly. We don't have to apologize to the rest of the world because we exist. We have to embrace our Jewish identity, our blessed Land--and one another. Just like a great miracle, for the rest of the world happened 'there', you can come and be part of all the miracles that happen 'here'. It doesn't have to be a story from the past—it could be the story of our present—your present-- today.

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  awesome. (only subject)
Avraham K12/10/2012 9:19:27 AM
  No Jew is a wannabe
Louey Simon12/10/2012 1:36:26 AM

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