The Burden of a Decision Part Two

Nov 28th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
One man has turned your safe world upside down. (See “The Burden of a Decision”) You were comfortable adjusting to Greek rule, and allowing those modern Hellenists to do what they wanted as long as you could live in peace. Matityahu has forced the issue to the fore, and you now have to decide.

Some of your fellow refugees are so angry with the Chashmonaim that they can’t even consider his reasons. The tension in the hills is flammable, and you fear the spark of confrontation. Two Jews with spears and swords appear from the darkness; representatives of the Chashmonaim. They are looking for volunteers. The spark you feared is ignited. Voices are raised in anger against their “reckless” decision. The two strapping fellows calmly allow everyone to speak, and then they change the nature of the conversation by presenting a Twitter message from Matityahu: A simple quote from the bible, “Who is for God shall join me!” Everyone remembers Moshe’s challenge to the Leviim after the Golden Calf. Everyone understands that the Chashmonaim, Kohanim, are from the Tribe of Levi. Matityahu has changed the conversation by focusing on God: “This is a fight for God!”

You look up at the T-shirts worn by both soldiers: Maccabbi: “Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem,” “Who among the powers is like You, God.” This is a religious battle for the future of the Jewish people as Jews. Some are inspired. Some are intimidated. Some are silently fuming against the religious fanatics, but all allow the young men to speak. One man asks the question on everyone’s mind: Did Matityahu receive a sign from God? How do we know this is what God wants? All silently ponder the important question.

The setting, high in the dark hills, a fire burning, people desperate for information, guidance and leadership, is perfect for a story, and the older soldier complies. He opens his bible and reads the following story:

Then the angel of God came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites.

The angel of God appeared to him and said to him, “God is with you, O valiant warrior.”

Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if God is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not God bring us up from Egypt?’ But now God has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The angel looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?”

He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”

But God said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.”

So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.

“Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.” And He said, “I will remain until you return.”

Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them.

The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so.

Then the angel of God put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of God vanished from his sight.

When Gideon saw that he was the angel of God, he said, “Alas, O God, the Lord! For now I have seen the angel of the God face to face.”

God said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.”

Then Gideon built an altar there to God and named it The Lord is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Now on the same night God said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build an altar to God, your Lord on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.”

Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as God had spoken to him; and because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it by day, he did it by night.


When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built. They said to one another, “Who did this thing?” And when they searched about and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash did this thing.”

Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.”

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.”

Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar.

Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel.

So the Spirit of God came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.

He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.

Then Gideon said to the Lord, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.”

And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.

The young soldier finished reading. People were considering the similarities and differences in the story. Gideon was instructed by an angel to provoke the Midianites, but his requests for signs seemed to be a weakness.

The other young man spoke softly, almost a whisper, “Purim.” You all understood exactly what he meant.

To Be Continued…

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