The Burden of a Decision

Nov 28th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai had himself smuggled out of the besieged Jerusalem so he could meet and negotiate with Vespasian. The Roman general was impressed with the rabbi’s wisdom and opened the discussion for negotiation. Rabbi Yochanan had to make a decision. He could request that Vespasian save the Beit Hamikdash; but it would be a huge demand fraught with risk of outright rejection and the potential for future conflict over who would run the Temple. On the other hand, he could ask for something more reasonable, ignore the “Permanent Status” issue of the Temple Mount, and negotiate for what he determined would be necessary to maintain the Jewish people accepting that the Holy Temple would soon be destroyed. He decided, to the chagrin of many of his colleagues current and future, on the latter. Who was he to make such a momentous decision? As great as he was, he was known as the “least” of Hillel’s students. He was not “officially” the most qualified to assume the responsibility, but he did, and focused on preparing Israel to live without the Beit Hamikdash. I wonder what the Chashmonaim, specifically Matityahu, would have decided. When Matityahu chose to strike a Hellenistic Jew who was making an offering to a Greek idol, and to fight the Greek soldiers supervising the ceremony, he decided to start a war against a huge military machine. His decision was not only for him, but for the entire country. Was it his decision to make? In hindsight, and from the Jewish perspective of Chanukah, Matityahu is a hero. He made the right decision. We don’t question his decision. We don’t question whether he had the right to make such a momentous decision, one that would affect the entire country. Let’s imagine that we live in his time. We are not Hellenists, but we haven’t been so bothered by them that we are willing to take a public stand. We know that they are supported by the Greeks, and we take the usual Jewish approach, “This too shall pass.” We are sitting at home watching the BNN, The Biblical News Network, and we watch a special report: “Jews Declare War Against Antiochus.” We listen to an excited and breathless report of Matityahu’s bold and risky action. We watch as our television screen fills with pictures of the Greek army preparing to march. “There goes our vacation!” We know that we are in for a long period of instability, violence, food shortages, and suffering. We join huge crowds at the bank withdrawing their cash and at the supermarket stocking up on supplies. We hear some people raging against the “insane and arrogant Kohen, who had no right to place us all at risk.” “My new business is beginning to take off and this guy has ruined everything!” We can also hear some scattered voices of support, “It’s about time that someone took a stand!” (Probably one of those Chareidim – those crazy orthodox who think they know best!) Where do we stand? Matityahu forced us to decide. There will be no more sitting at home watching the news and insisting that, “This is what needs to be done!” We will either join Matityahu’s army, bringing our sons into battle as well, or hand a Greek flag in front of our house and try to live in peace. There is no more Switzerland approach allowed. No neutrality. It will be one or the other: Chashmonaim or Greeks – Hellenists. Traffic is backed up as people flee the city for the mountains. You hide with your family and supplies in a cave high up in the hills. It will take a day or two for the Greek army to send reinforcements, so you’re comfortable sitting in front of a large fire as people discuss what they should do. To be continued… Author Info: Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah