message on Jewish leadership
By: Rabbi Carlos Tapiero,
MWU Deputy - Director General & Director of Education
Kfar Maccabiah, Monday, December 19, 2011
ותורת המנהיגות היהודית
The Maccabees' message on Jewish leadership
speech at the UN General Assembly this year, Palestinian Authority (PA)
President Mahmoud Abbas (aka "Abu Mazen") denied the ancient
Jewish presence and connection to the Land of Israel. While violating
the PA's international agreements by refusing to negotiate with Israel
and trying to fast-track to Palestinian statehood, Abbas in New York
greeted the world "from Palestine, the Land of the Prophet Muhammad
and Jesus Christ." Abbas conveniently ignored obvious historical
facts: had there been no Jewish Faith, Jewish People, Jewish Galilee,
Jewish Nazareth, Jewish Bethlehem nor Jewish Temple in Jewish Jerusalem,
there would undoubtedly have been no Jesus Christ or Christianity…
fact, the Chanukah festival we will be celebrating actually made
later religion of Christianity possible. Because the Maccabee Revolt
succeeded during the second century b.c.e. in restoring the spiritual
and physical life of our People centered on the Temple in Jerusalem, it
made continued Jewish existence a concrete fact. Let's recall that the
Seleucid king Antiochus IV "Epiphanes" ("the resplendent") condemned our
Faith, and tried to force our People to abandon Judaism. He enacted very
specific measures to force us to adopt Hellenist (ancient Greek) beliefs
and ways of life; attempting to homogenize all his subjects by imposing
one faith and culture, he saw monotheistic Judaism as an obstacle that
could not be overcome, so it had to be destroyed.
is generally better known for the miracle of light than
for the historic context of the heroic struggle and saga
of our small People against the world's most powerful empire which,
despite great loss of life and suffering over several decades, did
secure the Jewish future. It's worthwhile to briefly recap the
historical content of Chanukah, the struggle led by the Hasmonean (Maccabee)
family clan and the independence they restored to our People 2,176 years
168 bce: Antiochus bans observance of Shabbat, Jewish holidays and
circumcision; he imposes celebration of pagan sacrifices to Greek gods.
Matityahu Cohen ben Yohanan (Ma-Ca-BY) calls
for a people's war against the Empire under the slogan: "Mi le'Hashem
– Elai!": "Who is for God - come to me!" and begins the great
saga of the Maccabees versus the Seleucids.
165 bce: On 25 Kislev, Yehudah HaMaccabi ("Judah Maccabee") leads his
forces to drive the enemy from Jerusalem and rededicates the Temple
which had been deliberately defiled by the Hellenists. This does not
mark a final Jewish victory; fighting continues intermittently for more
than 20 years.
163 bce: Yehudah Maccabi obtains internal autonomy for his nation from
Antiochus, but continues to fight for full political freedom.
161/160 bce: Yehudah is killed at the Battle of Elasa near Beth-Horon.
Yonathan (Jonathan) is the new leader. An astute diplomat, Jonathan
exploits unsettled political conditions to Jewish advantage, and the
Assyrian authorities recognize him as both Governor of Judea and its
143 bce: Jonathan is murdered, and Shimon (Simon), last of the five
brothers who were Matityahu's sons, becomes High Priest and Ruler of
Judea. He succeeds in expelling the Assyrian/Greek forces and
establishing an independent kingdom. Then, Simon is murdered by his
son-in-law Ptolemy who wanted to succeed him as ruler of Judea. However,
his son John Hyrcanus takes over and rules until 105 bce.
104 bce: Alexander Yannai takes over as the Hasmonean ruler.
76 bce: With the death of Yannai, his widow, Shlomtzion Hamalkah (Shlomit
Alexandra or Salome Alexandra) became the Hasmonean ruler, 76-67 bce.
During her reign, the Pharisees gain a position of religious and
political leadership in Jewish life.
a glorious passage in Jewish life… One that Mahmoud Abbas hides – as he
does with any facts of the rich history of our People, denying our
existence… His attitude sits very comfortably in the reality of
post-modernism, in which actual facts are not very
important in its acceptance of the validity of many "narratives."
can learn much of relevance for our present from the great Maccabee
saga. The Maccabim developed a true example of Jewish leadership
based on clear and important principles; we should teach and
communicate these. Many of them can and do guide our daily work in
significant projects require clear, easily-understood and communicated
objectives, able to enlist the enthusiasm of those who must take part.
reach stated objectives, it is imperative to be very, very strong-willed
to focus energies, creativity and commitment in the right direction.
Theodor Herzl's famous phrase said it plainly and perfectly: "Im
Tirtzu, ein zo Haggadah" - "If you will it, it will be no dream."
project of redemption and revolutionary process must address the needs
of everyone involved, providing real solutions to the reasons why they
take part in the cause.
"make history", a cause must have be translated into an action plan with
a clear forward vision, strategies and tactics.
Determining the priority of topics and issues of an ideology and the
action it inspires, is absolutely indispensable in order to invest the
highest amount of effort and energy on the points of maximum
Significant projects can emerge from several individuals, but to make
them truly transformational, they must have the support, involvement and
work of the many.
Truly transformational processes take time, require patience,
perseverance, determination and commitment to ideals that inspire them
and that must to be transmitted and continued by past, present and
success of a transformational process is always seen "at the end of the
road". An individual might participate in one of its stages without
being around to see the ultimate, full resolution of all its components
and aspects. It has always been so in respect of the geopolitical
realities and internal challenges that Zionism and the State Israel
So, Chanukah brings us messages about leadership, vision, victory and
It tells a true, specific and very moving historical saga of our People
in our Land - today, our State - which led to our continuity as a
Nation. Miracles of faith, struggle, individual and national human
action, Divine action... and light: the light of a holiday that
in the winter of Israel warms the hearts of the Jewish People
everywhere, who recognize in the life of the Jewish national revival,
the continuity of the message of the Maccabim which our Movement is so
privileged to promote.
this CHAG HA'URIM, the Festival of Lights,
carry the Torch of the Maccabees
illuminate our commitment to continuing the authentic Maccabi ideals
reformulated for our present and future.
May this be a very happy celebration with your families,
the more than 400 Maccabi clubs and Jewish community centers
and in the modern Medinat Israel that so deeply and successfully
engages the spirit of the Maccabees.
Maccabi World Union