After massive assimilation of Jews to the Hellenistic lifestyle, the Greek-Seleucid king Antiochus decided to put an end to traditional Judaism for good. He outlawed Shabbat and holiday observance, banned circumcision and Torah study. The Temple in Jerusalem was captured and a statue of Zeus erected within it. Antiochus planned to seal the deal with a request of the Jews to sacrifice a pig to the Greek gods. Incredibly, many Jews agreed, wooed by Hellenism. But one man, Matityahu, stood up for the truth and declared “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers… Follow me, all of you who are for God’s law and stand by the covenant.” Thus started what may be the world’s first religious war. Matityahu and his five sons organized a rebel army based in Modi’in, led by Matityahu’s son Yehuda, nicknamed Maccabee – “the Hammer”. The war lasted nearly 30 years. At its height, the Maccabees had no more than 12,000 fighters, while the Greeks had a massive professional army with war elephants (under which Judah’s brother Elazar was trampled in a heroic feat). Meanwhile, children carried small spinning tops to conceal the fact they were secretly learning Torah. Two great miracles occurred: the Jews defeated the world-superpower Seleucid Greeks, and when they reclaimed the Temple and purified it of idolatry, one kosher jug of oil burned for 8 days. Light was restored to the Jewish people.
Words of the Week
A Jew is a lamplighter. The lamplighter walks the streets carrying a flame at the end of a stick. He knows that the flame is not his. And he goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight. – Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch
Francisco Maldonado de Silva (1592-1639) Raised as a devout Catholic, de Silva is one of the most famous Marranos in history [Marranos were the Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Christianity by the Inquisition]. His family migrated to Chile where de Silva became a doctor. He learned of his Judaism from his father, took an interest in it and started to learn more. He returned to Judaism wholeheartedly, circumsizing himself with a pair of scissors (relax, he was a doctor). Unfortunately, being Jewish was a crime and de Silva was arrested and thrown in jail for 12 years. He refused to eat their un-kosher food and would fast for 40 days at a time. De Silva was endlessly interrogated by no less than 13 inquisitors. Amazingly, he escaped from his cell after weaving a rope of corn stalks. Instead of running away, he climbed into the adjacent cell and converted two Catholics to Judaism. Tragically, he was burned at the stake with 11 other Jews in Lima, Peru on January 23, 1639.
Words of the Week
“The [Torah] has been a Magna Carta of the poor and of the oppressed; down to the modern times no State has a constitution which the interests of the people are so largely taken into account, in which the duties so much more than the privileges of the rulers are insisted upon, as that drawn up for Israel in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.”
– T.H. Huxley, famous biologist and paleontologist, father of the Huxley dynasty which includes Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley, Francis Huxley and Andrew Huxley.