"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Monday, December 28, 2009

Standard Interim Recommendations



Standard Interim Recommendations

Rabbi Y. Oliver


The Previous Rebbe writes:
One cannot begin treating a patient until the location of the sickness and its root cause have been ascertained. Until then, one can only prescribe proper conduct in general, and instruct the patient to engage in certain practices and avoid others.

Following a schedule for sleeping, eating, drinking, and other aspects of a proper lifestyle will certainly benefit the patient’s health greatly, but will not cure his sickness. For this purpose an individual medicine must be prescribed (in addition to following a healthy lifestyle, as mentioned above).

Moreover, the patient must constantly rouse himself with the desire and yearning to recover, and the intense hope that Hashem will heal him, as it is written, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity” (
Mishlei 18:14).

The same holds true for treating spiritual ailments. It is true that until the exact location of the sickness and its root cause is identified, the person cannot be healed individually. However, it is nonetheless certain that proper conduct will strengthen and elevate him, with the help of Hashem.

This conduct should include:

Doing good
: An organized approach to doing good deeds by performing Mitzvos, fixing times for Torah study, and acquiring good character traits.

Rejecting evil
: Taking care in one’s speech to avoid idle chatter, shutting one’s eyes from seeing evil and blocking one’s ears from hearing wicked speech (cf. Yeshaya 33:15). When discussing the condition of another person, the way that he runs his home, and so on, one must also be vigilant, for praise of another person can often end up in denigrating that person and his home. This may contain a significant amount of the filth of gossip, talebearing, jealousy, hatred, the spreading of malicious lies, and the like.

And yet the above conduct will not be sufficient to cure a person of his illness, as mentioned.


Adapted from Igros Kodesh Admur HaRayatz, Vol. 4, p. 353.
It is true that often a person needs personal advice carefully prescribed to address his individual problems (see here). However, even before he receives this advice, he should not dismiss the value of following certain standard interim recommendations.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hei Teves: Celebrating our victory

On Hei (the fifth of) Teves every year, chassidim celebrate the day that the secular court issued the verdict that the seforim (holy books) of the Previous Rebbe’s library should be returned to their rightful owners, Agudas Chassidei Chabad, after a large number of these priceless works had been stolen. Chassidim dubbed this the day of Didan notzach, which means literally “victory is ours.”

But why should we be so happy, as if celebrating a
personal victory? After all, we weren’t there. Many of us (such as the writer of this post) were little children when this whole saga occurred, and others hadn’t even been born. And even of those who were adults at the time and remember the events clearly, how many were directly involved? Yes, some went to the trouble to sit in the court during the case, but most didn’t even do that.

In fact, this question strikes to the core of what it means to be a
chossid.

At first
chassidim didn’t understand why the theft mattered so much; however, they witnessed the simple fact that the Rebbe was deeply distressed over the situation. So first and foremost, chassidim were distressed on account of that very fact: Since chassidim share a deep, personal, loving relationship with the Rebbe, when something distresses the Rebbe, chassidim are distressed too.

But for a true
chossid, that is not enough. Just as when a close friend is suffering, one wants to know why this is so, and seeks to help him out, so is it with a chossid and his or her Rebbe. When the Rebbe is in pain, the chossid wants to understand why, to share that feeling with him, and to do whatever is in his or her power to remove that pain.

This is the meaning of
didan. Didan means ours. The Rebbe’s joy is our joy, and the Rebbe’s pain is our pain, because we’re his chassidim. But this bond can’t come automatically. It requires Avodah, hard work at self-refinement, so that instead of only thinking about ourselves—whether selfish indulgences, or even our legitimate physical needs (and may all Jews be blessed with abundant prosperity)—we think about Hashem, and what matters to Him. And then we realize that we should consider and connect with the holy wishes of the Tzaddik that He sent us to reveal His Will to us and His expectation of us. That the Rebbe is the source of our Neshamos, and so we need to connect with that source in order connect with Hashem.

Then his pain is our pain ... and his joy is our joy, his victory is our victory. To suggest a little interpretation: When we have
didan—the identification with the Rebbe, then there will also be notzach—the identification with his victory.

In this case, the joy of
Hei Teves—of which chassidim said, “One who didn’t see the joy of Hei Teves, never saw joy in his life”—was a direct and natural result of empathizing with the pain of the Rebbe during the period before the verdict was issued. When we in our time develop our bond with the Rebbe in general, and reflect upon the pain that the Rebbe suffered over the debacle of the stolen seforim in particular, we will be able to truly share in the Rebbe’s joy on this day. Or, in the words of Tehillim, “Those who sow in tears, shall reap with joy” (Tehillim 126:5).

L’Chaim!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Torah illuminates and enables discernment

The Rebbe writes that one can only discern between spiritual health and sickness with the light of Torah:
If every person was granted the potential to change worldly events in a positive direction, and even to introduce a novelty, this is surely true of the Jewish nation. Its very existence is a deviation from the order of the world, and it has been assigned with the role of serving as “A light unto the nations” (Yeshaya 42:6).

Since this description is given by our Torah, “a Torah of truth,” it is exact in all its details. This includes the fact that light represents a force that, although apparently not introducing any novelty, displays and reveals the true nature of the object [being illuminated]. Usually, this light is essential to discern between good and evil, holiness and impurity, health and sickness, and between those who call evil, good, and sickness, health.
Nitzutzei Ohr, p. 83.
Elsewhere, the Rebbe discusses this in terms of the concept of the comparison between Torah and a candle:
A candle does not produce anything new. A candle merely illuminates and enables one to see things next to oneself. When the candle is lit one can see what to be careful of, and what one ought to pursue; what is a door that leads one out into a wide space, and what is a pit, where one is liable to fall to the nethermost depths. This is the idea of light—it merely reveals existing things.

Sichos Kodesh 5730, Vol. 1, p. 343.
When we reflect upon at events in our personal lives, or in the world around us, and seek clarity in our perception, we have to ask ourselves one question: Are we looking at the event from the perspective of Hashems eternal Torah? If so, then our view of it can be true and healthy. But if not, then no matter how smart, knowledgeable, or otherwise accomplished we may be, our view of it will be inevitably tainted by worldly attitudes, and thus we are bound to err in our assessment of good and evil, holiness and impurity, and health and sickness, what one ought to avoid, and what one ought to pursue.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The sins of befriending non-Jews and learning their culture


Torah study—“Our life and the length of our days;
we will meditate (on its words) day and night" (Evening liturgy)”

The sins of befriending non-Jews and learning their culture
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

“The sins of the Jewish people in the time of the Greeks were: befriending the Greeks, learning their culture ... ”[1]

Just a minute, an outsider might ask. It’s a
sin to befriend a non-Jew?! Isn’t Judaism a religion of peace and love? If anything, that should be considered a Mitzvah, no?

Well, no. Jews should not be “buddy-buddy” with non-Jews. It’s not that we dislike them. We just know that we ought to ... keep a distance from them. Ours is “a nation that dwells alone.”
[2] We have our role in the cosmos, and they have theirs. When we draw too close, those lines become blurred.

A friendship is a two-way relationship. You influence him, but he also influences you. A non-Jewish friend will naturally share his values and feelings with you, and precisely because he is your friend, his company will influence you with his non-Jewish attitudes and culture. We don’
t want this because it may weaken the Jew’s devotion to Torah, and even bring him to abandon it altogether, G–d forbid. Thus, we find a concern in Halacha that a close friendship between a Jew and a non-Jew may lead the two to make a deal to marry off their children to each other (known as chasnus), which the Torah considers a normal outcome of a very close friendship. (Along similar lines, a religious Jew should even take care not to overly befriend a not-yet-observant Jew—see here.)


In general, although he may do business with non-Jews, a regular
ehrleche (fine) Jew is not tempted to befriend non-Jews, and the reason is not just that that he can’t discuss Tosafos with them. He simply can’t relate to them, because he doesnt live in their world. The cross-cultural divide is too great, and that is a good thing.


However, this is not to say that a Jew should act in an unfriendly or rude manner toward non-Jews, G–d forbid. On the contrary, since non-Jews are created in the image of Hashem, they deserve to be accorded the utmost respect, and even cherished.[3] This is also not to say that one should not have any form of contact with non-Jews; rather (in addition to maintaining contact for the purpose of shared business interests, or the like), one should do so where necessary, but with a clear awareness of the purpose of the interaction in mind. The nature of the relationship between Jew and non-Jew is one of teacher and student, with the Jew inspiring the non-Jew indirectly through his fine moral conduct and wholesome family life, or directly, by teaching him the Noahide laws.

However, the second item mentioned in
HaYom Yom, learning secular culture, is a temptation that is lamentably all too common in our times.

Many
frum people feel that they must read the newspaper every day, follow the sport, politics, and even gossip, and generally be “up with the latest” amongst the non-Jews. Many immerse themselves in study of secular topics purely for the sake of knowing them, and send their children to schools with a very good record in secular studies even if the Torah studies there are poor; they then insist that their children go to college, and not just in order to earn a good living (despite the severe dangers that their children are exposed to there), but in order to “be a man amongst men” by being au fait with the culture of the western world, finding their
prestige from secular academic recognition and titles, and the like. Many indulge in “entertainment” by exposing themselves to supposedly “neutral” novels, television shows, and movies, despite the fact that doing so involves violating the prohibitions of exposing oneself to heresy or immorality). And so on.

The numbers of such people are not small, and probably greater than we estimate. And although not all of the behaviors listed above are necessarily strictly forbidden (except when they involve consciously exposing oneself to heresy or immorality, as above), they are sins in the sense that these are not befitting behaviors for Jews.

“But,
” the advocates of
normalcy clamor, what’s so terrible with it? Why are you being so fanatic? It’s harmless!”

But it’
s not. These influences are saturated with subtle and not-so-subtle inappropriate messages that desensitize us to holiness, true refinement, and actualizing our spiritual potential. They may lead one to start adopting certain typically non-Jewish behaviors, which is in itself forbidden. Ultimately, when imbibed frequently and for a lengthy duration, such influences may entice the Jew to give up Yiddishkeit altogether, may G–d save us.

And above all, preoccupation with the non-Jewish culture, even the most supposedly harmless cartoon, distracts the Jew from what he should be really focused on if he has any free time—Torah study. The Torah is Hashem’s timeless wisdom. It is a
priceless gift from Above. A Jew has the constant obligation and privilege to study it, and neglecting it is considered a severe sin.

As the Mishnah exhorts us: “Ben Bag-Bag used to say of the Torah: Turn it and turn it again, for everything is in it. Pore over it, and wax gray and old over it. Stir not from it, for you can have no better rule than it.[4] Everything a Jew could want to know is in the Torah, and it is what should preoccupy him whenever he has a “spare” moment.

_____________________
[1] HaYom Yom, 29 Kislev.
[2] Bamidbar 23:9.
[3] Avos 3:14.
[4] See Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:1
One may not follow the rites of idolaters, nor imitate them in dress, hairstyle, and the like. As the verses say: “And you shall not follow the rites of the nation that I evict from before you”;[a] likewise, “And do not follow their rites”;[b] “Beware lest you be lured by [their ways].”[c] The import of all these verses is the same: We are warned not to imitate [non-Jews]. Rather, a Jew must be separate from them and distinguished in his dress and in his other affairs, just as he is different in his doctrines and beliefs. As the verse says, “I have separated you from the nations.”[d]

[a] Vayikra 10:23.
[b] Ibid.18:3.
[c] Devarim 12:30.
[d] Vayikra 20:26.
[5] ibid. 5:22.

This post was dedicated by Rabbi Shmuli Markel and family (Shmuel Leib ben Esther and Sara Rochel bas Chaye Nechomoh).


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Key to Understanding Torah



The Key to Understanding Torah

Rabbi Y. Oliver

People who study Torah make a common mistake. They treat the Torah as a collection of thought-provoking topics for intellectual discussion and heated debate, or as a storehouse of insightful stories and witty sayings.

But a Jew doesn’t learn Torah in order to stimulate his mind—or at least, he shouldn’t. He ought to learn Torah with a sense of awe at its holiness, and with the goal of submitting and uniting his mind with Hashem’s wisdom.

In fact, only when one learns Torah with this awareness can one truly understand it. Thus, one who has not prepared himself appropriately to study Torah will not only fail to truly connect with the G–dliness in Torah, he will also fail to truly grasp its technical logic.

To explain, in Hashem’s infinite kindness, He lowers His supernal wisdom
the Torah as it exists in its sublime source, and reveals it to us on our levelthe Torah as we know it. Put differently, in the Torah Hashem lowers His intellect, which is in its own right completely beyond mortal understanding, down to the level of our intellect, and this enables us to comprehend it.

And yet, even when divine intellect vests itself in human intellect, it remains inherently divine. Thus, even the technical logic of Torah that our human intellect grasps is fundamentally different from the technical logic of secular wisdoms (
lehavdil), for it is divine intellect in the garb of human intellect.

The reason that Hashem lowers His wisdom in this way is that He wants to give us the opportunity to unite with it. Through Torah study, one unites one’s own mind with Hashem’s “mind” in a unity that is completely unparalleled.[1]

However, Hashem does not automatically lower His intellect into a form that we can understand. This is a privilege that must be earned, for in general, divine blessings require that the recipient invest effort in order to be worthy of them (in the language of Kabbalah, an “arousal from below” must precede an “arousal from above”). In this case, the human effort required is devotion to observe the Mitzvos out of the pure desire to obey Hashem’s command. When one does this, he causes G–dliness to permeate the physical, and thereby merits that divine wisdom descends to him such that his limited intellect can grasp it, enabling him to unite himself with Hashem in a most wondrous manner.

But do we not see many scholars of Torah who lack fear of Hashem? The answer is that although they may have amassed a great deal of technical knowledge, they do not truly grasp the meaning of what they have studied; rather, they will constantly understand and interpret Torah themes in an incorrect and even twisted way.

In stark contrast, secular wisdom can be understood thoroughly even by a person who neglects to fulfill the behaviors that they logically dictate. For example, an expert on heart disease can fully understand his field, and yet be a chain smoker.

This is also related to Chanukah, for the Greeks sought “to cause them [the Jewish people] to forget Your Torah and to remove from them the laws of Your will.”[2]
They sensed that connecting with the G–dliness of Torah depends upon performing Mitzvos with pure faith in Hashem. Since they wanted the Jewish people to study Torah as a secular subject, G–d forbid, they outlawed the observance of the chukim, the supra-rational laws. Since this would leave only the rational Mitzvos, they hoped that the Jewish people would then stop performing the remaining Mitzvos out of subservience to the divine command, instead performing them because of their rational necessity. In sum, they sought to contaminate the purity of Torah by contaminating the purity of Mitzvah observance.

Thus, Chanukah teaches us to perform Mitzvos with pure faith and fear of Hashem, out of a desire to fulfill His will; this makes the person a vessel to truly grasp the technical logic of Torah, and when he then learns it, he will be blessed with the ability to succeed at uniting his mind with Hashem’s wisdom.


______________________
[1] Tanya ch. 5.
[2] Haneros Hallalu liturgy.


Based on Sefer HaMa’amarim 5712, pp. 144-145.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The true message of Chanuka

It pains me to write this, but I feel that I must.

Sometimes there is a fine line between not saying the whole truth, and saying something incorrect. I have found this to true of Chanukah in particular, and the way it is presented to the outside world by some well-meaning Chabad representatives.

For example, in
one article, a leading Chabad rabbi is quoted as saying that “The world’s largest Hanukkah menorah stands as a symbol of freedom of democracy and delivers the message of light over darkness and freedom over oppression.

Another
article, this time from an official news site, is entitled: “Menorah: A Symbol of Religious Freedom.” It describes how Chanukah brings “ ... a message of peace and religious liberty to the public square.” Moreover, an official spokesman is quoted as saying that “ ... the menorah is a universal symbol of freedom and independence which totally conforms with the American ideal.”

These statements clearly say that the message of Chanuka is
“religious freedom.” In effect, what this means to the average reader is to declare that the Torah teaches that Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, and voodoo-worshippers should all be free to worship just as they please, and no one should ever in any way hinder the religious worship of anyone else—and that this is the message of Chanuka (G–d forbid).

But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The concept of an inherent right to express one’s religion as one wishes is not a Torah value. In fact, the concept of religious freedom as a
fundamental human right is of recent historical origin. My understanding is that religious freedom has existed as a matter of government policy in various ages and societies, but it only became identified as a principle of inherent value with the rise of the Enlightenment movement. The principle of religious freedom for all is also closely tied with other secular ideas like pluralism and multiculturalism.

To be sure, to a great extent these ideas have significantly benefited the Jewish people, in that they have enabled us to observe the Mitzvos without the persecution that we suffered under the likes of the Spanish Inquisition or the Communist regime. But that merely makes these ideas useful and beneficial; it doesn’t make the concept of religious freedom
inherently worthy.

And like all philosophies not directly rooted in Torah, the concept of religious freedom has had its downside. Until the rise of the Enlightenment, state-legislated discrimination against Jews was common in all European countries. The result was that assimilation into gentile society was extremely rare. Once the influence of the Enlightenment became widespread, assimilation did, as well. This was the reason that the first Chabad Rebbe, the Alter Rebbe, preferred the rule of the Czar to that of Napoleon, for although the Jews would suffer from draconian decrees under the Czar, they were safe from assimilation, while under Napoleon, freedom from oppression would be accompanied with the very tempting enticement to assimilate (Napoleon u-Tekufato, Mevorach, pp. 182–183).

Moreover, the most basic knowledge of Judaism demonstrates that the Torah rejects the notion of inherent religious freedom. When the Jewish people had the ability to maintain full military control over the Holy Land (which they do not possess today), the Torah mandates what in modern-day language would be called a theocracy. Jews who were seen committing idolatry were penalized harshly. Pagan statues and temples of pagan worship were illegal. Only non-Jews who committed to follow the Noahide laws were allowed to remain in the Land; those who refused, forfeited that right.

Can any of this be done today? No. But the reason for that is that we are in exile. We don’t live in what the Torah views as an ideal world—one in which Jews and non-Jews alike universally accept the Torah alone as the pure Truth, and follow the laws that the Torah mandates for them (with Jews following the Code of Jewish Law, and non-Jews following the Noahide Laws). But our holy prophets predict that this will take place in the age of Moshiach, and Jews hope and pray every day for this day to come.

This is not to say that the Torah seeks to promote an age of coercion. We don’t want Moshiach to come so we can force everyone to accept belief in the Torah, because “Its [the Torah’s] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). Rather, Moshiach will reveal the truth of Hashem’s existence and of Torah to all mankind. Mankind will then give up adherence to other religions willingly, because their former adherents will recognize the other religions to be false, and realize the absolute truth of Torah. Moshiach will then effect universal peace by settling all the quarrels between the nations. The reason he will be able to do so is that all mankind will recognize him as a holy man, and thus be confident in the justice of his rulings.

In any case, the true message of Chanuka is the exact opposite of the concept of religious freedom that treats all religions as equal. Chanuka is about the Macabbees’ insistence that Torah is the absolute truth, and Hashem alone should be worshipped, and bringing the entire world to recognize this necessity, albeit via peaceful means (for more explanation, see
here).

(This article was posted on shturem.net
here.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hellenism vs. Torah--the Perennial Struggle


Hellenism vs. Torah—The Perennial Struggle

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

There are two general approaches to the universe that are totally at odds with each other:

One is the view of the modern western society in which we live, which is not only secular, but secularist and humanistic. This view maintains that knowledge and wisdom have intrinsic value, and that the human mind is the most superior tool of attaining it, and is therefore the final arbiter of truth and morality. A Creator may or may not exist. If it makes sense to believe in Him, then He can be accepted, but if not, not. In the time of Chanukah, this was the view of Greek society and of the assimilationist Jews known as the Hellenists.

In stark contrast, our holy Torah teaches that
Hashem is the only true reality—“There is nothing beside Him”[1]—upon which everything in the universe is totally dependent. As Rambam famously puts it at the very beginning of his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah:
The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdoms is to know that there is a Primal Existence, and He brings all entities into existence. And all entities from the heavens to the earth and everything in between only exist from the reality of His existence. And if you could imagine Him not in existence, then no other entity would be able to exist.
Since belief in Hashem is the basis of all wisdoms, no wisdom has any value if it is not based on the foundation of fear of Hashem, and the commitment to use this body of knowledge—which, like everything else in the world, is in fact a gift from Above—to fulfill His will. Or, as the Talmud puts it, “Everything that G–d created in His world, He created only for His glory.”[2] This was the view for which the Maccabees fought.

In recent centuries the secularist view is particularly dominant in the world of academia, which arrogates for itself the right to analyze anything and everything, and classify it and define it from its “objective” standpoint.

While academia claims for itself absolute authority and true objectivity, its starting point—that G–d doesn’t necessarily exist, or necessarily doesn’t exist, G–d forbid—is false and therefore surely anything but objective.

Therefore, even when studying the same material studied by a G–d-fearing Jew, e.g., the
Tanach, the secularist will reduce the timeless, precious, holy words of Hashem into an intellectual specimen for cold, detached study. He will examine social and cultural trends reflected in the Tanach that are of historical significance, all the while treating the text of the Tanach as a work of folklore, G–d forbid. From his self-assumed all-knowing position as a skeptic of anything and everything, he will not hesitate to call into question and even reject any idea in Torah for which he finds no explanation that satisfies him. Sometimes he will not even bother to ask for an explanation, but will dismiss out of hand any idea that seems odd to him.

In contrast, the G–d-fearing Jew also studies the Talmud, but not because he desires wisdom for its own sake. Rather, he uses his G–d-given mind, and with rigorous consistency, as a means to an end—to do his utmost to understand G–d’s will. His use of intellect does not stem from the secularist’s arrogant conviction that he can know and master all; on the contrary, it stems from humility, from the sense that truth can only be obtained by submitting one’s fallible, puny mind to G–d’s all-knowing “Mind,” His infinite wisdom that He invested in the Torah.

Thus, he will study with the goal of grasping the reasons and deeper meaning for the Talmudic statements, and bringing them permeate his consciousness, and his daily life.

Moreover, he grasps that just as G–d is perfect, so is His wisdom. Thus, when he encounters a difficulty in his Torah study, he regards it as merely a fault in himself, a personal failure, and not a fault in the word of
Hashem, G–d forbid (for more explanation, see here).

Likewise, when a G–d-fearing Jew studies something secular, he does so leshem Shomayim, with an agenda, asking himself: How can he use this knowledge to better serve
Hashem 
(for more explanation, see here).

In other words, the secularist takes the holy and makes it mundane and even 
G–dless, while the G–d-fearing Jew rejects the G–dless, and takes the mundane and makes it holy.

There can be no compromise between these two approaches.

This is also reflected in their respective goals for society:

The humanist awaits the time when everyone will give up the “superstition” of belief in G–d, and worship intellect alone, the deity of the humanist.

In contrast, the G–d-fearing Jew eagerly awaits the time when G–d “will be one, and His Name, one,”[3]
 when all mankind will recognize that “all entities from the heavens to the earth and everything in between only exist from the reality of His existence,” and they will worship G–d alone.

________________
[1] Devorim 4:35.
[2] Avos 6:11.
[3] Zechariah 14:9.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chanukah: Absolute truth, not pluralism!


Due to the common coincidence of Chanukah and a certain other widely celebrated non-Jewish holiday, there is a tendency in secular circles to lump them together, and for Jews and non-Jews to cheerily wish one another “happy holiday.” Which holiday, you ask? Whichever holiday one happens to be celebrating around “holiday season.”


At first glance, this seems to be a positive practice. Isn’t it important to promote darkei shalom, “ways of peace,”[1] acceptance, and goodwill between the Jewish people and the gentile nations? 

 In a similar vein, the holiday of Chanukah is often presented to the world by well-meaning Jewish spokespeople as a holiday celebrating religious freedom from those who seek to impose their beliefs on others. They say the story of Chanukah goes like this: The Jewish people wanted to practice their religion, the ancient Greeks oppressed them and denied them their rights, so the Jewish people courageously revolted and won, recovering their right to religious freedom. So what then is the message of the lights of Chanukah? The celebration of the universal right to religious freedom, or, in modern terminology, pluralism. 

It is indeed necessary to seek creative and dynamic ways to pleasantly explain difficult concepts in Judaism, but it is unacceptable to water down the message in the process. In this case not only does the above presentation detract from the message, and not only is it is misleading, but it turns it on its head. 

Let it be said unambiguously: Chanukah has nothing to do with pluralism, and its message could not be more different. 

The Talmud states that the light of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) was “testimony to all the world’s inhabitants that the Divine Presence rests amongst the Jewish people.”[2] “From it [the Menorah] light goes forth to the world”[3] via the “windows that were wide and narrow.”[4] The windows of the Beis HaMikdash were narrow inside and broad outside, so that light could go forth from them to the world. Ultimately, this light reached the entire universe, for the nature of light is that as long as nothing intervenes (such as clouds or physical objects) the light spreads ever further without limitation, until the ends of the universe.[5] 

What was the message of this light that shone to all the nations, and that was restored when the Beis HaMikdash was miraculously recaptured by the Macabbees? It was the light of the Divine Presence, the holy light of G–d’s absolute Truth. This is the significance of the finding of the jar of pristine olive oil untouched by the Greeks, with the seal of the Kohen Gadol intact. This represents a level of pure, unadulterated truth, uncompromised and unaffected by foreign values. 

Any falsehood necessarily conflicts with this truth. Thus, although other religions contain certain elements of truth, which are elements that stem from Judaism (e.g., the concept of G–d’s oneness promoted by Islam, and the concept of the Moshiach promoted by Christianity[6]), since they also contain falsehoods, these religions are incompatible with Torah. For only Torah is the “Torah of truth”[7], the absolute truth, and the other religions are, well, poor imitations. 

 Indeed, it is necessary to respect all mankind since they are created “in the image of G–d,”[8] and to maintain peaceful relations with non-Jews on a collective and individual level. However, it is morally wrong to distort the truth in a vain bid to make Judaism more palatable to the secular mind. Pluralism is a secular value, one that maintains that all beliefs are equally acceptable and legitimate. This idea is of course pure nonsense, for two opposite beliefs cannot both be true.[9] 

The Torah rejects this fallacious philosophy and teaches that there exists absolute truth—the Torah—and everything else, which is a mixture of truth and falsehood; there exists absolute goodness—the Torah—and everything else, which is of a mixture of good and evil.[10]

Thus, the Torah does not teach that it is good and proper for non-Jews to follow other religions, or no religion, doing whatever they please as long as they don’t harm (or preach to) others, for those belief systems are predicated upon principles at odds with the divine doctrines of the Torah. 

 Rather, the Torah teaches that all mankind should be encouraged to recognize the One G–d of the Jewish people, and unite to follow the Noahide laws as prescribed in the Torah.[11] This is the true message of Chanukah to the world. Thus, the Rebbe encouraged[12] organizers of public Menorah lightings to take the opportunity to publicize the importance of adhering to the Noahide laws.

So let us set the record straight: In the time of the second Beis HaMikdash the Maccabees sought to serve the one true G–d, the path of absolute truth and goodness, rejecting all other religions and belief systems completely. The Greeks, who followed the evil lifestyle of hedonism and the false doctrine of paganism, sought to prevent this. However, with the help of Hashem the Jewish people fought courageously and won. Truth triumphed over falsehood, good over evil. So may it be for us, especially with the coming of Moshiach, who will reveal the absolute Truth of G–d to the entire world, and thereby automatically vanquish atheism, paganism, and all other non-Torah beliefs forever. 

[1] Gittin 61a. 
[2] Shabbos 22b. 
[3] Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachos, 4:5. 
[4] Divrei HaYamim 6:4. Menachos 86b. 
[5] Hisva’aduyos 5747, Vol. 3, pp. 491-492
[6] See Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, 11:4, in the section removed by the censor. 
[7] Blessings on the Torah. 
[8] Bereishis 9:6. 
[9] Likewise, wishing “happy holiday”—and not specifying which—smacks of this pluralism. 
[10] The Rebbe related: “There is a famous story of the Rebbe, my father-in-law, that on one of his journeys several people were debating and expressing different opinions about the approach of Torah to the political philosophies, and with which one it is consistent. Each person pointed to a source in Torah for his philosophy. When they asked the opinion of the Rebbe, my father-in-law, he responded, ‘The Torah, since it is the ultimate truth and good, includes all the good aspects of all the other philosophies’” (Kuntres Inyanah Shel Toras HaChassidus p. 2). 
[11] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, 8:10. 
[12] Hisva’aduyos, 5747, Vol. 2, p. 133.