No to Hellenization and Compromise

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayeshev 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


"When the Greeks entered the Temple, they contaminated all the oils" (Shabbat 21).

How did they manage to contaminate everything? Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook explains that when a new yearning for the Greek style penetrates the spiritual nature of our lives, it invalidates not only those points that it touches, but the entire edifice. The weak-minded are tempted to say that the foreign strain will harm only a small portion, and to take comfort from the rest. But that's not how things are. Impurity does not leave even one corner uncorrupted (Ein Aya, Shabbat, Chapter 2, 11).

It starts with little things - with claims that you have to follow the spirit of the times, to flow with life, with beauty and with progress, and it ends with the most severe problems there are. True, one should always maintain friendly relations with people, but, as the Mesilat Yesharim explained, this is referring to people who behave properly and in accordance with the Torah and purity (Chapter 5).

Compromise is good when people are arguing with each other over money. After all, in this case a person is regarding what is his to give. Yet one cannot compromise regarding the Torah, which is not his but G-d's.

A joke is told about a meeting between the Pope, the Imam in charge of all of Islam, and the Chief Rabbi of the whole world, in order to find ways to bring world peace. The Pope said, "I am willing to forgo belief in Jesus the Christian." The Imam said, "I am willing to give up on Muhammad." The Rabbi was unwilling to concede on anything. Yet finding himself against the wall, he said, "I am willing to concede the second “Yekum Purkan” on Shabbat.” His doing so raised the ire of all the Jews of the world. They asked, "How did he dare?!"

Yet the Reform movement began by nullifying that prayer, arguing that it mentioned the yeshiva heads in Babylonia.

In such matters there is no room for compromise. We obviously cannot solve all of the problems overnight, and have to equip ourselves with patience. Yet Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook emphasized: being patient does not mean giving in. We are patient because we have no choice, but we must always speak the truth, and not surrender to the voice of the masses.

The Rabbis spoke of the generation in which the Messiah arrives as one in which “the face of the generation is like the face of a dog” (Mishnah at the end of Sotah). Some explain that a dog runs ahead of its master, as though it is leading, but truthfully it constantly looks back to make sure of the direction in which its master is running.

Thank G-d, the National-Religious public is not being Hellenized. It is full of religious and nationalist courage and fortitude. Yet it is still a lukewarm compromiser, as Rav Kook wrote to the Mizrachi Movement:

“Compromising, average views, marked by physical and spiritual weakness, will never emerge triumphant as we move towards our national rebirth.” (Igrot HaRe’eiyah vol. 2, p. 164).

“We have to be radicals. With half-baked compromises we will never rectify a thing” (ibid., pp. 123-124). “The Mizrachi, from within the World Zionist Federation, must make its voice heard. It must be the voice of fortitude, not a voice of whimpering and waffling” (ibid., vol. 3, p. 217).

We mustn’t close ranks with the masses! “One should not be embarrassed before people who mock him in his service to G-d!” (Orach Chaim 1:1, Rema).

G-d’s Torah is perfect. All that G-d said we must do and we must obey. We mustn’t subjugate ourselves to the spirit of the times. Better to find the small container of holy oil. In the end, we vanquished the Greeks – and gained another holiday! The more they wanted to make us forget the Torah, the more did Torah study spread to the entire Nation (Rabbi Tzadok of Lublin, Pri Tzadik, Vayeshev, Chanukah).

One should relate to G-d with perfect faith.