The Maccabees Were Not G.I. Joes & Other Misconceptions of Galut Mentality

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A huge part of the entire Tanach is about showing just how hard we have had to struggle to maintain the Torah mentality Hashem wants of us and not fall into Galut Mentality. And we haven’t always completely succeeded, because it requires us to rise up to that level of consciousness, and then maintain its completely different mindset from that of the rest of the world. It means ascending in our minds and internalizing the central concept and very essence of Torah, which is “Ein Od Milvado” (Dvarim 4: 35) – there is nothing but Hashem.

Yosef HaTzaddik was sentenced to two additional years in Pharaoh’s jail for slipping into Galut Mentality when he redirected his faith to Pharaoh’s butler, asking him to mention him to the king to release him. Yosef failed to internalize the truth that the duration of his jail time in the Egyptian jail was not decided by Pharaoh, but by Hashem.

The great exodus from Egypt was our Am’s first big test of this principle. Newly freed slaves escaping Egypt, with the then biggest super power of the world on our heels, we came to the Red Sea, and stopped. Basically, Hashem then told us: ‘Nu, what’s the matter? Get going!’ to which we kvetched, ‘But there’s a big bad sea in front of us in addition to the big bad army behind us!’ I say that facetiously, of course, but, in truth, the minute you lose footing in Torah mode emuna thinking and descend into Galut Mentality, both army and sea are truly terrifying. Then, through Moses, Hashem tried to reinstate His lesson: ‘Don’t worry, I Hashem control both of them, army and sea. Internalize that, and just get going – Yes, go right into the water!’

We love reading this. But, just imagining ourselves there (and we were!), this huge leap of faith – of the required blind faith in Hashem – is hard. When we slip out of this all-inclusive, total faith in Hashem, we slip into Galut Mentality – and, for Am Yisrael, that is very dangerous.

Galut is a Torah term. Galut means holiness exiled outside of the realm of holiness. On the physical level, it refers to the Diaspora. But, since it is primarily a spiritual concept, it can refer to one’s mind, body, and/or soul, even right in Eretz Yisrael – an individual or our Am collectively. Many, if not most, hijacked re-definitions of “Galut” are actually indicative themselves of Galut Mentality. If a Jew thinks, acts, and/or speaks in terms foreign to Torah, that is Galut.

The Rav Desseler explains why Egypt had such an effect on Am Yisrael: “Because being held in contempt by others can significantly cripple one’s spiritual advancement” (in Rav Carmell’s Strive For Truth vol 5, parashat Vayigash, p. 178). That is, when we internalize the bullying of the goyim throughout the ages and think less of ourselves than B’nei Melech and Am Segulah, that too is Galut Mentality. We have no one to fear and no one to answer to, but Hashem.

The Maccabees were not at all what we image as G.I. Joes. In fact, that is precisely one of the central points of Chanukah, as we recite over and over on this upcoming holiday: “You [Hashem] waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong…You delivered the mighty [Romans] into the hands of the weak [the Maccabees]” – because the Hashmonaim were not warriors, but Cohanim who worked in Beit HaMikdash.

Similarly, we learn from the battles and wars King David waged just how Am Yisrael ensured victory. While all the tribes were in shape and had their own tribe’s signature method within the Abir-Qeshet martial arts, most military preparations were spiritual preps.

The first real step to get out of Galut Mentality and to turn our forces into those like of Am Yisrael’s greatest warrior, King David, is to get the IDF learning Torah. The military of Israel that King David knew wasn’t called the Israel Defence Forces, but “The Forces of the Living God” (I Shmuel 17:26) – he went to Goliath “In the Name of Hashem of Armies, the God of the Forces of Israel” (ibid, verse 45). It’s a much longer name, but he knew that without Hashem and His will, nothing would work. And mentioning Hashem and placing Him at the lead is also what kept King David clear and above Galut Mentality. And he always won!

Happy Chanukah!

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