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If a Jewish state is forbidden, what about the Maccabees?

Dec. 12, 2007

Dear Rabbi,

You claim that it says in the holy Torah that a Jewish state is forbidden. Last week we lit the Menorah for Chanuka in order to remember the mirical of the restoration of a Jewish state. Does this mean that the Mackabes were not 'True Torah Jews'?

Dear Isadore,

Of course a Jewish state was permitted and even commanded by G-d in the time of the Second Temple look at the Haftorah we read on Shabbos Chanukah: "This is the word of Hashem to Zerubavel&" (Zechariah 4:6). Look at Yirmiyahu 29:10, "For so said Hashem, when Bavel has filled 70 years, I will visit you, and I will fulfill My good word, to bring you back to this place." This Jewish state existed in a semi-independent way under the Persian and Seleucid empires, until the time of the Maccabees, when it became impossible to observe the Torah under the government's harsh decrees. Then they rebelled and made the state completely independent.

Nowadays, however, we are in exile and no prophet ever commanded us to end the exile on our own. No time limit was given for this exile as was given to Yirmiyahu for the first exile. When we say that "the Torah forbids a Jewish state" we mean only now, during this era of exile.

Furthermore, The Maccabee revolt itself was foretold by Moshe Rabbeinu (Devarim 33:11 with Rashi) and by Shlomo Hamelech (Shir Hashirim 6:10 with Rashi).

Also, the Chofetz Chaim says that there is one kind of war that is permitted even during exile: a war against a decree of shmad, a decree made by a government that forces Jews to give up their Torah observance. The classic case of a war against a decree of shmad was the Maccabee revolt, he says. The Chofetz Chaim said that such a war would be permitted even today, when the oaths are in force, against an empire that outlaws the Torah, such as Communist Russia. (Recorded by Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman in his article "Omer Ani Maasai Lamelech" section 9.)