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Our Noble Mission

By Rabbi Label Lam

The “wise men” of Greece demanded of the Jews, “Write on the horn of a cow that you have no portion with the G-d of Israel! (Breishis Rabba 2, 5)

What did they wish to accomplish with this? Why a horn of a cow? What type of decree is this? It seems rather innocuous. No one gets hurt or so it seems.

I remember having read some place that the North Koreans were unusually successful in getting American soldiers to bleed out military secrets. How did they do it? No, they did not employ drip torture or racks or isolation or bamboo shoots. None of that was able to crack the wall of resistance. They used a much more sophisticated form of psychological persuasion. They would take an officer, interview him, and transcribe the conversation. They would ask questions about the nature of the conflict, for example, “This is a war between communism and capitalism, right?” He would agree. Then the follow-up questions, “Is their no deficiency in capitalism or is it perfectly just?” The officer would be forced to admit that there are weak spots in the capitalist system. “Sometimes people fall through the cracks. There is large gap between the wealthy and the poor etc.” Then they would ask him if there is any possible merit to the communist system. He would easily admit that wealth is more evenly distributed and it is less likely that someone may fall between the cracks etc.

The soldier would then sign these statements and they made him read them aloud t other soldiers. The Chofetz Chaim said, “Before a person talks, he owns the words. Once a person speaks, however, the words own him.” So too their wall of resolve was weakened by being owned by their own declarations. Their resistance and unyielding idealism was gradually weathered through these processes to the point that later they would be more easily induced to share otherwise confidential and classified information.

It seems that the wise men of Greece understood these psych-ops. The Maharal asks why they needed to write on the horn of a cow and not on paper. He said that their intention was to remind the Jews of the Golden Calf. They aimed to convince the Jews that that had been their defining moment and they are therefore forever flawed and rejected.

What did they hope to gain by having them write this out themselves? Signing off on such a statement serves to seriously undermine the esteem of the Jewish Nation. The great goal of the Greek intrusion on Jewish life was not to kill but chill. Then they can easily loosen the Jew’s tenacious grip on Torah. They sought to erode our sense of noble purpose. They hoped to parve the Nation of HASHEM, to cool the Kedusha, reducing all to a foolish chorus of “tradition…tradition…” Unfortunately, to a large degree, they succeeded.

The style of that constant combatant is through hideous distortions, cartoons, and editorials to convince the world and us that we are ugly and unworthy of our mission, and that we are somehow misguided. Their biggest victory is achieved when we begin to believe and breathe their lies.

Hitler, may his name be erased, who wrote in Mein Kamf, “The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of this, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan…they more easily fall victim to a big lie, than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big…” The “wise men” of Greece were astute in the art of propaganda. On Chanukah, though, we strike back at those “big lies” with a quiet flame that reaffirms for us night after night our noble mission.

Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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