intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
A Look at Antiochus IV part
Elsewhere in his Syria and Mesopotamia centered-empire, his policy was successful, but in Jerusalem and in rural Judea, he met unexpected resistance. Antiochus IV was the first foreign ruler since Shivat Tzion to actively interfere with the internal administration of the Beit HaMikdash. In the words of Elias J. Bickerman (The Jews in the Greek Age, p.129): "Jewish reformers led by the new High Priest, Jason, brother and successor of the pious Onias, convinced the young king to set aside the charter (granted by his father Antiochus III guaranteeing the Jews religious freedom) and to introduce new customs contrary to the Torah. The reformers wanted to assimilate: 'since we separated from the neighboring gentiles, they said, many evils have come upon us.'" But who were these reformers? According to the noted historian Eduard Meyer, they were the "representatives of enlightened reform Judaism" who fought against "petrified religious formalism". Paul Johnson, the author of several important popular historical works (e.g. Modern Times) assures us that the ranks of the reformers included "religious intellectuals… who wanted to improve Judaism, to push it along the logical road it appeared to be traveling. Could not the Greek notion of the oikoumene, world (Greek) civilization be married to the notion of the universal G-d? That was the aim of the reformist intellectuals they reread the historical scriptures and tried to deprovincialize them…. to drag the little temple-state into the modern era". Despite his erudite pontifications, to give credit where credit is due, Professor Johnson does have the grace to admit that we know very little about this mysterious reform movement "since its history was written by its triumphant fundamentalist enemies" (A History of the Jews, pp. 100,101).
But the "representatives of enlightened reform Judaism" were still unsatisfied. They proposed a new candidate for the High Priesthood, the even more extreme Hellenist Menelaus. For a price, Antiochus agreed and Menelaus fulfilled his financial obligations by selling off Temple vessels (171 BCE). Probably, at least in the beginning, the eccentric Antiochus did not even understand the enormity of what he had done. A temple priest in a Greek polis (city-state), which naturally would have been his frame of reference, was merely a municipal official and his term of office was one year. And it is more than likely that the priests in the Greekpolis paid for the privilege one way or another - a concept totally alien and repugnant to traditional Jews. Menelaus also "presumed to go into the most holy Temple in the world; Menelaus, that traitor to the laws, and to his own country… and taking the holy vessels with polluted hands, and with profane hands pulling down the things that were dedicated by other kings to the augmentation and glory of the place, he gave them away." (Perhaps Menelaus was acting as a representative of enlightened reform Judaism a la Eduard Meyer!) Most scholars today believe that Menelaus was of Mishmeret Bilga as noted in the Latin texts. The Gemara preserves a story about Mishmeret Bilga.
During the Antiochean persecutions, Miriam, one of the women of Bilga married a Greek officer. "When the Greeks entered the sanctuary, she (entered with them and) stamped with her sandal upon the altar, crying out, 'Lukos, Lukos (Wolf, wolf,) how long will you consume Israel's money and not stand by them in their need?' (It is interesting to note the Gemara's description of David's success in finding a suitable location for the Mikdash by studying Sefer Yehoshua. "In Tehilim 132: 1-6, we find, '…We have heard of it in Ephrata, we found it in the forested field.' The Gemara continues, "'Ephrata' refers to Yehoshua who came from the tribe of Efrayim. 'We found it - i.e. the future site of the Mikdash - in the forested field'. The 'forested field refers to Benjamin as it is written, 'Benjamin is the wolf that tears.'" And as the Maharsha points out, wolves frequent forested fields (Zevachim 54b). Was the apostate Miriam acquainted with this unusual ancient tradition connecting the Mikdash and the Mizbei'ach to the wolf? I wonder.) After the Maccabean victory, the Sages downgraded Mishmeret Bilga and it was in disgrace for a long time (Sukka 56b). The plundering of the Mikdash caused a total break between the vast majority of the Jewish people and the Seleucid government.
The royal consent for the building of a gymnasium and an ephebeum (a Hellenist school) gave Jerusalem a new political status (II Mac. 4:8). These institutions, the hallmarks of a Greek polis, transformed Jerusalem into a new political entity called "Antioch in Jerusalem". The rota of the citizens of "Antioch in Jerusalem "included the extreme Hellenists and their rich friends, Hellenized priests, and non-Jewish migrants from other areas of the Seleucid kingdom purposely "imported" to dilute the Jewish population. The Torah- observant Jewish majority was simply disenfranchised, their position had become untenable. Brit Mila and Shabbat observance were prohibited; the mere possession of a Sefer Torah became a capital offense. The new gymnasium rapidly became the center of the social and cultural life of Jerusalem. Young Kohanim, "despising the Temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, hastened to be partakers of the unlawful allowance in the place of exercise…not setting by the honors of their fathers, but liking the glory of the Grecians best of all" (II Mac. 4:12). They informed Antiochus IV that 'they were desirous to leave the laws of their country, and the Jewish way of living... and to follow the King's laws and the Grecian way of living" (Antiquities Bk. 12, ch. 5:1).In desperate straights, the Torah-loyalists of Ir HaKodesh were forced out of their homes. Resistance was inevitable.
Catriel is in the process of writing a book: The Temple of Jerusalem, A Pilgrims Prospective; A Guided Tour through the Temple and the Divine Service