יום רביעי י"ז בתשרי תש"פ 16/10/2019
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

Yochanan Hyrkenus the First

Yochanan Hyrkenus I was the grandson of Matisyahu the Kohen Gadol. He served as prince of Yehuda and as Kohen Gadol from the year 3627 (133BCE), until 3657 (103BCE)

David Sofer 13/12/2009 11:05
Yochanan was the son of Shimon, who in turn was the son of Matisyahu Kohen Gadol. It was Shimon who set the basis for the sovereignty of the Hasmonean house, and he was the last of Matisyahu’s sons to remain alive. During Shimon’s years of leadership it was decided that he be appointed both as Kohen Gadol and as ‘Nasi’ - Prince (he was the first of the Hasmonean line to bear these two positions), and that the position should pass down to his descendents. Shimon and his brothers worked tirelessly to establish an independent Jewish state, while at the same time conducting war with the Greeks and the non-Jewish outposts in the land.

The years between 3594 (166 BCE), which was the year during which the Hasmonean Revolt broke out, and 3627 (133 BCE) - the year that Yochanan took over the throne of his father, was a period of ceaseless military struggle, side by side with rebuilding and renewal. Whilst his father was still alive, Yochanan was sent with his brother Yehuda to fight the Greek army which had been sent to conquer the land of Judah. King Antiochus Sedates sent messengers to Yochanan’s father, Shimon, and requested the return of the conquered territory (Metzudas Hachikra, Gazer and Yaffo). When Shimon refused, Antiochus sent his army general Candavius together with a fearsome army, to conquer these cities. Nearby to the city of Ekron however, Yochanan and Yehuda’s armies succeeded in defeating the army of Candavius.

This victory over Candavius’ mighty army did nothing to move Antiochus Sedates from his ultimate goal: to crush the house of the Hasmoneans. In secret, he established contact with the son-in-law of Shimon - Talmai ben Chavuv, who was ruler of Yericho. Talmai invited his father-in-law Shimon, together with the latter’s two sons Yehuda and Matisyahu, to a feast in his city Yericho – and there he murdered them in the month of Shevat, 3627 (133 BCE). Yochanan was staying at the time with his army in Tel Gazer. When Yochanan was informed of the murder of his father Shimon, he hurried to Yerushalayim.

Talmai ben Chavuv feared for his life, and sent emissaries to Antiochus to request military protection against Yochanan’s inevitable revenge. However assistance was slow in coming and Talmai ben Chavuv was forced to barricade himself in the fortress of Dagun (Dok) in his city Yericho (at the foot of the Judean hills, where today lies the Arab village No’aima).
Yochanan, who had meanwhile been declared as ‘Nasi’ in his father’s stead, affected a siege around Talmai’s fortress. The siege continued unabated for a long while. Talmai held Yochanan’s mother and one of his surviving brothers as prisoner with him in the fortress, and each time he felt that Yochanan was tightening the siege he would drag them to the top of the wall and torture them. The courageous mother commanded her son Yochanan to continue the siege, despite the persecution she suffered at the hands of her wicked son in law. So it was that in the end, Talmai murdered Yochanan’s mother and his brother, and fled to the city of Amman.

מיכאלי
Matityahu's Resting Place near the Gravesites of he Macabbi'im צלם

After a short while, Antiochus Sedates sent his army to Judah to finally vanquish the land. Yochanan was forced to take shelter in Yerushalayim in face of the huge army. In exchange for handing over hostages, money and pledges of faithfulness, Antiochus Sedates withdrew from Yerushalayim in the year 3629 (131 BCE). The money was considered as compensation for the tax payments which were ‘stolen’ in the occupied territories outside of Judah, such as Yaffo. The promises of faithfulness that Yochanan pledged to Antiochus Sedates included the dismantling of the walls around Yerushalayim, as a symbol of the undermining of Judah’s power and sovereignty. Antiochus Sedates agreed to these terms, since he truly was in need of the additional money and manpower for his war with Mesopotamia.

Now that the battles with Antiochus were all but over, Yochanan was free to deal with internal matters concerning the Jewish nation, and first and foremost he hurried to repair the breaches in the fences of Judaism, walls that had been weakened during the recent years of turmoil. In the Gemara (Tractate Sotah) there is mention of various crucial takanos (regulations) instated in the name of Yochanan Kohen Gadol, with regards to matters such as Trumos and Maasros (tithe), the prohibition of working on Chol haMoed, and so forth.

During the war with Mesopotamia in 3632 (128 BCE), the wicked Antiochus Sedates was killed. His heirs did not have the same urge to wage war with Judah, and the cloud that hovered over Yochanan all his life dissipated. This was when Yochanan took the opportunity and created the very first Jewish coins in history – coins belonging to an independent Jewish state. The first ‘Perutah’ was coined in the year 3634 (126 BCE).

The death of Antiochus sucked the kingdom of Greek into a dizzying whirlpool. At first his brother Dmitrius Nikator took possession of the throne. A short while later, he was murdered and was replaced by the son of the impersonator Alexander Balas. At the same time Cleopatra Tia, wife of Dmitrius also had her eye on the throne, and succeeded in wresting it away but not before she killed her own son, Selokus, who wished to inherit his father.

 Despite the fact that Yochanan could have gone out to war immediately upon the death of Antiochus Sedates, he only did so in the year 3649 (111 BCE). He began with the conquering of Edom, in particular the two central cities – Marsha and Adura, and proceeded with converting the non-Jewish inhabitants of Edom. Contrary to his father Shimon who exiled the residents of Yaffo and Tel Gazar after conquering them, Yochanan converted the members of the nations he conquered. This was intended to add strength and power to the Hasmonean kingdom. However the direct opposite resulted - it weakened Yochanan, since Jewish law requires that non-Jews be discouraged from converting, and one may certainly not convert a person by force. This was in fact the first evidence of Yochanan’s new inclinations towards the cult of the ‘Tzidokim’ (Saducees). Another residue of this unfortunate conversion was the wicked Herod who descended from these forced converts; he murdered the entire house of the Hasmoneans, and then ascended the throne himself to rule over Judah – with the heartfelt support of the Romans.

In the year 3654 (106 BCE) Yochanan conquered the city Shomron (Samaria) and destroyed it entirely, after a heavy siege that lasted an entire year. Yochanan ruled over the land of Shomron, and destroyed the sanctuary that was erected on Mt. Gerizim so as to strengthen the centrality of the Temple in Yerushalayim. In this war Yochanan merited ‘Ruach haKodesh’ – Divine revelation, and heard heavenly voices call out to him. As the holy day of Yom Kippur approached, Yochanan handed over the reins of the battle to his two sons Aristoblus and Antigonus, and he himself returned to Yerushalayim to perform the ‘Avodah’ of the Kohen Gadol in the Beis haMikdash (Holy Temple). These battles reached their climax on Yom Kippur, and as Yochanan the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies he heard a heavenly voice call out: ‘The children who went out to battle, were victorious’. Yochanan also conquered the city of Midva on the other side of the Jordan River.
Yochanan began to rule over increasingly wider areas in the north of the land, including areas such as Emek Yizrael and the lower Galil. His intention with the conquering of the north was to break the pact between the Hellenist cities that prevented the spreading of the Hasmonean kingdom northwards, and its unification with the Galil. Yochanan’s foreign policy was such that he aspired to organise an opposing power against the Greek Empire, which was after all the main enemy of the Hasmonean Kingdom. To this end Yochanan worked on two plains: firstly, to unite the neighboring countries under him; and secondly, to collaborate with the sworn enemies of the Greek Empire – Egypt and Rome.

Already in his early days as leader of the nation, in the year 3627 (133 BCE), he renewed the pact that was forged by his ancestors with Rome. In order to do so he dispatched two distinguished emissaries to Rome, who delivered a heavy golden shield as a gift to the Romans. In exchange they were granted a renewal of the pact, a guarantee of protection against the Greeks. Within the parameters of this pact, Rome promised to protect the ports of Judah. Yochanan also renewed ties with the house of Talmai the Egyptian.

These pacts with the Romans and Talmanians served to strengthen Yochanan’s standing, and also contributed to the success of his military and political campaigns. Yochanan passed away in the year 3657 (103 BCE) at the age of sixty. For the duration of half of his life, thirty years, he served as prince of Judah. He left behind five surviving sons: Yehuda Aristoblus the First, Antignos the First, Alexander Yannai, Avshalom, and a fifth son whose name is not known. Prior to his death he appointed his wife as ruler after him, and his son Aristoblus as Kohen Gadol. However after his death, Aristoblus imprisoned his mother and brothers (aside from Antignos, whom he appointed as general of his army), and took both positions for himself.

About Yochanan the Gemara says – Don’t trust yourself until the day of your death, because Yochanan the Kohen Gadol served in his priestly role for tens of years yet in the end he became a Tzidoki (Saduccee).