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Monday, December 7. 2015
This year’s calendar offers a way to think about two important dates in Judaism, the birth of today’s Israel and Chanukah. The two dates represent the importance of struggle to accomplish a Jewish state as well as the struggle to deserve a Jewish state.
Four days after I was born, the modern state of Israel was ratified by the United Nations partition vote on November 29, 1947. Here’s a video recollection.
In the video, a commenter says that with the UN resolution Jews were no longer the object of history, acted upon by others, but the subject, taking control over their own fate. Divine intervention may have helped but it was the struggles of man that fulfilled the two-millennia of prayers.
A humorous take is that at the beginning of a year G-d tells a pious man he will be rewarded by winning the lottery before year end. Months pass and come late December the pious man asks of G-d why he hasn’t won yet. The response: “Meet me halfway, buy a ticket.”
The creation of modern Israel is when Jews got the message. Similarly, the two books of Macabbees on the origin of Chanukah offer contrasts between struggles of man and divine intervention. The first book is a fairly straight-forward reputable history. The second book contains more of the divine. (Here’s an analysis of the books of Maccabees, and theories of why they are not included in the Jewish bible.)
Maccabees (left); Hasmonean Kingdom 140-37 BC (right)
The most accepted theory of why the books of Maccabees are not included in the Jewish bible is that the Maccabee Hasmonean dynasty was not of the house of David and that it was itself later corrupted by Hellenism, due to its failure to live up to its nationalistic founding, and because the Jewish bible’s canonizers avoided provoking the Romans after their destruction of Israel, murder of as many Jews as they could and the dispersal of Jews to relative refuge elsewhere.
With the creation of modern Israel, as well as Jews promoting Chanukah as a counter to the lures upon their young of Christmas festivities, Chanukah has risen from a minor to a major Jewish holiday and the books of Maccabees are read more often.
The same tensions exist for modern Israel as for the Hasmonean and succeeding Herodian and diaspora era Jews.
To what extent is the influence or antipathy of other powerful states to be accommodated or resisted? To what extent can the core nature of the Jewish state be compromised? To what extent are the survival of the state of Israel and the fate of Jews in their own hands?History and current events are why the original Maccabees are today’s models. Those, within or outside, who counsel surrender of vital interests or defeatism would bring upon Israel and Jews another diaspora, at best, and another likely slaughter.
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great stuff --the long unbroken skein of Jewish tribal history always fascinates a feller whose family history goes back only a couple gens to a Scandinavian sailor who jumped ship to be a rice farmer on the Texas coastal flats. Efforts to trace back further ended with an aunt telling us that 'Larsen' was just the name the sailor had picked because 'his real one was too hard for Americans to pronounce'. The elderly aunt, the only one who knew the original name, had by then completely forgotton what it was.
(*poof*) LOL --
I find it interesting that these books (Maccabees) are in ALL Christian Bibles - until the Reformation (and still in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles and many Protestant Bibles). The reason is that the early Christians used the Septuagint version of the scriptures that was the primary version of the Old Testament in use during Jesus's time and the early church. The Jewish cannon was not yet set, and in fact was settled after the Christian canon. (History is funny sometimes) The Maccabee brothers are Saints in the Christian church, this might have also been a reason not to include these books in the current Jewish canon. In any event the Hanukkah story has been important in Christian tradition too, not only in the inclusion in the Christian Old Testament, but also the New Testament story of Jesus during the feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah). So again history has left us with Hanukkah in both Christian Testaments, yet not in the Jewish Bible. I love history and its twists and turns.
Went through traditional Jewish education without hearing any of the explanations you give (and that link dates the book of Daniel to the Roman era, even though its story and Aramaic style date to centuries before).
We were simply taught that the age of prophecy had passed. The "latest" events and books to make it into the Jewish Bible date to the return of the Jews from Babylon - centuries before the Greco-Roman era.
Prophecy quickly petered out after that - the last prophets being Haggai, Zaccharia, and Malachi, who were "Men of the Great Assembly" - the proto-senate of scholars which kicked off the Rabbinical phase of Judaism, and later became the Sanhedrin.
The "canonization" of both the Jewish scriptures and Halacha at Yavneh was part of a rush to record the oral tradition. Most Jews had never returned from Babylon, and large communities across the Roman empire anticipated the Roman exile. This required codification of Judaism to unite the dispersed Jews.
... and thank you for not posting a multi-culti kumbaya mis-reading of a holiday that celebrates Jewish particularism (and nationalism in general).
Correction: the Talmud criticizes the Maccabees for taking on the kingship even though they are not Davidic.
But I don't think that's why the Book of the Maccabees was excluded from the Jewish bible.
Channel news guy said Hanukkah starts at 4:55 pm here in the end of the earth.
Alles Güte im Neuen Jahr!
...to all that are called!
Thank you for posting about Chanukah. I'm still working on what to post about it, and I've been invited to talk about it at a party with friends this weekend.
Welcome to my blog: http://www.thecompostfiles.blogspot.com
I will put you on my blogroll.
i wish i knew which was the correct spelling for an English-speaking non-Jewish but Jewish-respectful devotee of proper spelling guy like me, with the "H" Hannukah or with the "Ch" Chanukah for the celebration? I mean, we the Judao-Christian second-billed (okay, so seniority) spell Christmas the same way every time, don't we?
Both spellings are common transliterations from the Hebrew. The "H" one is common for those who can't utter the gutteral "Ch".
got it --H if you can't pronounce the Ch --thanks --
Hello I am currently working for an American Firm situated in Jerusalem and I would like to use the picture of the children lighting the menorah's in a youtube video with a central idea around channukah; thank you
That relief above showing the spoils from the Roman siege of Jerusalem is from the Arch of Titus in Rome.
Way back in the summer of 1972, I was staying briefly in Rome and I would often stroll around the Imperial Forum.
One afternoon, while looking at that very scene on the Arch, I noticed that down in one corner someone had written something in English and Hebrew with a marker of some sort.
The English inscription was as follows:
TITUS IS DEAD. THE JEWS ARE STILL HERE.