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Tuesday, December 16. 2014
The earlier written narrative of the Maccabean revolt against Hellenization and outlawing Jewish worship differs in emphasis from the later “official” Jewish take on the result.
The portion of the Apocrypha (biblical era writings not included in the Jewish Bible) dealing with the events does not mention a miracle of one day’s sanctified oil for the Menorah lasting 8 days. The Book of Maccabees speaks, instead, of eight days of rejoicing the victory to substitute for the eight days of the Torah requirement to celebrate Sukkot, which were missed due to the fighting. The eight days celebration of Chanukah (i.e., rededication) became a custom for every year.
Several centuries later, in the Babylonian Talmud (finalized approx. 5th century, Common Era) interpreting Jewish law and customs, the narrative takes on a new twist, emphasis on G-d’s “miracle” of the oil, which downplays the emphasis on the accomplishment of mens’ arms to retrieve the Temple and Judaism from Hellenistic extinction.
What had happened?: The fall of the Temple and the dispersal (Diaspora) of surviving Jews. No longer having a state, Jews had to survive through craft or accommodation (different than assimilation) to the religion and politics of the states they lived within and not by emphasizing their abilities to fight, not to mention win, when persecuted.
The rise of Zionism in the late 1800s and early 1900s emphasized Jews’ ability to fight and win, and to deserve and have a state to protect Jews from thousands of years of oppression, persecution, and murder, based on thousands of years of roots, presence, worship, investment, hard work, and unceasing yearning for Israel. The more secular Zionists’ pragmatic emphasis stood in stark contrast to the more pacifist or accomodationist teachings that had dominated for almost two millennia.
Today, although a small minority within Israel still cling to illusions of a “miracle” of Palestinians and Muslims transforming their hate into peace, a larger proportion of Jews in the US and Europe – less existentially threatened – cling to such illusions. In Israel and elsewhere, Jews light the eight lights of the Menorah with the extra “helper” light, but the emphasized meaning behind the ritual differs. Adherence to G-d may have given Jews the internal strength to fight and survive, but it was not (as during the Exodus) G-d who directly intervened.
Regardless of this difference, the overriding and more important thing that unites Jews is that regardless of how to get there, either way requires faith and hope. Without faith and hope, necessary for resilience, Jews would not have had reason, cohesion or the internal strength to survive the depredations and challenges to existence of the past two-thousand years since the fall of the Temple to the Romans. Hatikva, Israel's national anthem, means The Hope.
As long as the heart within
Our hope is not yet missing,
Chanukah starts tonight. Come celebrate the miracle of endurance and survival.
The Credo, by Zionist poet Saul Tchernichovsky:
Laugh at all my silly dreams!
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just to add some food for thought:
John 10 22-23 (NT) At that time the Feast of The Dedication (of the temple) took place at Jerusalem;
it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.
Here's Bob Dylan on a new morning 42 years ago, singing an ancient Jewish prayer:
Thanks for that link Buddy. I'll use it for a "Mutual of Omaha" segue: The prayer you refer to is the Amidah, which is the central prayer of Jewish services. Dylan's version is somewhat truncated, let me say. A little about the content of the Amidah: "The Amidah is introduced with a verse that requests, "Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare Thy praise" ("adonai sfatai…"). The first three blessings of praise appeal to God as the protector of our forefathers, and extol His powers and holiness. The blessings of petition ask for six personal needs: knowledge, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, health and economic prosperity. They also plead for six needs of the Jewish people: ingathering of the exiled, restoration of justice, destruction of Israel's enemies, reward for the righteous, restoration of Jerusalem, and the coming of the Messiah. The final supplication asks God to hear our prayers. The closing three blessings speak of the hope of return to Temple worship, thanksgiving to God, and a prayer for peace." For more about the Amidah: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/amidah.html
...what a conceptual masterpiece by the ancients --inside a humble coping with ordinary living --to wrap all those human gropes without a prayer of reaching beyond the language, into a written communication, so that anyone, young or old, literal or poetic, concrete, abstract, or membrane, in private or public declamation, can contemplate them as far as at the time they are willing and able. The Ten Commandments have that same fractal quality --can be just a little pocket list of reminders, can be the point of sensing something absolutely out there perturbing the gravity of everything.
Kind of like, looking at your shoe suddenly starts making your brain catch on fire --but it's ok, so far, because when you need to cool it and come back to earth, you just need to take a second look at your shoe (or just adopt irony, and go on and drain all that fuel once and for all).
--says someone here, Dylan is using ''sprung rhythms'' also from the antiquity. Someone else refers to 'tunes of atonement' --kind of a prayer about prayer itself, per odd passing engagement of language, the tone of a tune of atonement is attunement --
hey what a book,
whose every stage is
gift of First to all the ages
of the ancient tale of sages,
telling tales of learning wages,
earned to learn the rite of writing
something right, there on the pages.
(oh ...what must've sprung that shoe in the wilderness of this world)
Wonderful commentary. Happy Hannukah Bruce. You speak for and to many of us.
Uhhhhh.... you REALLY think that the Talmudic take on Hanukkah is "accommodationist"?
Let's try it this way:
Both Hanukah and Purim - the last 2 Jewish holidays to make it into the calendar- celebrate Jews defending and reaffirming their identity during stateless periods.
Both have a clear military angle - the passage inserted in our prayers for Hanukah leads with, and dwells on, the military victory, and only obliquely mentions the miracle of the oil ("...then they rededicated Your temple, and lit lamps in Your courts").
The "accommodationist" Talmudic law goes out of its way to give both these holidays rituals that intentionally spill over into the public square, insuring they have a defiant edge - and present an identity challenge - for Jews living in diaspora.
This is why the Hanukkah lamps are put beside the door or at a window.
Nope - no accommodation.
And considering the collapse of secular Zionism as an ideology, it's a bit late to crow about its supposed "progress" over "limited" traditional Jewish identity.... we're just now digging out of a "piece" process pressed upon us by secular Zionists in the name of their own desire to be accepted as "cosmopolitan citizens of the world".... now there's some "accommodationists" for you...
Well now Ben David, that's what I would call an "On the other hand"!
I could easily argue with some of your core points, but this exchange just illustrates the different emphases, which regardless of which we are united in the same hope.
... and we haven't even started to unravel the knot tying nationalism and religious faith in Judaism - exemplified by Hanukkah, a "political" rebellion motivated by an attack on religious practice... the Hellenists were not interested in genocide, just in causing Jews to assimilate into the Hellenic culture of the empire.
BD2, don't run outta ammo --you can run out on the field during a lull in the fighting, and retrieve some o them quotation marks and fire'em again
Asking for a lesson here. When I was a kid (and well into my adulthood, I'm now in my mid-60s) the menorahs I saw had places for seven candles. One up, three on either side. Now they seem to have nine. One up, four on either side. When did that change become the norm and why?
The traditional menorah has three to each side and one centered, for the 7-days of the week. This was in the Holy Temple and in the portable temple during the Exodus. See Exodus 25 for the instructiuns in its design. The Chanukah menorah has 4 to each side, for a total of eight, for the eight nights of Chanukah, and one above that, the helper candle with which the others are lit. Going beyond the 8-day miracle of the oil, there is the belief that the menorah, lighting the candles, is a mitzvah, a blessing, a blessed obligation to bring G-d and light into the world.