Reflections On Chanukah
1. THE FOUNDING
FATHERS OF THE USA, as well as Paul Revere and the organizers of
the Boston Tea Party, viewed the Maccabees as their role-model.
CONTEXT. Alexander The Great – who held Judaism in high esteem and
whose Egyptian heir Ptolemy II translated the Torah to Greek – died
in 323BC. Consequently, the Greek Empire disintegrated into five,
and thirty years later into three, kingdoms: Macedonia, Syria and
Egypt. The Land of Israel was always militarily contested by Syria
and Egypt. In 198BC, Israel was conquered by the ancient Syrians.
In 175BC, a new king assumed power in Syria, Antiochus (IV) Epiphanes,
who viewed the Jews as pro-Egyptians and held Judaism with contempt.
In 169BC, on his way to Syria from a military victory over Egypt,
he devastated Jerusalem, massacred a large number of Jews, forbade
the practice of Judaism (including the Sabbath, circumcision, etc.)
and desecrated Jerusalem and the Temple. The rebellion against the
Syrian (Seleucid) kingdom featured the Hasmonean (Macabbee) family:
Mattityahu, a priest from the small town of Modi’in, and his five
sons, Yochanan, Yehuda, Shimon, Yonatan and Elazar. The heroic (and
tactically creative) battles conducted by the Maccabees, was consistent
with the reputation of Jews as superb warriors, who were hired often
by Egypt, Rome and other global and regional powers.
3. ORIGIN OF
THE NAME, MACCABEE. Yehuda’s middle name was Maccabee, derived
possibly from the Hebrew word MAKEVET (The Hammer), which described
Yehuda’s fighting capabilities. It may have derived from the
Hebrew verb CABEH (to extinguish fire), which described the fate
of Yehuda’s adversaries… Another possible interpretation
of the name is that MACCABEE is the achronym of “Who could
resemble you among Gods, Jehova” (“Mi Camokha Baelim
4. ORIGIN OF
THE NAME, CHANUKAH (HOLIDAY OF EDUCATION). According to the first
book of The Maccabees, Yehuda (who succeeded Mattityahu) ordered
the Jewish People to observe an eight day holiday on the 25th day
of the month of Kislev, in order to commemorate the INAUGURATION
(CHANUKAH in Hebrew) of the holy altar and the Temple, following
Syrian desecration. Also, a key feature of Chanukah is the EDUCATION
of the family on the historical background of the holiday. The Hebrew
word for education is CHINUKH, spelled with the first four of the
five letters of Chanukah. The Hebrew word, Chanukah, consists of
two words, CHANU (they rested/stationed) and KAH (25), which refers
to the fact that the Macabbees reconsecrated the Temple on the 25th
day of the month of Kislev (purging it from the idolatries installed
by the Seleucids). Some have suggested that the celebration of Christmas
on December 25th and the celebration of the New Year 8 days later
(January 1) have their origin in the 25th day of Kislev (which always
“accompanies” December) and the 8 days of Chanukah as
well as the eight days of circumcision.
5. HOLIDAY OF
LIGHT AND REMEMBRANCE. The first day of Chanukah is on the 25th
day of Kislev. The 25th (Hebrew) word in Genesis is LIGHT (OR).
The 25th stop of the People of Israel – on their way from Egypt
to the Promised Land – was Hashmona (same root as Hasmoneans, or
Hashomonayim in Hebrew). Chanukah commemorates the victory of Light
over Darkness. While Light stands for REMEMBRANCE, Darkness (Chashecha
in Hebrew) stands for FORGETFULNESS (Schichecha in Hebrew, spelled
with the same Hebrew letters as Chashecah).
6. HOLIDAY OF
OPTIMISM. The first two Hebrew letters of Chanukah are those spelling
the name NOAH. The Hebrew month of the post-flood RAINBOW of hope
was Kislev. Moses completed the construction of the Holy Arc on
the 25th day of Kislev, as was the date of the laying the foundation
of the second Temple.
AT ANY COST (THE ORIGINAL "LIVE FREE OR DIE"). While Passover
and Purim are also national liberation holidays, Chanukah is a special
national liberation holiday. The heroes of Passover and Purim had
no choice but to defy their enemies. The Maccabees had a choice:
They were offered physical peace in return for spiritual assimilation
and a sellout of Jewish principles. However, they were willing to
pay any price for the protection of their values and heritage. Chanukah
symbolizes the victory of CONVICTION and ROOTS over SHORT-TERM CONVENIENCE
and OPPORTUNISM/CYNICISM (otherwise known as "pragmatism").
8. NO FREE LUNCH
FOR SOVEREIGN PEOPLES. Chanukah serves as another reminder that
free people must be ready to fight – and sacrifice – for the RIGHT
to be sovereign, especially in violent and unpredictable neighborhoods.
9. THE FEW AGAINST
THE MANY. The Maccabees were a tiny minority – condemned by the
"progressively enlightened" establishment – upon launching
their rebellion against a super-power.
They were referred
by the "intellectuals" as "the enemies of peace"
and "extremists." They prevailed due to their principle-driven,
determined and can-do state-of-mind , which was compatible with
reality, rather than with wishful-thinking. WALKING AGAINST THE
GRAIN, the Maccabees fought against overwhelming demographic, economic
and military odds, just like today’s Jewish State. While some observers
contend that "giant" Israel is facing the Palestinians,
reality suggests that TINY ISRAEL is facing the giant Arab world
– a modern day replica of David vs. Goliath.