Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


Hitchens: Got History?

Rabbis Stern and Rabbi Waxman are right that our Hanukkah rituals are multi-valanced, as is any ritual that has lasted thousands of years. As such, Hanukkah responds to the human needs for light and hope at this darkest time of year. However they miss the most significant point of the Hanukkah story, which also is the most important response to Christopher Hitchens.


Hitchens obviously does not know his history. The Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, did not fight to overthrow Hellenism. They united ultra-traditionalists and moderates to fight for religious freedoms that historically were granted to religious minorities under all previous Hellenistic kings. Why Antiochus Ephiphanes IV (the Hellenistic Seleucid King of Hanukkah) pursued a policy of persecution so inconsistent with Hellenistic policy has engaged scholars for decades. The point though, is that Hasmoneans were not fighting against Hellenism. They fought to reestablish the very rights that were supposed to be protected by Hellenism. Once they achieved that recognition, they took their place within the Seleucid Empire as a good client nation. More than that, they were also culturally part of the Hellenistic world. While they wrote in Hebrew, they also transmitted their story in Greek and gave their children Hebrew and Greek names. Still to this day, the Hasmoneans serve as a model for how to balance being part of a larger society and retaining allegiance to one’s ancestral traditions and faith–that continues to be an important message today.
They are also a reminder of another critically important lesson for today’s world: That one test of any democracy is its treatment of minorities and its respect for minority religious traditions. The Maccabees remind us of that as well. And that’s not a bad lesson during what is overwhelmingly experienced in America as the Christmas season. While Hanukkah is over for the Jewish community, the Muslim festival of Eid is next week, so maybe we can all be a little more like the Maccabees by wishing each other Happy Holidays!



Advertisement
Comments read comments(6)
post a comment
Dave

posted December 15, 2007 at 6:47 pm


The Maccabees did fight Hellenism, and actually massacred Jews who didn’t practice Judaism to the Maccabees level(in their case those who either worshipped Greek gods or who synctised the 2 religions). Remember the first person the Maccabees killed wasn’t Greek-Syrian it was a Hellenised Jew. And the reason the temple had to be rededicated was because of the Jews who had defiled the place.
Later on, after the rebellion the Hasmoneans themselves became Hellenised.
Given that they invited in Herod and the Romans, I don’t see how the post-rebellion Hasmoneans can be admired.



report abuse
 

ruvain

posted December 17, 2007 at 3:05 pm


Why are we wasting our time attacking Chris Hitchens, who is a thoughtful, insightful person who, as far as I know, has not been anti-Semitic. If I am ignorant about some nefarious behavior by Mr. Hitchens, please let me know.
Chanukah Shamukah It’s only big due to its proximity to Xmas. Let’s be real — A Miracle ‘cuz the oil lasted 8 days. What about short wicks? The shorter the wick, the slower the oil burns. The duration the oil lasts is a function of many variables in addition to the amount of oil.
If you want a miracle, how about the eternal light never went out during all the time the temple was occupied and now that the temple has been destroyed for 2,000 years, the eternal light in 2007 still burns brightly 80 feet above the ground suspended in mid air. Show me that and I’ll say, “Now that’s a miracle.”
And as for the temple itself: In retrospect, there have been few better events in Jewish History than the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.? How would it look if we were still having animal sacrifices in Jerusalem? But for the temple’s destruction and the disapora, there would be no Jewish people just like there are no Hitties or Amorites, etc. How many Phoenicians have you encountered lately?
The miracle is that we’re still here after 4,100 years. We are a consistently identifiable People for the last 4,100 years and we make gigantic contributions to the world in medicine, science, the arts, math, litature, etc. on a daily basis. That’s not a miracle; that’s just who were are.



report abuse
 

Anonymous

posted December 17, 2007 at 4:25 pm


Reb Hitchens is a brilliant, cogent questioner. His decisive expositions on Mel Gibson’s protonazism (need I remind all of us here that, at the root of crucifictionism is Jew hatred and exterminationist currents?) did more to settle the dust than all of the pious campaigns to ‘petition’ Gibson to see the Light, so to speak.
Reb Hitchens, need I add, is not stupid, and some of his comments are to provoke dialogue, not stifle it.
STEPHAN PICKERING / Chofetz Chayim ben-Avraham



report abuse
 

Hannah Ruth Abraham

posted December 18, 2007 at 12:09 pm


The point of hannukah is to increase the light, wisdom from the Torah and love Fom the heart. It has mystical meanings that go much deeper than the historical meaning. As a Jewish woman who does not depend on Testerone to make decisions, I try to remember the fact that our traditions in Judaism are based on standing up for what we believe in.
That is what Judah Macabee was all about.



report abuse
 

Dave

posted December 19, 2007 at 4:09 pm


1/ Judah Maccabee was all about protecting Judaism by killing Greek-Syrians and insifficiently Jewish Jews. Testosterone may indeed have influenced him.
2/ There may not be any Hittites or Amorites around but boy are there lots of Persians and Ishmaelites.



report abuse
 

DocWright

posted December 22, 2007 at 8:09 pm


My first exposure to modern Judaism did not come about until I was in 7th grade.Having been raised in the Baptist church tradition I was ignorant of post Shoa Judaism. I transfered into a public school in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood. That year a Christian girl asked the teacher (mr.Simon) if we could have a Chanakuh bush and a Jewish girl asked about a Christmas tree. This was my first exposure to the Chanakuh story. I formed some friendships with Jewish classmates that were everlasting.
When a Catholic school boy in the Neighborhood told me it was the Jews who had killed Christ I was quick to point out it was a roman who had actually done this evil deed. I read Torah at my best friends Bar Mitzvah. Dated Jewish girls and read Torah in the Synagog where I attended boy scouts. I have never had a problem defending the jewish faith but I find it very difficult to defend Islam.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.