When rabbis did everything they could to forget Hanukkah
By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
(Reprinted from December 23, 2009 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/news.php?id=6460)
?Then came the Feast of Hanukkah (Dedication) at Jerusalem. It was winter and Jesus was in the temple area walking in the Solomon Portico.??
? John 10:22, 23
Jesus only preached in Jerusalem on big holidays. That was when the town was packed with visitors from the rural areas, where he had a large following.
But today Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday. Most rabbis say it?s a big deal in America only because it takes place near Christmas, when Jews need a big holiday of our own.
All eight days of Hanukkah, except the two Sabbaths, were normal working days. Hanukkah services in synagogue services were nothing special and poorly attended. I bet Jewish kids today were as embarrassed as I was in the 1950s when Hanukkah songs like ?I Have a Little Dreidel? were sung and compared with dozens of beautiful, inspiring, and majestic Christmas carols in public school.
The story of Hanukkah is not told in any of the 39 books in the Jewish Old Testament of the Bible, the six books of the Mishnah, or the dozens of books that make up the Talmud.
But the Hanukkah story is told in four ?Books of the Macabees? found in the Apocrypha of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox (but not Protestant) Bibles. Two books by Flavius Josephus also tell the Hanukkah story.
In the year 67, Josephus commanded Jewish forces in Galilee during the revolt against Rome. But he switched sides and joined the Romans. Most Jews despised him, but early Christians read and preserved his books.
The Hanukkah story began 333 years before Jesus. The Greeks, under Alexander the Great, took over the whole Persian Empire from Egypt to India, including Judea.
Alexander soon died, but Greek culture remained. People in every part of the empire, including Jews, spoke Greek, built Greek-style buildings, watched Greek plays, competed in Greek games, and read and discussed Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. Many Jews even named their sons Alexander.
Most people in Alexander?s empire also worshipped the Greek gods along with their own ? but not most Jews. Jews, like everyone else, admired Greek art, science, athletics, and literature. But they continued to believe in only one god, and one set of laws defining right and wrong: the laws revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai.
Most Jews were so sure of their beliefs that they translated the Bible into Greek and invited non-Jews to their synagogues throughout the empire. They claimed that the laws of the Bible applied to everyone: Jews as well as non-Jews, emperors as well as slaves.
Jews criticized ancient Greeks for their sexual practices and killing of ?unsuitable? infants. This angered the ancient Greeks, who used the word ?barbarian? to describe anyone who did not speak Greek.
In 167 B.C., a Greek emperor took a bribe, and appointed a high priest for the Jewish Temple who was unqualified. The Jews rioted, and the Greek emperor outlawed the Jewish religion there. Pigs were slaughtered and offered to Zeus in the Jewish temple. Any Jew with a copy of the Scriptures was tortured and killed.
A family of priests left Jerusalem and began a revolt. They were called ?Maccabee? ? Aramaic for ?hammer.? They armed thousands of Jews and taught them Greek methods of war. After months of practice, every Jewish soldier knew how to march and turn in perfect formation with shields locked together to form a phalanx.
In four years, the Maccabee army captured Jerusalem. They re-dedicated the Temple and began a new holiday called the ?Festival of Dedication? or ?Hanukkah.?
Jews celebrated Hanukkah as the victory of the righteous over the wicked, the few over the many, the weak over the strong. But Hanukkah ended badly for the Jews.
The war dragged on for 34 years after the Dedication. The Maccabees made an alliance with Rome. Maccabee rebels terrorized and killed fellow Jews who disagreed with them ? like today?s Taliban. The ancient Greeks poisoned the ancient world with many vicious lies about Jews ? like the ?blood libel? that Jews killed Greek boys for their blood on Passover.
These three things led to the conquest of Judea by Rome, a Jewish culture of religious violence that ended with disastrous revolts against Rome, and 2,000 years of exile and anti-Semitism. The ancient Jewish rabbis did everything they could to forget the Hanukkah holiday and history.
But early Christians were inspired by Hanukkah when Roman emperors like Nero tortured and killed them for practicing their religion.
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears live on WVLT 92.1FM 8 to 9 a.m. every Saturday throughout southern New Jersey. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email email@example.com or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Athena Diner, 1515 New Road, Northfield.