Hanukka: The Faith of a Suicide Bomber Maccabee?

From Aish.com:

…When the Maccabees reached Jerusalem, they found the Holy Temple desecrated and defiled. In the face of this utter debasement of their values and beliefs, the Maccabees once again rose beyond the laws of logic, and refused to light the golden Menorah with ritually impure oil — despite the fact that Torah law would have permitted them to do so. The Maccabees were absolutely determined to kindle the Menorah as perfectly as possible. So once again, God intervened in the natural order and made single jar of oil to last for eight days.

When I look at the miracle of Chanukah, I think not just of the military victory or the jug of oil which lasted eight nights. Rather, I think of the Maccabees’ courage, self-sacrifice and profound faith in God, by which they were able to accomplish the impossible.

History is not always made through acts of pragmatism or logic. History is made through heroic people who stand up and are willing to forfeit everything for what they believe.

The story of Chanukah is a call to abandon the shackles and restraints of our logic, to forget what "makes sense," and to finally fight our wars. A nuclear Iran? Poverty and domestic strife? Assimilation? The potential to attain the achievement equal to the Maccabees is within every individual. We must fight against the impossibilities, because only then can we make a difference; only then can we actually change history. Our personal history, and that of the entire world.

Let’s see. A little fairy tale about oil, invented by rabbis to shift the emphasis of Hanukka away from the Maccabee’s military victories* (and the Sages lack of leadership and participation in same) now becomes the justification for acting rashly – and perhaps fatally.

This Aish piece sounds like a call for suicide bombers. Rabbi Noach Weinberg should be ashamed.

Previously, this Hanukka: 1 & 2. (The first post has links to last year’s series of Hanukka posts, The Little Menorah That Couldn’t.)

*Contrary to the haredi spin, the Maccabees’ military campaign was well planned. They relied heavily on intelligence gathering and were brilliant tacticians familiar with current military theory. They were not pious fools from the Judean shtetl.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Hanukka: The Faith of a Suicide Bomber Maccabee?

  1. Elisha ben Avuya

    What is the evidence you present to refute the mirace of oil? People on earlier posts have brought up a number of ideas. The book of Macabees, Josephus, the text of al hanissim, the mishna, the midrash, the megillat taannit commentaries, all apparently fail to mention the miracle of oil burning miraculously for 8 days. Does this prove the miracle didnt happen? I’m not so sure.
    The book of Macabees was written before and during the time of Alexander Janneus, who was a fierce opponent of the rabbis, and a hellenizer and a sadducee (or at the least a sympathizer). These texts were never accepted among the official cannon, and Rabbi Akiva goes so far in Sanhedrin Mishna 11:1 to say that those who read the sefer hachitzonim (which most likely refers to the book of Maccabees) loses his share in the world to come.
    Josephus himself borrows a large amount from these texts, and though he presents his account of chanukka, he writes, “And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I SUPPOSE THE REASON WAS, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.” Josephus is saying that he “supposes” but is not sure himself why the festival is called “lights.” He may have heard a number of reasons why it is called lights but he chose this explanation. Josephus does not always give every possible explanation for why things are the way they are in Judaism. Seeing as how some of his ideas, writings and even his own geneology tracing him back to Jonathan (Judah Maccabees brother) are questionable, he may have been espousing the Sadducean view of hanukka, or the view of some other sect at the time. Furthermore, during this period, there was, with a few exceptions, one hellenistic or pro sadducean king after another. Tradition of a miracle may have been suppressed in order not to lend credence to the pharisaic tradtion.

    The text of al hanissim for Purim fails to mention many of the miracles that occurred at that time. So if the Al hanissim of Chanukka doesn’t mention the miracle of 8 days of oil, does this prove anything?
    The mishna doesn’t mention everything that ever occurred in Judaism, and many laws are expounded upon in the gemara that the mishna does not specify. Plus it says clearly that we learn in a baraisa the eight day miracle of oil, baraisas being written during the same time as the mishna. Furthermore, if you understand the dynamics of the Talmud, no one could just come along and make up a baraisa and say it was authentic. There were many great rabbis at the time analyzing the texts and the precedent set down in the gemara. Just as no one can come along and add to the torah today without being questioned and rejected, so too back then.
    As for the Scholiums describing the Megillat taanit, I would like to know more about them. But again, not mentioning in the commentary of the megilla taanit the miracle of oil may only represent the view of the saducees, essenes, or some other minor sect. As for the midrash, I havent read every midrash, but I ask, are there many midrashim about channuka in general? If not, perhaps that topic was simply not discussed and expounded upon as thoroughly as others.
    These are just some ideas I have. Let me know what you think

  2. Thomas Melchior

    What is the evidence you present to refute the mirace of oil?….

    – because it’s a dumb story for children, like the story of Christmas. It’s not meant for adults like you to believe. It’s a fictional, outrageous, fairy tale. A bed-time story. And honestly, it’s pretty lame that you can read and write and are defending it as ‘may have happened’.

  3. Anonymous

    Ok thomas, whatever you say. I guess you think G-d is a fairytale too? Maybe if you researched the facts instead of completely dismissing religion and G-d, you might actually find that all you secular know it alls have much to learn.

  4. ElishaBenAvuya

    I have found a few more interesting pieces of the puzzle, although I’m not sure how helpful they may prove. But first, regarding the publication of the miracle; it seems that there is almost nothing written about any Jewish traditions other than what we have from secular/non jewish sources, or the dead sea scrolls, prior to the mishna. Most rabbinic tradition was never written down, which is what the tradition says was the law until Yehuda Hanasi 200 C.E. So I would think that to an extent, singling out the miracle of chanuka would be like singling out any other unwritten tradition (unless ofcourse I’m overlooking something?). I have tried to find any sources in the Jerusalem Talmud for chanukka but only have seen in mentioned once in JT shabbos.
    I was analyzing the BT Shabbos 21b and found the following;
    There are three different ways one may light the menorah.
    1. one Ner for a man and his household;

    2. the M’hadrin (zealous – those who wish to beautify and enhance the Mitzvah) [kindle] a light for each member [of the household];

    3. and the M’hadrin min haM’hadrin: a) Beit Shammai maintain: On the first day eight lights are lit and thereafter they are gradually reduced;
    b) but Beit Hillel say: On the first day one is lit and thereafter they are progressively increased.

    Also interesting is a little later the gemara says, “in times of danger, he should place [the light] on his table and that is sufficient.”
    Both of these points are interesting. For one, if you lacked funds or simply wanted to do the bare minimum, you were only required to light one candle. One burning candle isn’t exactly publicizing the miracle. Furthermore, if it was a time of danger, you didn’t have to even put it near your window, just on the table. I imagine that under the sadducean rulers and its corrupt sanhedrin, as well as under Herod and the Romans, there were a number of times this rule would apply, where publicizing the miracle could have been dangerous to your life. It would be like announcing in Communist Russia, “Look everyone, I’m a religious Jew!” The fact that this was a very tumultuous period, and yet this is the very time that this new rabbinic enactment was created and being taught and spread, it makes you wonder how much the festival would have caught on. Furthermore, if I was a Pharisee back when Alexander Janneus was ruler, I might not want to celebrate anything that had to do with the Macabees. Thats because Janneus was a grandson of the high priest king Shimon Macabee (Judah Macabees brother). However Janneus was a hellenizer who is reported to have massacred 6000 Pharisees in a rage, and then fought a civil war in Israel with the Pharisees in which as many as 50,000 Jews were killed by his army. A truce was finally established and he kept the throne. Nonetheless, I would imagine Chanukka wasnt celebrated the next few years with too much fervor, if at all, simply because it was celebrating the greatness of Janneus’ ancestors, only adding to his legitiamacy and honor, and would seem almost blasphemous to the memory of all those Jews he killed. I have some other ideas too but I’ll end this post here. Let me know what you think.

  5. Jim the Catholic

    The Hebrew Scriptures mention a fellow called Darius the Mede. There is no reference to such a person outside of the Scriptures, archeology has turned up nothing. OTOH arguements from silence are by nature weak. Before the 19th century secularists claimed the Hittits mentioned in the Bible where a fictional race invented by the writers of the Bible UNITL twentyith century archeologist dug up the Hittits.

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