Happy Chanukah!

http://www.avakesh.com/images/2007/12/04/chess.jpgTony Karom, quoted by JfJfP:
In a country occupied by a Western power, the locals are faced with a choice. Some have opted to reconcile their own traditions with those of their occupier, borrowing from Western ways that open the path to philosophy and science, and integrating themselves into a wider culture. Others fiercely resist, waging a bitter and bloody war not only on the occupier, but also on those in their own community who seek to collaborate or integrate with the occupiers who are denounced as defilers.

If this were contemporary Afghanistan-Pakistan, you’d know who was whom, right? But before you bite into that latke or sing the dreidel song, you may want to consider that in Judea in the second century BC, the Taliban role is played by the Maccabees. And it is the Maccabees, of course, who are lionized in the Hanukah tale.

In fact, they pretty much invented the holiday to celebrate their victory over the Greeks and all Jews who would embrace their ways, the “Hellenizers.” Hanukah is not mentioned in the Torah. It’s not really a religious holiday at all — the bubbemeis about an oil lamp burning for eight days was tacked on as an afterthought, and a way of smuggling God into what was a ritual celebrating a very temporal insurgent military triumph.

There is, of course, a spectacular irony in the celebration of Hanukah in its contemporary incarnation as a kind of kosher Christmas that has everybody saying “Happy Holidays” to avoid giving offense. The irony, of course, is that celebrating Hanukah as a major religious holiday is the ultimate triumph of latter-day Hellenization. It hardly exists as a serious religious holiday — even when I was growing up in South Africa, the likes of Simchat Torah and Succoth were far more important. Yet today, in America, it appears to rank up there right after Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur and Passover as important Jewish holidays. The point, of course, is that this has only been done to compete with Christmas, to adapt Jewish tradition to make it fit the rhythms and rituals of the wider, non-Jewish society.
(Image: Maccabees vs. Hellenists Chess Set.)

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