Hanukkah 11-29-2013

Post date: Dec 14, 2013 10:33:16 AM

Dear Ohel Avraham Friends,

Tonight, we are having a special Friday night service in the midst of Hannukah, at the usual time and place: Nazareth Campus, GAC 375, 6pm to 7pm. I'll bring a Hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) to light before the start of services.

The Jewish Encyclopedia provides a historical background to the holiday. As most of you probably know, the holiday commemorates a battle victory of the Jews of Judea over Antiochus IV, king of the Greek-influenced Seleucid Empire. What is fascinating is that Antiochus did not come up with his plan to attack Judea independently.

His father, Antiochus III, had guaranteed Jews the freedom to practice Judaism according to their custom. At the time, Greek culture, Greek polity, Greek pantheistic mythology, was all the rave, and a faction of Jews, the Sons of Tobias, wanted to Helenize Judaism, i.e., make it more Greek. When this faction of Jews were defeated, they appealed to Antiochus IV to crush their more traditional brethren.

While the traditional Jews, led by Matethias (The Hammer) Maccabeus, were able to defeat Antiochus's larger army, it was at great cost of blood and treasure.

Eerily, this basic story of brotherly hatred played out again, a mere 200 years later, when the hatred of Jew against Jew culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the 2,000 year Diaspora.

So many times in history, the greatest detractors of Jewish success have been our own brethren, unable to reconcile the notion that good people may disagree. And today, US politics is its ugliest, in my opinion, when one party calls the other "Un-American".

Perhaps this is one reason that the historical basis of Hanukkah was so played down by the rabbis, who instead emphasized the miracle of a small vial of oil making light for 8 days.

Perhaps we should look at the Hanukkah Menorah as a message that victory is at best temporary, and that only through the light of learning, the warmth of compassion, can we prevail, over the long term, against our worst enemy: internecine hatred and our own divisiveness.

Have a wonderful festival of Lights.

Shabbat Shalom,