Sunday, November 17, 2013

Divrei Torah Chanukah Why eight days? 1988

 K A H A N E
The magazine of the authentic Jewish Idea
November – December 1988      Cheshvan – Kislev 5749

Divrei Torah

Eight days of Chanukah.  That is the, length of the holiday as pronounced by the rabbis and the reason is known to every child:  The Maccabees, having liberated the temple, found oil that was sufficient only for one day but having lit the candles with it, the oil continued to burn through eight days, by which time more pure oil had been made.

 And centuries ago, the rabbis asked the question:  Nevertheless, why eight days?  Since the oil was naturally sufficient in itself to burn for one day, the miracle was actually only in the additional seven days that it continued to burn.  In reality, therefore, in order to commemorate the miracle, the rabbis should have established a holiday of seven days.
And the rabbis, particularly the Beit Yosef, give various and varied reasons.  It appears to me, however, that there is a fundamental reason, one that goes to the very heart of the holiday of Chanukah.

It is clear that the essential miracle of Chanukah, its real central theme, is not the miracle of the oil.  Indeed, the special Chanukah prayer, Al Hanism, coined by the rabbis, does not even mention the miracle of the oil.  The theme and heart of the Chanukah commemoration is the concept mentioned in Al Hanisim, of rabim b’yad m’atim, “The many (Syrian Greeks) who fell into the hands of the few (Jews).”  This is the heart of Chanukah.  And the very miracle of the oil represents that concept, i.e. the little oil able to “overcome” the many days and continue to burn.  The oil symbolizes the real miracle of Chanukah, the real theme, that of the few Jews who, thanks to the miracle of G-d, were able to overcome the many enemies.
But if that is so, there is a miracle within that miracle.  For given the fact that the few Jews were able to miraculously overcome their many awesome enemies, prior to that miracle they surely did not know that the almighty would perform the miracle for them.

And nevertheless, the few went out to battle with immense faith and belief in the Almighty.  Not that they knew that He would perform miracles for them, for that is not the meaning of faith.  One does not go to battle in a milchemet mitzvah, a war of obligation, because one knows that G-d will help.  The Jew hopes for that; he prays for that; but there is no guarantee.  If there were, then there would be no faith.  Then the victory would be assured and in such a case and everyone would have “faith.”

No, the Hashmonaim, the Maccabees, did not know whether G-d would perform miracles for them.  The only knew that they were obligated to fight and sanctify the Name of the

L-rd, G-d of Israel, through fighting the gentiles and Hellenists who desecrated and humiliated Him.  That in itself was an act of immense courage, a miracle within the miracle.

And so, since the candles lights represent the miracle of the many who fell before the few, they must also represent that act of the few who – not knowing that the miracle would take place – nevertheless went out to battle to sanctify G-d.  And so, while the lights from the second day onward represent the miracle of the many who fell in the hands of the few, it is just as important to commemorate the few who went out to battle with faith and readiness to give of themselves.  That is represented by the first light.

 What a lesson of Chanukah!  What a lesson for all Jews “in this time” whose fear of Washington and the gentiles makes a mockery of the faith and belief that is the heart of Chanukah and Judaism.

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Barbara Ginsberg


Saturday, November 9, 2013


Rabbi Meir Kahane Writings (5732-33) (1971-73)
Down with Chanukah
Written December 15, 1972

If I were a Reform rabbi; if I were a leader of the Establishment whose money and prestige have succeeded in capturing for him the leadership and voice of American Jewry; if I were one of the members of the Israeli Government’s ruling group; if I were an enlightened sophisticated, modern Jewish intellectual, I would climb the barricades and join in battle against the most dangerous of all Jewish holidays – Chanukah.

It is a measure of the total ignorance of the world Jewish community that there is no holiday that is more universally celebrated than the “Feast of Lights”, and it is an equal measure of the intellectual dishonesty and of Jewish leadership that it plays along with the lie.  For if ever there was a holiday that stands for everything that the mass of world Jewry and their leadership has rejected – it is this one.  If one would find an event that is truly rooted in everything that Jews of our times and their leaders have rejected and, indeed, attacked – it is this one.  If there is any holiday that is more “unJewish” in the sense of our modern beliefs and practices – I do not know of it.
The Chanukah that has erupted unto the world Jewish scene in all its childishness, asininity, shallowness, ignorance and fraud – is not the Chanukah of reality.  The Chanukah that came into vogue because of Jewish parents – in their vapidness – needed something to counteract Christmas; that exploded in a show of “we-can-have-lights-just-as-our-goyish-neighbors” and in an effort to reward our spoiled children with eight gifts instead of the poor Christian one; the Chanukah that the Temple, under its captive rabbi, turned into a school pageant so that the beaming parents might think that the Religious School is really successful instead of the tragic joke and waste that it really is; the Chanukah that speaks of Jewish Patrick Henrys giving-me-liberty-or death and the pictures of Maccabees as great liberal saviors who fought so that the kibbutzim might continue to be free to preach their Marx and eat their ham, that the split-level dwellers of suburbia might be allowed to violate their Sabbath in perfect freedom and the Reform and Conservative Temples continue the fight for civil rights for Blacks, Puerto Ricans and Jane Fonda, is not remotely connected with reality. 

This is NOT the Chanukah of our ancestors, of the generations of Jews of Eastern Europe and Yemen and Morocco and the crusades and Spain and Babylon.  It is surely not the Chanukah for which the Maccabees themselves died.  Truly, could those whom we honor so munificently, return and see what Chanukah has become, they might very well begin a second Maccabean revolt.  For the life that we Jews lead today was the very cause, the REAL reason for the revolt of the Jews “in those days in our times.”  

What happened in that era more than 2000 years ago?  What led a handful of Jews to rise up in violence against the enemy?  And precisely who WAS the enemy?  What were they fighting FOR and who were they fighting AGAINST?
For years, the people of Judea had been the vassals of Greece.  True independence as a state had been unknown for all those decades and, yet, the Jews did not rise up in revolt.  It was only when the Greek policy shifted from mere political control to one that attempted to suppress the Jewish religion that the revolt erupted in all its bloodiness.  It was not mere liberty that led to the Maccabean uprising that we so passionately applaud.  What we are really cheering is a brave group of Jews who fought and plunged Judea into a bloodbath for the right to observe the Sabbath, to follow the laws of kashruth, to obey the laws of the Torah.  IN A WORD EVERYTHING ABOUT CHANUKAH THAT WE COMMEMORATE AND TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO COMMEMORATE ARE THINGS WE CONSIDER TO BE OUTMODED, MEDIEVAL AND CHILDISH!

At best, then, those who fought and died for Chanukah were naïve and obscurantist.  Had we lived in those days we would certainly not have done what they did for everyone knows that the laws of the Torah are not really Divine but only the products of evolution and men (do not the Reform, Reconstructionist and large parts of the Conservative movements write this daily?)  Surely we would not have fought for that which we violate every day of our lives!  No, at best Chanukah emerges as a needless holiday if not a foolish one.  Poor Hannah and her seven children; poor Mattathias and Judah; poor well meaning chaps all but hopelessly backward and utterly unnecessary sacrifices.

But there is more.  Not only is Chanukah really a foolish and unnecessary holiday, it is also one that is dangerously fanatical and illiberal. The first act of rebellion, the first enemy who fell at the hands of the brave Jewish heroes whom our delightful children portray so cleverly in their Sunday and religious school pageants, was NOT a Greek.  He was a Jew.

When the enemy sent its troops into the town of Modin to set up an idol and demand its worship, it was a Jew who decided to exercise his freedom of pagan worship and who approached the altar to worship Zeus (after all, what business was it of anyone what this fellow worshipped?)  And it was this Jew, this apostate, this religious traitor who was struck down by the brave, glorious, courageous (are these not the words all our Sunday schools use to describe him?) Mattathias, as he shouted: “Whoever is for G-d, follow me!”  

What have we here?  What kind of religious intolerance and bigotry?  What kind of a man is this for the anti-religious of Hashomer Hatzair, the graceful temples of suburbia, the sophisticated intellectuals, the liberal open-minded Jews and all the drones who have wearied us unto death with the concept of Judaism as a humanistic, open-minded, undogmatic, liberal, universalistic (if not Marxist) religion, to honor?  What kind of nationalism is this for David-Ben-Gurion (he who rejects the Galut and speaks of the proud, free Jew of ancient Judea and Israel)?

And to crush us even more (we who know that Judaism is a faith of peace which deplores violence), what kind of Jews were these who reacted to oppression with FORCE?  Surely we who so properly have deplored Jewish violence as fascistic, immoral and (above all!) UN-JEWISH, stand in horror as we contemplate Jews who declined to picket the Syrian Greeks to death and who rejected quiet diplomacy for the sword, spear and arrow (had there been bombs in those days, who can tell what they might have done?) and “descended to the level of evil,” thus rejecting the ethical and moral concepts of Judaism.

Is this the kind of a holiday we wish to propagate?  Are these the kinds of men we want our moral and humanistic children to honor?  Is this the kind of Judaism that we wish to observe and pass on to our children?

Where shall we find the man of courage the one voice, in the wilderness to cry out against Chanukah and the Judaism that it represents-the Judaism of our grandparents and ancestors?  Where shall we find the man of honesty and integrity to attack the Judaism of Medievalism and outdated foolishness; the Judaism of bigotry that strikes down Jews who refuse to observe the law; the Judaism of violence that calls for Jewish force and might against the enemy?  When shall we find the courage to proudly eat our Chinese food and violate our Sabbaths and reject all the separateness, nationalism and religious maximalism that Chanukah so ignobly represents?  …Down with Chanukah!  It is a regressive holiday that merely symbolizes the Judaism that always was; the Judaism that was handed down to us from Sinai; the Judaism that made our ancestors ready to give their lives for the L-rd; the Judaism that young people instinctively know is true and great and real.  Such Judaism is dangerous for us and our leaders.  We must do all in our power to bury it.

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Barbara Ginsberg