16 December 2009

Happy Chanukah

تنسيق-الكليات-لعام سكس نيك كس

This ought to really upset the Islamic Fundamentalists.

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David Brooks, in his Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, was upset to learn that Chanukah isn't about Religious Tolerance or whatever he grew up to believe, but about civil war and the survival of Judaism.

He of course paints the heroes of the Chanukah story, the Maccabees, as a bunch of religious fanatics/Talibanist fighting the moderate Greeks who were looking to "synthesize" the Greek and Jewish cultures together.

Anyone with an internet connection can read the original texts and see what was really happening.

According Josephus[34]:
"...he [the Greek King Antiouchus] compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar; against which they all opposed themselves, and the most approved among them were put to death. Bacchides [the Greek appointed General] also, who was sent to keep the fortresses, having these wicked commands, joined to his own natural barbarity, indulged all sorts of the extremest wickedness, and tormented the worthiest of the inhabitants, man by man, and threatened their city every day with open destruction, till at length he provoked the poor sufferers by the extremity of his wicked doings to avenge themselves."
By denying the Jews their right to worship in their own faith, forcing them to abandon circumcision, defile the Temple with swine and appointing a barbaric general, the Greeks attempted to erase Judaism and the belief of monotheism.

Maybe that's why George Washington, upon learning about Chanuka from a Jewish soldier at Valley Forge said, "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have us believe. I rejoice in the Macabees' success, though it is long past...It pleases me to think that miracles still happen."

Some background:

The story of Chanuka begins during the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks.

More than a century later, around 175 BCE, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV was in control of the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs on the altar. Two groups opposed Antiochus: a basically nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee, and a religious traditionalist group known as the Pharisees. They joined forces in a revolt against both the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Seleucid Greek government. The Jewish revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated. According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the re-dedication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle.

When the Macabees went out to battle, they had no feasible chance of winning. Not only were the Jews fewer and weaker than the well-oiled Syrian Greek war machine, but amongst the Jews themselves, only a sparse few went out to battle under the command of Juda Macabee and his brothers. Thus the essential miracle of Chanukah was not the war victory, but rather the very fact that a few Jews realized that "things just cannot go on this way", they arose, and with immense faith in the Almighty, and in an act of incredible courage, declared war on the superpower of their day.
Think of it like the movie the 300, except that the Jews didn't lose!

The relevance of Chanukah is pertinent in modern times as well. When masses of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are against us, we train for war while hoping for peace.

Lots more here

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