Oy. Just Oy.If I were a Reform rabbi; if I were a leader of the establishment whose money and prestige have succeeded in capturing for himself 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 that 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 “Festival of Lights,” and it is an equal measure of the intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy of Jewish leadership that it plays along with the lie. For if ever there was a holiday that stands for everything that the masses 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 “un-Jewish” 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 Hanukah that came into vogue because Jewish parents – in their vapidness needed something to counteract Christmas; that exploded in a show of “we-have-lights-just-as-our-goyisha-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 that pictures the 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 to 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 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 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 kashrut, 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 naive 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 his troops into 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 worshiped?) 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 Ha’shomer Ha’tzair, 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, universalist (if not Marxist) religion, to honor? What kind of nationalism is this for Shimon Peres (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 lone 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 a Judaism is dangerous for us and our leaders. We must do all in our power to bury it.

Ed. Note: This was written by a Rabbi I once knew and does not necessarily represent the opinions of anyone at Jewlicious.

About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

28 Comments

  • I think that we shouldn’t bury Chanukah… we should reinvent it. We should throw away what society wants it to be and to make it our own holiday, what it used to be.

    A lot of my family (save for a small few) are completely secular, and don’t even understand the holiday, except as, “Christmas for Jews.” My parents don’t really believe in giving presents on Chanukah. Besides, do Christians get a holiday where they’re supposed to get incredibly drunk (and I’m not talking St. Patricks Day, people)? How many times have they escaped persecution? How can they begin to understand everything that the Jews have gone through in countless centuries.

    I don’t think Chanukah as unneccessary… it’s completely necessary. It’s just that it needs some slight tweaking, and should be there to make Jews proud, not give us lots of presents.

  • I think you’re missing the point, Zooka23.

    It’s a sarcastic message. All those who don’t follow the Torah and believe it as truth would have been killed by the heroes of the Channuka story. Those are most of today’s Jews. Those are most of the Jews who frequent, and a few that post on this site.

    Channuka is definitely necessary, more now than ever. Unfortunately, most of the Jews today are completely missing the point.

  • As a tribute to the Maccabee spirit might I humbly suggest some way to make life very uncomfortable for menorah.org, a Jews for J web site.

    Their email is menorah@menorah.org.

  • I think she meant reinvented back to what it originally was. That sort of reinvention might be a bit of a misnomer but not so innappropriate …

  • I am seriously annoyed with the “christmasization” of chanukah which seems to be driven by the media more than anyone else.

    The picture you included with this article I think sums up the media view perfectly.

  • Boy, what a ham. Talk about overdramatizing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Anyway, I’ll light our candles and eat our sufganiot, and teach my kid about standing up for your beliefs especially when people try to take away your right to practice your faith.

    Then I’ll tell him about our modern heroes, secular Jews who belong to HaShomer Hatzair and other secular movements, and who sat together in the same party as Peres – as did Ben Gurion and Rabin – and who fought bravely and at great risk to themselves and their loved ones so that we could have a Jewish state. Who fought to keep that state against those who promulgate hatred of Jews across the Arab and non-Arab worlds as did the Greeks of their day.

    Yup, while many of those Jews who represent the weak diaspora Jew – whose weakness and lack of desire to fight back against his enemies was abhorred and rejected by Israel’s warrior founders – lounge around in Jerusalem and Ramat Gan, enjoying the fruits of their brothers’ taxes, avoiding military service, and composing diatribes against those who send their children to fight and shed their blood so that they may practice Judaism freely as part of a reborn nation hearkening back to the days of the Maccabees, I will teach my son about those Jews who have returned to become a nation and have rejected the hypocrisy of those who consider themselves superior Jews.

    Hey, I like this cynical tone! It’s really easy to compose these things! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Of course I won’t forget to mention those Jews, CK. I admire them and consider them to be far closer to me than the others I’m going to tell him not to emulate.

    As for the patiphon shavur comment, note that it was you who created this post. It seemed like a taunt and the part of me with the Maccabean blood felt like responding.

  • Heh. You know, I consider Herzl a hero. And Ben Gurion, and the secular Kibbutznikim at Yad Mordechai, etc. etc. I’ve had communist MKs over at my house. I love all Jews.

    This post is not a taunt silly. I just threw it up there to stimulate discussion. Having said that however, I do note that you haven’t addressed any of the substantial points it presents. Just sayin ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And please, self confessed sheygetz that you are, I still submit that you are in all likelihood a better Jew than I, if I were ever going to make such a judgement, and all this despite the fact that I keep kosher and go to synagogue etc. etc. So please, can we move on?

  • *groan* Please do not forget to mention to your child, the generation after generation of religious, Orthodox Jews who
    a) maintained a continuous Jewish presence in Israel
    b) maintained Jewish culture and traditions and identity for thousands of years under the most difficult and deadly of circumstances so that our secular friends in Shomer Hatzair could hearken back to some vestige of Judaism and have a raison d’etre for their struggle
    c) who live in Israel, work, pay taxes, serve in the Army and compose the largest block of practicing Jews

    Yeah. Lets not forget those guys. Ya Allah chabibi, Patiphon Shavur!!

  • if chanuka hade not hapend there would not be jews to day the “greeks” (actualy asyrians who adopted greek culture) were forced the the jews to abadon there culture.
    1. its rong to conqure a people and make them like you.
    2. a people can not exist withoute culture an identity.
    3. jews were the people living in irael/judea what clame did the asyians have to it.
    the macabeas fought a repressive government with an ocupieing army to presurve there people there culture and yeas the judaism that was handed down to us at mount sini the judaism that made our ansesters ready to give there lives for the L*0rd this is is worth fighting for this is worth dieing for p.s. how the fuck is juaism bigoted!!!

  • The wonderful thing about Judaism is that it is both particularist and universalist at the same time and neither is really in conflict with each other. The story of Chanukah embodies this paradox magnificantly. The facts remain the same, but the meanings evolve, just as do Jews.

    From the particularist and parochial perspective, Chanukah is the story of the the Hashmonean violent battles and revolt against Hellenistic foreign pagan cultural imperialism and oppression through the use of The Maccabbi / Hammer. For that reason is the ultimate example of the muscular nationalism a/k/a Zionist – Jew.

    On the other hand, Chanukah does embody a universalistic message of the constant need to be vigilant in defense of the right of freedom of religion. Also, small miracles can happen(such as the oil lasting for 8 days) even in our own lives if only we are perceptive enough to see them and stop to smell the roses, so to speak.

    The centrist salient lesson from Chanukah is perhaps: Jews must defend, love and respect each other, our traditions, wisdom and culture together with everyone else who loves and respects us.

    HAPPY CHANUKAH & SHALOM Y’ALL !

  • I am not an observant Jew. I do not believe in Torah miSinai.
    I do say my prayers on most days. I can assure those Orthodox people who believe that they have the monopoly on belief in Hashem, that many if not all Reform, Conservative and other non-Orthodox Jews would have fought and died with the Maccabees and even I, a Sefardic middle of the road Jew (not religious enough for the Orthodox, and too religious for the Reform) would have fought and died with the Maccabees.

    Why?
    Because Antiochus Epiphanies and in general the Seleucid empire wanted to abolish our faith in Hashem. That was what was really at stake.

    Because 99 percent of Jews really do believe that there is an Eternal Creator of the Universe, who cannot and must not be represented by an idol, and is Indivisible, Unknowable, and always always Merciful to us and all humanity, with a Mercy and Kindness beyond human understanding. This is the core of our faith, and I’m certain that even the Samaritans and the Karaites agree with us on that.

  • that’s SO cute how you didn’t mention the name of the Rabbi who wrote it, because that would distract from the text itself.

    AS IF Chanuka started with the Maccabees, and was all about them! There’s a reason why chazal and the mishna don’t mention them at all… Rav Meir is absolutely right, we’r generally not honest enough about how our history, mostly because we don’t want to alienate ourselves from the magic of the rituals and community now, and don’t know enough to look beyond the facade of your our stories are saying deeper down.

  • Sean: “The centrist salient lesson from Chanukah is perhaps: Jews must defend, love and respect each other, our traditions, wisdom and culture together with everyone else who loves and respects us.”

    Just awesome. This is going to leave a mark!

    HAPPY CHANUKAH & SHALOM FROM A GENTILE SEAN !

  • This is a great blog.
    I remember telling a friend that if Judah Maccabee were alive today and saw a “Chanukah bush”, he would chop it down. He replied that our hero Judah would more likely kill the tree’s owner.
    However, do remember that at that point in our history, the alternative was the end of Judaism as a religion altogether. If the Hellenizing laws had been obeyed, there would have been no Mishnah, no Talmud, no Karaites, no Reform and definitely no latkes, gefilte fish or dafina.
    Today Judaism is not in danger. The only danger posed by those Chanukah bushes becoming Xmas trees is to those Jews who bring up their children that way. They risk not having Jewish grandchildren. I think the Maccabees would know that they had to change their response.
    Chag Sameach!

  • Judaism is in as much danger as ever!
    Like the story of Hannukah, the danger is in teh assimilation of Jews, the killing of our spiritm the oblivion of our values and traditions.
    In Hannukah we remember a time in which our prosecuters did not not try to kill us physically ( like so many other wars), buut spiritually. They were trying to kill the Jewish spirit by dissolving it into their pagan society.
    We are not free from that today. Slowly but surely I see Jews drifting away from the community, marrying outside the Jewish people and most of all , forgetting the values and priviledges that were entrusted to us by Gร‚ยดd. It is the same enemy as in the time of the Maccabees, only now, it is disguised and it is not an all out war.
    I have a sincere concern for the future of pur people not because of anti-semitism, but because of assimilation. Our numbers are diminishing and every generation we run the risk of becoming less and less.

  • I think the problem is if Jewish base their identity on tribalistic/ nationalistic or cultural feelings, that will all fade away. We have participated in Hellenistic, Roman, eastern European, Byzantine, Turkish, Arabic, French, German, Spanish, Italian cultures, you name it- and what is left of all that, now that we’re in the global Americano-European culture? Only faith, prayer and good actions stand the test of time.

  • but if we lose our culture we lose who we truely are and as long as we keep our culture the religion is safe becaus the 2 are linked AND CAN NOT BE SEPERATED. the jews of spain would have wiped out if they didnt try to wipe them out.

  • i totally agree that Hanuka is an absurd holiday.
    i do not feel need to apologize for the Maccabees deeds , they fought for keeping Judaism from extinction, in this matter you some time in order to free and liberal you have to use severe means , however the fundamental freedom fighters pretty soon became the dictators and by matityahu grandson the royal family took Greek names. so were celebrating(and for almost two thousand years not just recent time) the miracle of some oil can. so we no for some time to use the desired context. nothing new under the sun.

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