Class 4-festivals of the jewish year

Class 4-festivals of the jewish year - 232 The Minor...

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Unformatted text preview: 232 The Minor Holidays All that go down into the dust Shall make obeisance to Him. Even if a man be himself not spared to life, His heirs shall yet serve God. The tale of the Lord shall be told to each succeeding age; To a people still to be born men shall tell how He dealeth aright. iii-:5 . II.- 2.1 - I. _I__I - :‘I: - :- - ' r . . - -. - '-'. - .31“-.. - . - II'! ._ __ I I. . ' . I ' _ - _ II _. . II: 1. .. .1!” -‘ ..r _ '. 1 . '. .-'!a-' - "' 'II" .'-"-"‘.- -.' gal-h II ‘ - I 4;? r. _ '1' '_ifig'f' "- 3" t .. . _ -' '__- III III"; I"_-. 1- 1.! _ .a'II I - .- ' ' " ' - _ 'Iu' - '.I—- - _ .—. -.'-r fish-IF .- ..-. . ' "I. - r +r'l . ' ." . |-'I .- - _ ."I a - 1' , '5,- aifim- “_- ;'I;IJI I '-'...- I " . I ':1'... J'J'I F% "'I _I.' . - I I,- - I 3-71—1155 4‘ I. ..‘i- .r_ _ 'I ' I “I. _: I-‘L! ~L‘ . “._.a'I-I ,I III-II III_I ._. _ I _I _ IIIII- ;. mfi-E-r‘ak-i't-I-III . .- " '_ 'F' '-' ;.I'__ I-I. 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V .I luv-I -'.I_ :,__- I: _ u' " "" _ j? _ II _ III-i I I‘ll #:1- III .‘I=_ . ', - 11' The Feast of Light: HANUKKAH --l.. J- -. .a :a .. H”. '4: H -.._J. ' I. -I- r‘ "- "- _..l_. _.| Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, is the only '. _'-.".‘:",i-.. 1",; - .. important Jewish festival that is not mentioned in the Bible. It is celebrated for eight days, begmnmg on the twenty_fifth of Kislev (December), to commemorate the victory of Judah the Maccabee and his followers over the forces of the Syrian king, Antiochus IV, and their re- dedication of the defiled Temple in Jerusalem, in 165 B.C.E. The story is told in the First and Second Books of the Maccabees, which form part of the Apocrypha, and in the writings of the Greek historian Polybius (ca. i.- 204-122 _B.C.E.). It may be summarized as follows:- 0n the death of Alexanderthe Great, in 323 B.C.E., his empire was divided among his generals. One of the "results of that division was that Palestine remained a bone 234. The Minor Holidays of contention between the kingdoms of Syria in the north and Egypt in the south. After passing, for several gener- ations, from one to the other, it was finally conquered by the Syrian monarch, Antiochus the Great, in 198 B.C.E. When, after the assassination of his elder brother Seleucus, Antiochus IV succeeded to the throne of Syria, in 175 B.C.E., he decided almost at once to launch a military campaign against the rival kingdom of Egypt. The purpose of this adventure was not only to extend his dominion but also—and more particularly—to fore- stall possible reprisals for the seizure of Palestine which his father had accomplished. To prevent subversion at home, however, it was necessary to weld the disparate ' elements of the population into a single united front, and this the monarch attempted to do by introducing a form of cultural totalitarianism. A particular thorn in his flesh were the Jews in the recently vanquished land, for these regarded themselves as its rightful owners and persisted in maintaining a dis- tinctive manner of life. Antiochus’ first move was there- fore to depose their “orthodox? high priest, Onias, and __ to install in his place his more Greek-minded brother, Joshua. Joshua—who promptly changed his name to Ja-_ ' constructed a gymnasium; he persuaded the Jewish gentry : u: i to adopt Greek costume;and underhis benevolent eye, the junior priests deserted the service of the sanctuary to engage in Greek sports. ' These trends and innovations split Jewry wide open, for while the upper classes and many members of the priesthood went along cheerfully with the new drive to- ward “assimilation,” the more conservative elements I reacted by organizing a movement called the Pietists ' H A N U K KA H 235 (Hasidim), dedicated to maintaining the traditional pat- terns of Judaism by passive and—if need be—clandestine resistance. In 163, however, matters came to a head. Antiochus, about to lay siege to Alexandria, the capital of Egypt, found himself suddenly presented with an ultimatum from Rome, ordering him to desist. Unable to face so formid- able an opponent, he was obliged to comply. But this merely strengthened his resolve to achieve a solid front at home and to impose a tighter control on those of his subjects whom he could not but regard as a potential fifth column. In the following year, therefore, he de- cided to implement his previous measures by the estab- lishment of a “state church" under which the several religions of his subjects were to be subsumed. The god of this “church” was to be the Greek Zeus, with whom all of the national gods were to be promptly identified; and in order to indicate that it was simply an organ of the state, Antiochus claimed, in accordance with a practice common among the Seleucid and Ptolemaic. kings, to be that deity’s visible incarnation, arrogating to himself the title of “Epiphanes,” or “(God) Manifest," and '_ _ ordering that title henceforth to be stamped upon the coins of the realm. This policy constituted a break with the sys— _ I tem of cultural self-determination and pluralism, to use our modern phrases, which had prevailed since the days of Alexander the Great, 3. system under which the em- pire had been regarded rather as a union of vassal peo- ples, politically subservient to a central government, but culturally and religiously independent. In pursuit of it, Antiochus issued a decree prohibiting, on pain of death, any expression of Jewish distinctive- f- ness, and ordering the Temple services to be accommo-_; dated to the new national religion. When his officers?“ 236 The Minor Holiday: 53' HANUKKAH visited the small town of Modin (today called al Ar aim) to supervise enforcement of the measure, an aged JcWiSh priESt named Mattathiesi of the family of the Has— ’ ' "101163th offered resistance. In the words of the First Book of the Maccabees (2 :17-28) : his third son, Judah, surnamed the Maccabee; and after a succession of singular victories over police expeditions dispatched by Antiochus, the partisans eventually stormed the Temple hill, drove out the garrison, cleansed the sanctuary andre-established the traditional Order of serv- ices. The event is said to have taken place, by a dra- matic coincidence, on the third anniversary of Antiochus’ order of desecration. The Maccabees celebrated their triumph with an eight-day festival, and, with the consent of the ecclesiastical authorities, enjoined that it be per- petuated in Israel as the Feast of Dedication. The festival is today one of the most popular of Jewish Observances. At the same time, one may suspect with reason that its current interpretation has thrown it con- 'siderably out of focus and obscured much of its real sig- Then said the king’s oficers unto Mattathias: “Thou art a leader, a prominent and important man in this town, strengthened with sons and brethren: now therefore come thou first and do the com; ' mandment of the king, as all the pagans and the men of Judah and they that remain in Jerusalem have done; so shalt thou and thy household be reckoned in the royal entourage, and both thou and thy sons shall be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.”F But Mattathias answered in a loud voice: "Even if all the nations _ within the king’s dominions hearken unto him to fall away each one from its ancestral faith, and even if they choose to follow his ' commandments, yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in 7 the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake " '- the law and the ordinances. We will not hearken to the king’s - nificancc- words, to go aside from our faith, either to the right hand or to - if" . In the conventional exposition, 'the central theme of H *. , I l :1: 1e“- - 3». Hanukkah IS usually represented as the v1ctory of Hebra- ow wh ' ' . . - . . Jew 3 then- b}: hid $215th .fi’eakmghthefc words’ .dle: came a 1sm over Hellemsm——that 13, of Jemsh over Greek values. 1n e 51g 0 a o sacn ce on e a tar . . . m t e manner Th ' I i 'r - -i - . ' e revolt of the Maccabees a must the ower of Antl- prescnbed by the kmg’s commandment. But when Mattathlas saw._;;,§§'.§lf g p him, his zeal was inflamed'and his passions were stirred, . . Dehus IV 15 confidered’ as It were’ no_m0r_e than 'the and he slew himbesidethe altar...“ . . . And Mattathias cried out?" __:,_part1cular but, so to speak, routine historlcal settmg in the eitY in a loud. voice: __f§Whoever_is zealous for the Law within which this momentous symbolic triumph happened A,“ . _— .. 'fi' -:L-_"' .'. f - 'I would maintain the Covenan_t+le_t him follow me.” _,,:: to be achieved. The antagonists in the struggle are the And he and hls 5°93 fig‘if" thehllls- '_' people of Jehovah on the one hand, and of Zeus onthe' At first, 1t was dlficult for the partisans of Mattathiasii Iii-7: Other: 13‘” these Chief Charade” 0f the drama are only _ superficially linked with the authentic realities of either . .- - +~_"' _-_.. ‘ — r1 -: -. 1':- fish's.- to find common ground with the alternative movement the Pietists. The latter tended to regard glous hotheads more mterested 1n natlonallstic chauvinxsm}??? *4- a: -'|".-r ' them as irreliéf: . 237 ' aged Mattathias, this combined movement was headed by .‘._ the politics or the culture of the period: they are little more than conventional lay figures in the simplest moral than in the real defense of their ancestral faith. Later: 'ififahle- The Jews Stand for the Torah-hellnd—that i3. mOF- " however, under thezpressureof a rising emergency, and religiOUSlY boundeaY 0f. llfe: and the Greelfs '. ological difierences .‘were subordinated to a unified are e Coneetien 0f hedOmStS dedicated to the PUTS?“ _ i of physical and esthetic delights and to the cultivation 3*; d. a ,h . _ i- '-|_-| ...'|- - .|. u - . -. ;. J a gram of militant resistance. Following the deathlof .. I" ‘1}? h I Phi: 7'71- . - He'd-.6 I‘F" '-P_'!ilir1 "1"!- 233 The Minor Holidays and- worship of,beauty. The Greeks, we are told, saw religion in beauty, whereas the Jews saw beauty in the divine law; the battle between them was, in fact, a chal- lenge flung from Zion against Helicon, and the victory was that of the synagogue over the gymnasium. Greek culture, in this view, is a heathen abomination, and the cleansing of- the temple by Judah and his followers re- moved defilement not only from the House of God but equally from the lives of men. What is wrong with this presentation is that it totally adapts both the authentic facts and the true religious meaning to fit a superficial romanticized ideal. It is plain from the record that the Maccabean revolt was not in- spired by a mere ideological resistance to Hellenism. Its purpose was deeper and'more precise. First, it was designed to safeguard the actual identity of the Jews. In Israel—as throughout the ancient Near East—church and state were coextensive, religion being not so much a matter of confession and belief as the semi tioned regimen of communal economy. Any interference with the administration of the Temple or with the prac- tice of traditional religious rites therefore involved ipso fable an impairment, if not a dissolution, of Israel’s dis- tinctive identity. Second, the resistance was designed to safeguard the constitutional status quo. Inthis, Mattathias and his fol:- lowers were championing a cause which, transcending the particular interests of the Jews, extended also to all the national groups within the empire. This is apparent from _ the very words of his defiance, for modern studies have shown that when the aged priest spoke of “walking in the covenant of our fathers,” he was using a phrase commonly - employed in documents of the Hellenistic period relat-_ HANUKKAH #39- ing to the conferment of cultural or religious independ- ence, not only upon Jews, but also upon other national groups. He was therefore proclaiming his intention not only of remaining faithful to Israel’s traditional covenant with Jehovah, but also of defending the established Clvu: rights of the Jews against arbitrary abrogation. An equally serious distortion of history is the preva- lent idea that the Maccabean revolt represented a people’s uprising of the Jews against their Syrian overlord. For while it is true that the movement eventually attracted a large number of supporters, the record makes it perfectly plain that the official spokesmen of the Jewish commumty were hostile to it and, moreover, that the bulk of the Jewish population was already so far gone in the process . of assimilation that the championship of Israel’s distlnc- tive identity meant nothing to it. The high priest at the time was a rank “collaborationist,” and the accredited leaders of the Jews were what might be described as “Hellenes of the Mosaic persuasion.” It was only after Mattathias and his followers had gained the support of the religious pietists and, by a fanatical vigilantist cam— paign, had forced the apostates back into the fold, that they could muster sufficient strength to offer serious op- position to the state. Thus we read in the First Book of Maccabees (2:45-48): “Mattathias and his associates went the rounds, tearing down the heathen altars forcibly circumcising children upon whom the operation; .. had not been performed . . . And they pursued after. the sons of pride . . . And they delivered the Law out of the hand of the kings; neither suffered they the sin-3f] ner to triumph.” As this passage indicates, the Maccabean a revolt was from first to last a minority movement, di-fjf‘i. rected as much against degeneration within as against?- 240 The Minor H olideys .75 f ' oppression from without. And therein, indeed, lies no small part of its true significance, and hence of the per- manent lesson of Hanukkah. Nor is it only on historical grounds that the conven- tional presentation of the festival is open to objection. Equally assailable is the very antithesis it implies between Hebraism and Hellenism, for this is, as we have sug- gested, more a contrast between artificial modern stere- otypes than between actual cultures as they existed at the time. No balanced person believes today that the Frenchman is necessarily amorous, the Englishman taci- turn, or the Jew sly. In the more abstract realm of culture and ideas, however, the stereotype still reigns. To the- average American, for instance, Mohammedanism is still a compound of muezzins, sheikhs, the Koran, and a permit to have four Wives; while the epic struggle be.- tween the democratic and communist theories of society tends to be conceived, in the popular mind, asa trading of blows between a stereotype Main Street on the one ' hand, and a stereotype Kremlin on the other. The same kind of facile generalization and superficial caricature '7 produces the conventional antithesis between Hebrewi-fiffi and Greek cultures. For. while it is true that the by and large, preferred ; speculation to revelation as means of interpreting theuniverse, and while it is that the Greeks were inclinedto be less impressed than Were the Hebrewswithithecauthority. of transcendental law, it is a pernicious exaggeration-to regard esthetics as exclusively “Greek”; and morals as exclusively “He? brew,” and only an insensitiyefindunperceptive tinism can pit the one against the other as opposing -_ was. The issues raised by Greek" tragedies and discussed in many of the Platonic dialogues are essentially moral, even if the approach to them is through philosophy i. . ~ m. rlfl' rug-.2 -‘. sés.‘ J__| I“ . _.I\.. 1 .- -_' ._ '- PT . :1 he I l _' I - .:.I. - _.:_'.-.rj. iie 'i. lL' 2" I‘ 57325: El:- 3- Iflf'l “i . '5‘?“ :. 'I |.- 'r' a. _- l - . - I -. I “'5'. _. - ' '.-:1 ' , -p.+. " ,1 - .Ir.-:- . a I . HANUKKAH 2“ rather than revelation. Such Greek gnomic poets as wordly shrewdness and practical expedience. Similarly, the prophetic and poetic books of the Bible—-—the speeches of God to Job, for example—suffice to show that an esthetic, even sensuous, appreciation of nature was by no means foreign to the Hebrew temperament. Moreover, even if the alleged contrast between Greek and Hebrew. culture could in fact be maintained for the Classical age of the former and the earlier Biblical pe- riods of the latter, it certainly did not obtain in the time of the Maccabees. For the so-called Hellenism of the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires was no exemplar of the ideals of Periclean Athens, but a strange, bizarre amal- gam of Greek and Oriental influences. Indeed, it is sig- atic extraction. Equally misleading is the presentation of the Macca- r bean revolt as a resistance to the abstract principle of I totalitarianism. Such a picture has an obvious appeal to the contemporary mind, but is totally incorrect. F orfthe _' fact is that the distinctive Jewish culture which Matta- thias and his followers sought to defend and preserve?” was itself essentially totalitarian, resting on the theory that every aspect of life must be governed by the dic-_ if"?- tates of a transcendental law (Torah) and subsumed under the contour of a divine plan supposedly revealed . in that law. Nor, indeed, were the Maccabees prepared ' to compromise this totalitarianltheory through any defer- ence to individual conscience. The concept of personal 242 The Minor Holidays H A N U K KA H ' 343 a source of replenishment. What he did was simply to commandeer, in the interest of the state, a particular section of the national wealth; and it may even be sup- posed that a further motive was to prevent the possible use of this wealth to assist his foes. All of this does not mean, of course, that Antiochus did not treat the Jews with extreme harshness and bar- barity; the records state-that his confiscation of the Tem- ple treasures (in 169 B.C.E.) was accompanied by a - massacre of some forty thousand Jews in Jerusalem alone. The point is, however, that his measures were dictated by political expediency and not by hostility to Jews or Judaism per 56, so that the conventional portrayal of him as a mere bloodthirsty anti-Semite is, once again, a se- rious distortion of history. As a matter of fact, the Incas-e ures which Antiochus directed against the Jews were to do so by. force and regimentation. An alternative popular presentation portrays the Syr- ian monarch as a kind of early Hitler and his assault upon the Jews as inspired only by virulent hatred of them. This, too, is a caricature. There is no evidence whatso- ever that Antiochus Was an anti-Semite, and the explana- tion has been advanced only by a process of ex post facto reasoning or by a desire to account on a psychological - basis for Antiochus’ sudden break with the more tolerant policy of his predecessors. The fact is that Antiochus was motivated entirely by political considerations. I pet, the arrangement did not work. The old captive con- tlnued to plot resrstance, and the ambitions of Rome in directed also against other national groups. The Samari— tans, for example, were likewise 'obliged to turn over the temple on Mount Gerizim to the cult of Zeus, while at Daphne even the Greek Apollo had, apparently, to take second place beside the new national god. The policy in- augurated by the. monarch was based on what he con-g- ceived to be the stern necessities of a political situation; not on a mere racial bigotry, and the proscription i ' distinctive Jewish practices was motivated not by ideolog-fi' ' ical opposition to them but by the urgent need of con-.9. "solidating a diverse and polyglot population in the face relation to Egypt were Providing a further obstacle to the plans of thclsyr i311 king. Moreover. it was an actual fact and not a mere void suspicion that many national gm” within his 0W" borders: and among them a goodly portion of the Jews, were partial to the Egyptian cause, _' . so that the possibility of a “fifth column" was ever pres— a national emergenCY«- It is important to draw a diStinC'f': ent. Antiochus was therefore faced with a grave situation, tiOn—all 1:00 Often ignored—between primary and In: ' "' '-I I . a '. "‘ -I.. I. .". ' 1_- I .H-l- -h -J _ and perhaps the only way to meet it was indeed to impose , Cidental OPPI‘ESSiOH. t0 aVOid indging mOtiVes by Bfiectfir .by force a unity which'he could not create by persua- _Ii.- '. h" " ' - 'I- 1. hut "' ~i !- . . t-I- .' ." -' '-. ' “.- ~'1E' ' sroanhen, too, it must be remembered that the cam-'7‘; .i‘I'r :‘Efii‘and to realize that many forms of suffering which Jews- .'- 1 ' r I. - I.” . _ .- - "- I . . II. I. . '. 1; :ii'. J iii-undergo are no more the products of discrimination or - r. ._fi_ . _.._ir-___ paign against Egypt had put a strain on his finances, and _ the treasures ofthe Jewish Temple in Jerusalem offered I anti-Semitism than is an epidemic or a railroad disaster n Wthh happens to claim Jews among 1ts VlCtll'IlS. . . I 'I-I__-. '- .. i h - ni- ': ._ -‘.i-P' _ . _ . . fl.- .._-.I fl .-I._,_ “"1 J} 244. The Minor H oIiday: ’ HANUKKAH 2‘15 only effective answer to oppression is the intensified positive assertion of the principles and values Wthh that oppression threatens. What inspired the movement of the Maccabees was not simply an abstract and academic dislike of tyranny but a desire to safeguard and evince an identity and way of life which was in danger of ex— tinction. It therefore consisted not only in a fight against Antiochus but also in a fight for Judaism, the military up- rising going hand in hand with an almost fanatical crusade for the internal regeneration of the Jewish people. The combination was not fortuitous nor was It due If then, the conventional picture is distorted and Han- ukkah does not in fact celebrate a victory of Hebraism over Hellenism, or a mass uprising of the Jews against the principle of "totalitarianism, or a triumphant resistance to anti-Semitic bigotry, what does the festival celebrate? What is its permanent and universal value, and what relevance has it for the present day? The answer is im- plicit in the analysis which we have given above, for al- though our examination of the problem may have seemed, at first glance, unduly negative, it in fact issues in posi- tive conclusions. These may be stated briefly under two heads. First, Hanukkah commemorates and celebrates the first serious attempt in history to proclaim and champion the principle of religio-cultural diversity in the nation. The primary aim of the Maccabees was, as we have seen, to preserve their own Jewish identityand to safeguard for Israel the possibility of continuing its traditional mission. ' Though inspired, however, by the particular situation of their own people, their struggle was instinct with univer- sal implications. For what was really being defended was the principle that in a diversified society the function of ‘ the state is to embrace, not subordinate, the various con- stituent cultures, and that the complexion and character of the state must bedetermined by a natural process of , fusion on the one hand and selection on the other, and not by the arbitrary imposition of a single pattern on all a- 1. of the pietists whom Mattathias and Judah rallied to their cause. On the contrary, it was fundamental. For the Mac- cabees, the Jews were a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, a society of men dedicated to attesting the pres- ence of God and to exemplifying His law and dispensa- tion on earth. It was for the continuance of this religious- ethical mission as God’s witnesses that they were primarily fighting, and the struggle for civil rights was merely a means to this high purpose. The real issue at Stake was not the right of the Jews to be like everyone else, but their right to be different; and victory meant not the at- tainment of civic equality (which after all, was what Antiochus was offering!) but the renewal, after its forced --.. suspension, of that particular and distinctive way of life's-gt” which embodied and exemplified the Jewish mission.'Th_e mark of that victory, therefore, was not a triumphal pa-.':;_.§__;._'I_, rade but an act of dedication —-the cleansing of the defiled :: Temple. Moreover, when the Jews wished to perpetuatel_;__-5§::;I.;:3 the memory of their achievement, what they chose to turn ' into an annual festival was not the day of some success but the week in which the House of God elements. I Seen from this point of View, therefore, Hanukkah pos— ' sesses broad human significance and is far more than a i more Jewish national celebration.‘As afestival of liberty, * i it celebrates more than the independence of one people—— it glorifies the right to freedom of all peoples. Second, Hanukkah affirms the universal truth that the Til “:1 I. . J J_ been cleansed and the fire rekindled on the altar. There}; it's-1 . 1-45,,- rife“ I. ,. . I _ H: -- it,“ :e'.*__-_ " PI- 1-;1-‘irni q "f. _ , 'I'i I... 1-. liq . 1: ' . i . i 246 The Minor flolidays , H A N U K KA H 347 ' Rock of ages, let our song Praise Thy saving power; Thou, amidst the raging foes, Wast our shelt'ring tower. Furious they assailed us, But Thine arm availed us; And Thy word Broke their sword When our own strength failed us. is an important meaning in this, one feels, for our own , day, and especially in connection with the problem of - safeguarding civil rights. ' Concerning the actual observance of Hanukkah, there is little to say. The only religious ceremony which at- taches to the celebration is the kindling of the lights each evening at dusk. The usual practice is to start with one light and to increase the number by one on each succes- sive evening, the flames being lit from right to left, after the direction of Hebrew writing. Some ancient authori- ties insist, however, that all eight lamps should be kindled each night. The candle which is used for the actual kindling is known popularly as the shammas, or “beadle.” The lighting of the lamps is accompanied by an appropriate blessing and by a brief statement in He- brew to the eHect that the ceremony commemorates “the miracles, deliverance, deeds of power and acts of salva- tion” wrought by God at this season, and that the lights are not to be used for any utilitarian purpose; “they are only to be seen." Afterthe lamps have been lit, the Thirtieth Psalm is h intoned. This bears the title, “A Psalm, a Song for the or .' Dedication of the House," and therefore serves as appropriate “anthem” of the festival. Ashkenazic Jews "_ also sing—to the same tune as Luther’s famous hymn, j: N zm freut euchi liebe Christen gmei—a- rousing chantfiigi: Children of the martyr-race, Whether free or fettered, Wake the echoes of the songs Where ye may be scattered. Yours the message cheering, That the time is nearing Which shall see All men free, Tyrants disappearing. In fulfillment of the commandment not to use-the lamps for mere “functional” purposes, it is customary to -tv'l‘ called trendels, or playing an ancient form of take,” in which the die is marked with the Hebrew _ characters N G H S. These really stood for the Judeo- German words nimm, “take,” gib, “give,” halb, “half,” r and stall, “put”; but they were popularly interpreted the initial letters of the Hebrew motto, N as Gadol H ayah Sham, “A great miracle took place there." “I The services in the synagogue are the same as those on _ ordinary weekdays, except that the Hallel, or Psalms of _ Praise (Pss. I 13—1 18) are chanted and a short passage is inserted in the Standing Prayer reciting the victory - Iiof the Maccabees. The latter insertion is made at the Ii" _ .-r j...- I .F I‘— 'l- I ‘- '.l "r... - '- . I. |. Ir-IJI:~_-.I - -. . {F1- ._ 1:. - 4 called from its opening words M aoz. Zur (“Fortress Rock”). This chant, the authorship and date of are uncertain, recites the various deliverances of Israel from the days of Pharaoh to, those of Antiochus, but there is nothing to show that it was originally composed for Hanukkah. Thefollowing is a modern adaptation, in the same meter, by the late Gustav Gottheil ( I 827-1 903) : _ l.- 11—3-1- .. I _.' .'-1- Mn. .5- .iI- "- I: . . ,5: . I 1 .‘i ' i : . Ir; ' I 243 The Minor Holiday: ' r point where thanks are rendered to God for his “miracles which are ever withus and for His wonders and acts of grace which are wrought at all times, at evening, mom and noon.”-Moreover, in order to bring home the con- tinuity of Israel's religious institutions, the portion of the Pentateuch describing the dedication of the sanc- tuary in the wilderness (Num. 6:22—8:4) is read pro- gressively in the mornings of the festivals. I It cannot be denied that Hanukkah possesses certain militant, revolutionary undertones, and these have often conspired to create around it a certain atmosphere of embarrassment. During the time of the Roman adminis- tration, for example, there were not wanting those who considered it imprudent, even dangerous, for the Jewish minority openly to observe a festival celebrating rebel- lion against a ruling power; and it is significant that Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, the compiler of the Mish- nah, tried desperately to suppress any reference to Ha- nukkah even as he sought also to minimize the importance of Purim, another occasion purportedly commemorating victory over an alien sovereign. ' ' A curious reflection of this attitude may be seen in the prominence which has come to be attached to H3.- nukkah lights. The lights are not even mentioned in the Book of the Maccabees. 'Modern scholars are therefore inclined to think that they had Originally nothing what- soever to do with-the festival, but, like the candles of Christmas represent only an adaptation of the famil- iar pagan custom of lighting .candles or kindling fires at the winter solstice as ai'means of reluming the decadent sum-The significant " thing,?however,-is that embarrass-' ment over the more militant aspects of Hanukkah caused theJews to seize upon this. purely secular and even heathen ~ .dflI-l- I I..._ . I . .'-II- .' .1--'Il._ 5‘.- _' .3. I E ~ T: ,a - ‘IJ— ' E‘.i _ 1..- -7 .. I If . 1!: .I__ .F- "r , 3". wt: -"' “' r.=. I. .k‘ 1' persuasion. Accordingly, what the Maccabees were out- to defend was not the rightof every individual to wort “Li; .1.‘ - ' 1' s. him-1‘2. *- '..-_: _... HANUKKAH .443” custom, Judaizing it by an appropriate legend, in order to divert attention into more innocuous quarters. (M um:- tis mutandis, it is as if the Catholic Church, nervous about the implications of the Christmas story, had officially sub—. stituted the Yule log for the cradle in the manger as the symbol of the day when Jesus was born.) Nevertheless, with characteristic genius the Jews made of this originally foreign and heathen custom the most fitting symbol of the festival’s real message; for the __ lights were taken to represent the Temple candelabrum which Judah and his followers had rekindled and thus came to epitomize the truth that Hanukkah is not simply the V-day of the nationalvictory of the Maccabees but I essentially a feast of dedication. What had originally sym- bolized the mere physical regeneration of the sun, or of nature, from year to year, was thus transmuted into a symbol of revival on the spiritual plane, becoming in: deed, as our fathers told us, a brave light in a naughty likewise felt certain awkward and embarrassing sistencies between the Maccabee’s zeal for Jewish rights;- {"53"} _ and their intolerant persecution of those who haPPCHBSle-iijf I; _ to disagree with their outlook; the forced circumclslogII-jfa_- of Jewish infants, for example, seems strangely'itnconéi gruous with the championship of freedom of belief. The"- explanation, however, is very simple: we must not read__ modern ideas and ideals into an ancient story. At the 250 The Minor H olidays ship God in his own way, but "rather the mission of Israel as a collective unit to serve as God's witnesses and to exemplify His Torah. Those who refused to accept this obligation were therefore just as much enemies of their cause as were any foreign oppressors, so that the ' Maccabees’ policy toward them, however distasteful it may seem by later standards, was at the time both logi- cal and consistent. Our-modern revulsion at this policy is simply an example of the way the insights and perspec- tives of subsequent ages often call into question the ideals underlying traditional institutions. However it is interpreted, and no matter where the emphasis is placed, the significance of Hanukkah for the modern Jew stems from the story of the Maccabees and depends on the tradition that it was founded by them to commemorate the triumph of their cause and the rededication of the Temple in 16 5 B.C.E. Modern schol— ars have suspected, however, that the real origin of the festival may lie elsewhere—possibly even in a more an- cient pagan institution which the Jews adopted and then rationalized by this story. A favorite starting point for such speculation is the fact that in the Second Book of Maccabees (I :9), when the Jews of Jerusalem exhort their brethren in Egypt to adopt the annual celebrationof Hanukkah, they describe it as “the Festival of.__.-.-._:_Booths in the Month of Kislev." Thishas suggested to some authorities that Hanukkah was in origin simply a ,_“postponed_Succoth,” and support for this view is drawn .fromthe express statement in that same book that Judah and, his followers “kept the eight days with rejoicing in the manner of the Feast of Booths . . .. carrying wands wreathed with green and season- able branches and palms”~(10:7-8). The true explana- tion of these puzzling phrases would seem, however, to HANUKKAH Zfl be quite different. The fact is that both the First and the Second Temples had been dedicated at the Feast of Booths (see I Kings 8:2,65; Neh. 8:13-18), and in order to dramatize the occasion, Judah and his followers made a point ofcopying the traditional ritual of that festival when they cleansed and rededicated the sacred edifice. Accordingly, when the Jews of Jerusalem de- scribed the festival as “the Feast of Booths in the month of Kislev" their words are not to be taken literally but mean simply “the December version of Succoth.” Another view starts from the Hanukkah lights, fanning them indeed into a veritable blaze. This view, which has recently been developed .and elaborated, with char- acteristic brilliance and ingenuity, by Dr. Julian Morgen- stern of Hebrew Union College, claims that back of Hanukkah there lies a pagan festival of either the au- tumn equinox or the winter solstice, both of which occasions were (and still are) marked in many parts of the world by the lighting of candles or fires. In that case, the resemblance to the equinoctial Feast of Booths (when, according to the Mishnah, bonfires and, torches were indeed lit in Jerusalem) would, of course, have readily sprung to mind, and this would sufficiently account for the description of the festival as “Booths in Kislev.” There is, however, a very obvious objection to this view, and it was stated clearly many years ago by that redoubtable student of ancient religions, Professor Martin Nilsson: Hanukkah is determined by the lunar calendar whereas equinoxes and solstices depend, of course, on a solar reckoning; accordingly, there is no if. - assurance that Hanukkah will in fact coincide with either event. Lastly, there is the present writer’s theory which, _-.r;._._.-i;.:=' while accepting the historicity of the traditional account,'fjf.:_;5;;.:+ 252 The Minor Holidays i‘ '~ H A N U K KA H ' 253: relieved to be free at last of the necessity of living on the”. mountains like wild beasts, it is perhaps not too fanci--.' ful to recognize in his statement a pointed contrast with the devotees of Dionysus who of their own free will were happy to dress up in skins and simulate animals. Lastly, when he observes casually that the light for the altar fire was furnished by the normal process of strik- ing flints, he may well have been wishing to suggest to his readers how different this was from the bizarre dip- ping of the torches in the rites of the Greek godl Whether any of these theories is right cannot now be known; all of them are based on deductions from" fragmentary and inconclusive evidence. But they are nob-f . mere academic trivialities; for if any one of them vindicated, it will shed important light on how, in course of the ages, the festival has developed and been]. transmuted by the Jewish genius; and that development and transmutation into a religious and humanistic festival - of broad universal meaning is an integral part of its significance. At the moment, however, we must simply fl wait for more light 'of the kind that comes from knowledge and commentary, and new insights. Perhaps-,Jj after all, there is'aiprofound lesson in the fact that x Hanukkah lights increase from day to day and that their-9 full radiance is achieved only by gradual stages. suggests that the peculiar form of celebration which Judah and his followers chose was motivated not only by a desire to imitate the dedication of the First and Second Temples at Succoth but also to satirize the contemporan- eous Greek festival of the rural Dionysia. The festival fell towards the end of December and in many centers it was celebrated only every other year. When the appointed season came around, the votaries of Dionysus would dress themselves up in the skins of fawns or foxes, crown themselves with wreaths of ivy, bear in their hands small staves ornamented with foliage and tipped with pine cones, and then rush madly to the mountains, where torchlight revels were held throughout the night. Every so often, the torches would be lowered and dipped for a moment in wine or water, so that the ensuing spurt of flame might symbolize the fiery and luminous char- acter of the god. The ceremonies instituted by Judah and his followers would have constituted a pointed satire on these rites.~ I In place of the filthy “purifications” of the pagans, these devoted Jews. cleansed and purified the House of God. In ‘place of the-orgiasticfestal parade, they reverently circuited the altar. --fi-I_nstead off- the wreathed wands, they carried the lulab. .Instead of the frenzied shouts, they recited psalms. Andinsteadof waving torches, they relit the sacred candelabrum.-}a; -,:-..~:_:.f_-—: , . . The writerof the accountin the Second Book of the Maccabees seems,}findeed,~Zto.:;l1aveabeen aware of the satire. When he speaks of the resumption of the services of God, he subtly'stresses that this took place after a I two-year interval, and in these words we may perhaps I; detect a sly jibe at the biennial festival of the heathen. Similarly, when he goes out of his way to observe that the participants inthe Jewish ceremony were distinctly Like Passover and Purim, Hanukkah is regarded as the. commemoration of a miracle. But, despite the ancient idiom which so portrays it, that miracle is not an act of..- 1.supernatural grace. Rather is it the working within mant-~ iof a passion which transcends the momentary and spurns ' . 5""? ' J‘I} fir... l' I, ' 1% F. 4:: . -..;~.;.;;__ithe opportune. Its symbol is appropriately the light ' '3 I I I l ' Tillumrnes the House of God; and the real miracle [S that?" 5 I_ _-\. I a 1 ‘1. ".1. ‘_ 'u gifithe light is never extinguished. . .‘F: - . 'l' - ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/17/2010 for the course ARTS ATOC 230 taught by Professor Henson during the Spring '10 term at McGill.

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Class 4-festivals of the jewish year - 232 The Minor...

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