By Patrick Aleph
The miracle of Hanukkah, I think, is the fact that we turned a civil war between fundamentalists and moderates into a celebration of potatoes and jelly doughnuts. Let me explain.
While it is true that the Hanukkah narrative involves the rededication of the Temple ransacked by the Syrians, the actual conflict leading up to the temple desecration was a cultural move away from what at the time would be considered traditional Jewish practice, to a hybrid of Jewish law, in the context of Greek culture. The Hellenistic Jews, it seems, were assimilated Jews who wanted to combine the best-of-both-worlds into one practice. And this really made the orthodox Jews angry. War erupted, with the traditionalist Maccabees winning against the Hellenists. Then comes the oil miracle, and now we play religiously sanctioned gambling with chocolate.
“If the Maccabbes were still around, we’d be dead” said Michael, our Alterna-Rebbe. And I agreed. In 2004, a group of rabbis tried to revive the Sanhedrin in Israel, a move that did absolutely nothing but make Westernized Jewry laugh. But I do wonder, could a time ever come where a court of Jewish law will slaughter anyone that doesn’t fit into the religious mold that the traditionalists set, as we are told to do in Exodus 22:17, Leviticus 20:27, Exodus 22:19, Deuteronomy 13:13-19 and Deuteronomy 13:7-12?
The miracle of Hanukkah, it seems, is that we’ve taken a holiday that, when experienced historically would have been the downfall for many cultural Jews, and turned it into a holiday that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over oppressive forces. So put that in your jelly doughnut!