Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hag Urim Sameach

Looking over my ;postings for Hanukkah from last year (here, here and here), I realized that there was one more point to be made. The revolt that erupted in 167 BCE was not (initially) political in character. It was religious and cultural. The question was whether Judaism had (or should have) a future in the brave, new world of Hellenistic humanism and universalism. The war was a kulturkampf among the Jews, themselves.

Most Jews, it appears, thought that such a future was possible, so long as the religious integrity of Traditional Judaism was maintained. They were, so to speak, a silent majority.

The upper classes, the power brokers and opinion makers, disagreed. They were devoted to the idea that Jewish parochialism was a disaster and that it should be replaced by Hellenistic, anthropocentric, progressive enlightenment. It is a principled position that the author of First Maccabees reports (1,11): "Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us." The Hellenists worked hard to advance and proselytize among their fellow Jews in order to rescue them from obscurantism.The price was not that high, in their opinion. All one had to do was to discard the Torah, in order to step into a wider world.

The Hassidim, on the other hand, agreed with the Hellenists that the encounter of Athens (or Antioch) and Jerusalem was a zero sum game. They, however, totally rejected Athens.

What tipped the scales toward the Hassidim? The extreme dedication of the Hellenists to dragging Judea into the new age. When they started to attack the Torah, and when political circumstances directly involved Antiochus in their plans, the overwhelming majority of Jews moved their support to the Hassidim. This was followed by the infamous edicts described in First Maccabees (1, 44-63), which led directly to Mattathias' call to revolt (Ibid. 2, -28).

Not a year goes by, that I don't think about how History repeats itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

are we meant to see anything in the fact that the Hellenists back then specifically chose the the 25th Kislev - the day of the commemoration of the dedication of Bayit Sheni (Hagai 2:10) - to begin the defilement. (Even waiting 10 days after first placing the idol on the 15th of Kislev); whilst the present day Hellenists specifically chose the 10th of Av as the day to begin the churban?

Well, let's see what 10th Av 5768 will bring.