Monday, December 22, 2008

Hanukah – An Eternal Holiday

Today, as we celebrate Hanukah, we should remember how the holiday began. Hanukah, as we say in al hanissim, commemorates the victory of the Jews in the Maccabean Revolt.

Interestingly, the Maccabean Revolt was primarily a civil war. Sadly, the Jewish people have never had a shortage of traitors and opportunists. Modern scholars have concluded that the revolt was basically a conflict between traditional Jews and Hellenizing Jews, with the Greeks merely, unwisely, intervening on the side of the Hellenizers. The first recorded casualty was a Hellenized Jew, killed by Matisyahu, a priest.

The outcome was that loyal Jews are still here today. On the other hand, the Hellenizers, together with their Greek patrons, have long ago been disposed of in the dust bin of history.

I have no doubt that today as well, the disagreements between the traditional, loyal Jews and the secularized “Jewish skeptics” will ultimately have the same result. In the same way that the Hellenized Jews worshipped the Greek pantheon and sacrificed swine, the secularized Jews believe in evolution. Both are equally pathetic. The Hellenizers had the Greek empire on their side. Modern secularizers have scientists and professors on their side. However in the end the righteous will prevail while the wicked will be destroyed.

Let’s all enjoy a truly happy Hanukah, light our menorahs and celebrate the miracle of the Torah’s survival in spite of all enemies, both internal and external.


Child Ish Behavior said...

I just want to point out that while we may have survived in the long run, the Greeks ultimately won the war. As you point out almost constantly we now live in a world filled with atheists, all a byproduct of the Hellenistic culture.

As for the skeptics all ending up in the dust bin of history, I really doubt it. How many of the secular philosophers that had so much influence on the world were Jewish?

We survive in spite of the Greek culture still existing, and not because of our victory over it. It is for that reason the Menorah and Chanukah in general commemorates the Nais of finding the oil and it lasting for 8 days, and less so the military victory.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think anyone today is offering sacrifices to Zeus and I think very few take Aristotle too seriously. Everything which was so modern and true and important to the Hellenizers has long since been discredited. The culture of the ancient Greeks is a museum exhibit today. Orthodox Judaism is still alive and well and always will be.

For Jewish skeptics, Hanukah should be a time of mourning, not celebration. You guys lost big time.

Child Ish Behavior said...

While humanity has abandoned the practices of the ancient Greeks,much of their values still remain.

As for the skeptics mourning on Chnanuka, I would think just the opposite is true. The skeptics would be the ones that might find the victory of the Maccabees most refreshing. After all to a skeptic the real frumaks are the oppressing Greeks, holding on to barbaric practices, while they are the smart maccabees fighting for what they believe in. And if you'd ask them if they have the purest intentions in mind they might reply that even the great maccabees took the throne after they won and didn't return it to Shevet Yehudah.

Anonymous said...

"The outcome was that loyal Jews are still here today. On the other hand, the Hellenizers, together with their Greek patrons, have long ago been disposed of in the dust bin of history."

You state that the Hellenized Jews of old, like the Greeks, no longer exist.

You then state that today's "Jewish Skeptics" are equal, in your viewpoint, to Hellenized Jews.

If there were presently no "Jewish Skeptics" then this trend of the Hellenized Jews would have "been disposed of in the dust bin of history" as you write. Yet, the only reason why this post exists is because Jewish Skeptics are present.
Therefore, the trend of having Hellenized Jews and their modern counterparts, the "Jewish Skeptics" still lives.

If a "believer" is present this infers that a "non-believer" is at least potentially viable and I see no reason why this would not continue in similar situations.

Would you please update this post to correct this flaw in your dust bin theory.


Crawling Axe said...

You remind me of these guys:

No concept of making a keili for Hashem.

The problem with Greek philosophy (and athletics) was not in itself but that it was used to oppose Torah. It is also possible to use it as a vessel for Torah, like Rambam did. The same can be said for Theory of Evolution.

jewish philosopher said...

Let's put it like this. The Maccabees were attempting to preserve tradition. The Hellenizing Jews were attempting to assimilate into the powerful, majority culture, at least to some degree. This means that the Maccabees were analogous to today’s Orthodox Jews while the Hellenizers were analogous to today’s Jewish skeptics.

In regards to continuity, if a Maccabee were to come to an Orthodox synagogue today, he would have no trouble participating. He would be familiar with the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, the Torah scroll, the tefillin and tzitzis. The prayer book would be recognizable to him. The religion of the Maccabees is alive and well in thousands of synagogues today.

On the other hand, if a Greek from 167 BCE were to appear on earth today, he would be totally lost. Perhaps he could with difficulty communicate with modern Greeks, however his beliefs and religion would be totally foreign to anyone today.

Rebeljew said...

Anonymous said...

It'd be more accurate to say "Selucid Empire." They were Greeks, but a unitary Greek Empire ceased to exist when Alexander the Great died.

How successful would the Maccabees have been if they weren't allied with the Romans, as detailed in 1 Maccabees? (Which later turned into an extreme liability, but that's another story.) I am extremely skeptical that they would have done all that well if the Selucids hadn't been an empire on the slide with severe troubles. The Roman Empire managed to keep a hold on the region and suppress major rebellions right until the time the Islamic conquests began, after all-even at times when they were abandoning the Western parts of the empire.

Few take Zeus seriously nowadays, but the Hellenic philosophers still have a lot of influence.

Would a Maccabee recognize the clothing worn by many Orthodox Jews, or large parts of the Torah? Would he recognize an eruv, say? How would he react to the Tanya?

A Nonny Goy

jewish philosopher said...

The point is - Judaism is still here, the Greeks and their beliefs are gone. So too, evolution and atheism will be gone and we will remain.

Anonymous said...


But what do we do if there are discrepancies between all the Torah scrolls.

Here is rabbinical insight on the subject:

Maimonides (Rambam), Hilkhot Sefer Torah 8, 4:
Since I have seen great confusion in all the scrolls [of the Law] in these matters, and also the Masoretes who wrote [special works] to make known [which sections are] "open" and "closed" contradict each other, according to the books on which they based themselves, I took it upon myself to set down here all the sections of the Law, and the forms of the Songs [i.e. Ex.15, Deut.32], so as to correct the scrolls accordingly. The copy on which we based ourselves in these matters is the one known in Egypt, which contains the whole Bible, which was formerly in Jerusalem [serving to correct copies according to it]. Everybody accepted it as authoritative, for Ben Asher corrected it many times. And I used it as the basis for the copy of the Torah Scroll which I wrote according to the Halakha.

If you think Maimonides' testimony was grim, wait 'til you read the rest:

RaMaH (R. Meir Ben Todros HaLevi) in his introduction to Masoret Seyag LaTorah:
...All the more so now that due to our sins, the following verse has been fulfilled amongst us, "Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, Even a marvelous work and a wonder; And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the prudence of their prudent men shall be hid"(Is. 29:14). If we seek to rely on the proofread scrolls in our possession, they are also in great disaccord. Were it not for the Masorah which serves as a fence around the Torah, almost no one would find his way in the controversies between the scrolls. Even the Masorah is not free from dispute, and there are several instances disputed [among the Masorah manuscripts], but not as many as among the scrolls. If a man wishes to write a halakhically "kosher" scroll, he will stumble on the plene and defective spellings and grope like a blind man through a fog of controversy; he will not succeed. Even if he seeks the aid of someone knowledgeable, he will not find such a one. When I, R. Meir HaLevi Ben Todros of Spain, saw what had befallen the scrolls, the Masorah lists, and the plene and defective spelling traditions, due to the ravages of time, I felt the need to search after the most precise and proofread codices and the most reliable Masoretic traditions, to resolve the conflicts. The newly-produced scrolls should be abandoned in favor of older, more faithful ones and among these the majority of texts should be followed as commanded in the Torah to decide any controversy, as it is written: "After the multitude to do..."(Ex. 23:2).

It gets darker:

R. Yom Tov Lippman Milhausen, in his work Tikkun Sefer Torah:
Because of our many sins, the Torah has been forgotten and we can not find a kosher Torah scroll; the scribes are ignoramuses and the scholars pay no attention in this matter. Therefore I have toiled to find a Torah scroll with the proper letters, open and closed passages, but I have found none, not to mention a scroll which is accurate as to the plene and defective spellings, a subject completely lost to our entire generation. In all these matters we have no choice [i.e. we are halakhically considered anusim]; but how to write the correct forms of the letters we do know and their laws are like that of tefillin. Thus if we allow the ignorant scribes to continue to follow their usual practices [in shaping the letters], here we sin on purpose [mezidin].

Don't really think so. Who knows what Maimonides and the two other Rabbis didn't disclose to the general public. Maimonides, in fact, when writing to the Jews of Yemen, lied to them by saying that there exist no discrepancies at all between all the Torah scrolls of the world, not even in vowelization. Obviously, this was to keep their faith up. Disclosing what he knew to them could've really shaken their faith. Do you know why he said that there existed no differences even in vowelization? It is because the Yemenite Jews were exposed to the polemics of the Muslims regarding the Torah's authencity.

SO NO> The Torah didn't survive at all. And Orthodox Judaism has nothing to do with the mosaic religion which your own rabbis have admitted is lost.

jewish philosopher said...

The differences between the traditional Jewish Torah, the Septuagint and the Samaritan Torah are very minor. I don't see what the big LAUGH is all about.