28 Kislev 5784
4th Candle of Hanukkah
Hanukkah as Jewish civil warBy James Ponet...Read in its historical context,...the Hanukkah story is really about a revolt against the Hellenized Jews who had fallen madly in love with the sophisticated, globalizing superculture of their day. The Apocrypha's texts make it clear that the battle against Hellenization was, in fact, a kulturkampf among the Jews themselves. Here is how the first Book of the Maccabees describes Jerusalem on the eve of civil war and revolt in the time of Antiochus (translation by Nicholas de Lange):At that time there were some evil-doers in Israel who tried to win popularity for a policy of integration with the surrounding nations. It was because the Jews had kept themselves aloof for so long, they claimed, that so many hardships had befallen them. They acquired a following and applied to Antiochus, who authorized them to introduce the Greek way of life. They built a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem and even had themselves uncircumcised.Uncircumcision as the price of admission to the Jerusalem gym! When they were eight days old, the "sign of the covenant" had been carved in their flesh; now as young men, these Jews risked health and sacrificed sexual pleasure to "become one flesh" with the regnant beauty culture. In Judea, then, there were Jews choosing to die rather than publicly profane Jewish law—and there were Jews risking death to free themselves from the parochial constraints of that law. The historic Jewish passion to merge and disappear confronted the attested Jewish will to stand apart and persist.That's the clash of Hanukkah. Armed Hasmonean priests and their comrades from the rural town of Modi'in attacked urban Jews, priests and laity alike, who supported Greek reform, like the gymnasium and new rules for governing commerce. The Hasmoneans imposed, at sword's edge, traditional observance. After years of protracted warfare, the priests established a Hasmonean state that never ceased fighting Jews who disagreed with its rule....
And this battle is still going on today. The Torah-true Jews who cherish their uniqueness and guard against foreign intrusion are an extreme minority. It is also very noteworthy that every trouble we have ever had with foreign rulers was due to reshaim who wanted to assimilate.