by Jay M. Wolman
Next Sunday night, December 6, marks the beginning of Chanukkah. The tl;dr version of the story is that Judah Maccabee and his brothers beat back the occupying King Antiochus, restored the Temple, and the oil lasted 8 days. And, thus, we eat latkes, spin dreidels, light menorahs, and give presents. Except…
Judah and his band of brothers were religious zealots. Their father, Mattathias, kicked off the whole rebellion when he killed another Jew for sacrificing to a Greek god. When they won, they founded the Hasmonean Dynasty, acting as both High Priests in the Temple and as kings. Some of the biggest enemies weren’t the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), but rather Hellenized Jews. Think more Ayatollah and less Ben Gurion.
Fast forward 2180 years and what do we have? An Israel that had captured the Temple Mount 50 years prior, but won’t let Jews pray there. Four Adam Sandler songs in a weak effort to draw attention from ubiquitous carols. Eight nights of presents to compete with Christmas morning, instead of a few coins (actual gelt) to reward Torah scholarship.
Yes, there are those who would love to knock down the dome of the rock and al-aqsa mosque and build the Third Temple, restoring the sacrificial cult, but this is not likely happening. Instead, we have Jews celebrating Christmas by eating pork fried rice. The commemoration of the Hasmonean victory is celebrated in a manner 180 degrees from its basis: Less Mattathias, more the Hellenized guy. In the immortal words of Buck Murdock: Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.