Channukah (5763)

Drash Cards for Channukah (5763)

by Marc Mangel

• Here’s a long drash, to complement the longest grace after meals in the year.

• Our Bible consists of the  Torah/Nevi’im/Ketuvim — TaNaCh as an acronym.

• We know the five books of the Torah  Here are the Nevi’im: Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samule, I Kings, II JKings, Isiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; and the twelve: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

• And the Ketuvim: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah. I Chronicles, and II Chronicles.

• There are 3 books from the time of the Maccabees (~170 BCE): Daniel, Maccabees I, II.  The books of Maccabees are not in our bible (they are in the Christian Bible).  Why is this?

• First some aspects of timing.  The Maccabees (successful) ~170 BCE; the revolt against Rome (unsuccessful ~ 50-70 CE), the Mishnah (~200 CE) and the Talmud (~400 CE)

• The Book of Daniel ~160 CE.  The author was a pious Jew living under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. To encourage his suffering fellow-believers, he tells  six stories and four dream-visions of Babylon just before and after the Persian conquest, illustrating how faithful Jews loyally practicing their religion were able to triumph over their enemies

• I Maccabees ~ 140 BCE with an addition after 70 CE.  There are no miraculous interventions; indeed it is a military history.

• It comes down to us in Greek, probably written by a Palestinian Jew who lived in Jerusalem with a plain and straightforward style.  The victory is celebrated on the 13 of Adar (v 48-49).

• Purim is 14 Adar. Coincidence?  The quote Nero Wolfe:  In a world of cause and effect, all coincidence is suspect.

• II Maccabees ~100 BCE gives a theological interpretation of history. It is an abridgement of a five volume history — now lost — written by Jason of Cyrene (it is sometimes called the Book of Jason)

• This is the first book that celebrates the deeds of martyrs such as Eleazar the high scribe who at 90 years old would rather die than eat pork (Ch 6, v 18-27); of Razis — one of the elders of Jerusalem — who fell on his sword rather than surrender to sinners (Ch 14, v37-44)

• The time of the Roman Rebellions was considered the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness: any war believed by the Jewish participants to be a Holy War, heavy casualties and disastrous defeat in battle would only serve to spur the believing warrior to greater heights of self-sacrifice and valor. God had abandoned his Temple, but he would never abandon his people.

• Channukah is in the Mishnah at least three times — always treated as a ‘dedication’ on the same level with the Biblical holidays even though there is no justification for it in the Bible.

• The Maccabees/Hasmonean are mentioned 6 times in the Talmud.

• Back to my question: why are books of Maccabees not in our Bible?  First, they are not in Hebrew.  Second, the Mishnah was codified by Jews who had to work with Romans. Third, the Rabbis are telling us that extolling martyrdom is unacceptable — this is something that has been in Jewish law since 400 CE.