Shabbat Chanukah 5767 (2006)

A Drash for Shabbat Chanukah 5767

by Marc Mangel

Today I want to drash on Channukah, rather than the portion.

Two factoids:

1)   The black power fist is actually in Maoz Tzur

2)   Herod is 6 generations removed from Matathias.

Our bible consists of Torah/Neviim/Ketuvim.

Neviim:  Joshua, Judges,  Samuel I, II, Kings I,II, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel; Hosea Joel, Amos, Obadiah,  Jonah, Micagh, Nahum, Habkkuk, Zephaniah, Haggia, Zechariah, Malachi

Ketuvim: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles I, II

There are 3  books from the time of the Macabees:  Daniel and Macabees I, II – but the latter are not included in our Bible (but are in the Christian Bible)—Why is this?

Some Matters of Timing

Macabees:170 BCE

Revolt against Rome: 50-70 CE  (220-250 years after Macabees)

Mishnah  200 CE

Talmust   400 CE

Book of  Daniel,  about 160 BCE – this is the latest book in our Bible

Daniel was a pious Jew living under the persecution of Antiochus – he tells six stories, set in the time of Babylon just after the Persian conquest of Israel, to illustrate how faithful Jews, loyal to their religion, are able to succeed.

Macabee I, about 140 BCE, with an addition just after 70 CE

No miraculous interventions .  It comes down to us in Greek, probably written by a Palestinian Jew who lived in Jerusalem. It is plain and straightforward and an excellent historical source.

It is a military history starting with  Alexander the Great (~350 BCE) and going to Antiochus – who lead the first outright religious persecution of Jews). It ends with the defeat of Nicanor, the last great battle won by Judah Macabee and includes a decree that we should celebrate the vanquishing of enemis on the 13th of Adar (Purim is the 14th of Adar)

Macabees II, also called the book of Jason, is about 100 BCE.

It is a theological interpretation of history.   It is an abridgment of a five volume history, now lost, written by Jason of Cyrene. One of his favorite themes is the sanctity of the temple. It includes the reminder to keep the Feast of Booths in the month of Kislev.

He is the first writer known to us who celebrates the deeds of martyrs  (although foreshadowed in the Book of Daniel). The book includes the story of Eleazar, the high scribe, 90 years old and who would rather die than eat a morsel of pork, of a woman who proudly watched her 7 sons die in one day (indeed, encouraging the last two towards martyrdom) and the story of Razis, an elder of Jerusalem who fell on his sword rather than surrender

At the time of the Roman rebellion, it was seen as the war of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness—a holy war believed by the Jewish participants to mean that heavy casualties and disastrous defeat in battle would only serve to spur the believing warrior to greater heights of self-sacrifice and valor

 Back to the question:

Chanukah is mentioned in the Mishnah at least three times – always treated in the context  as a ‘dedication’ and on the same level as Biblical holidays – it alone has survived through the centuries without justification in the Bible.

The Macabees (Hasmoneans) are mentioned 6 times in the Talmud.

Why are Macabees I, II not in our Bible?

1)   They are not in Hebrew, the holy tongue.

2)   The Misnhah was codified by Jews who had to work with the Romans and the inclusion of Macabees would have been difficult – celebrating military victories.  And indeed, until the rise of the state of Israel, Hannukah was rarely seen as (to quote Daniel Garnick) the first uprising of an Eastern people against a western oppressor

3) The Rabbis are telling us, through this act of omission, that extolling martyrdom is unacceptable. This is an important lesson for the world today

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