A Chanukah Primer With a Pretext

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12 Responses

  1. E. Fink says:

    Jacobson makes the colossal error if comparing our most minor holiday with their biggest holiday. And all because of a coincidence of the calendar.

    I wonder what he thinks of Easter as compared to Pesach or Thanksgiving as compared to Sukkos…

  2. mb says:

    I think you are taking Howard Jacobson a bit too seriously. And like many decent atheists, he is a member of an Orthodox Synagogue!

  3. lacosta says:

    5] the internal struggle

    —it’s most interesting that chazal, living in a time of Pharisaic minority status amongst many competing theologies and factions, totally obscured the doubtless massive dissention from halachic judaism [as we would put it today] — hinted only at ‘zeidim beyad oskei toratecha’…. chanuka falls after vayeishev in which we learn habor reik ain bo mayim– the tora teaches to hint at the bad [especially in that 1st major milchemet achim] , rather than to bring the internecine fighting , and temporary quashing of deviant factions of our brethren, to the forefront……

  4. Bob Miller says:

    There’s a lot of food for thought about the deep significance of Hanukkah, from the Bnai Yissaschar ZY”A, the Sefas Emes ZY”A, and other great sages throughout our history. I’m rather tired of hearing about how minor a holiday this is; it may be minor compared to the Shalosh Regalim, for example, but it still has great intrinsic importance and a great timely message for us.

  5. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >totally obscured the doubtless massive dissention from halachic judaism

    This is a mischaracterization of the situation in which chazal operated during this period. First, it is not clear what was the numeric breakdown of the factions. We know that the pharisees and saduccees were the two largest groups. Further, the battle with the other factions was not regarding “dissent from halachic judaism” but rather regarding what WAS the halacha and who are its legitimate interpreters. Every faction during the late second temple period had their own halacha – none were antinomean.

  6. dr. bill says:

    Rabbi Alderstein writes: “The picture of Jewish life given to us by the navi before the period of the Maccabees shows a lackluster appreciation of Torah. If people cannot find a sense of the esthetic in their own avodas Hashem, they will need to find it elsewhere – such as in Hellenic culture.”

    MB writes: “I think you are taking Howard Jacobson a bit too seriously. And like many decent atheists, he is a member of an Orthodox Synagogue!”

    Rabbi: A navi? We have little recorded history in traditional sources from almost 200 years before chanukkah to 75 years after! Jacobson misses the point because he concentrates on an attempt to find something grand, where chazal created something sublime. The nes of the pakh hashemen, unreported in historical sources, represents the (re) dedication of the menorah, a representation of Divine Presence. It is that Presence of the Shekhinah, that chazal made central to observance in the home, a subtle message that is often lost. (Many modern day scholars note that both in the chumash and in later works of the Neviim, hashraat haShekhinah, Chanukat HaBayis and lighting the menorah are often mentioned in the same verse.) Hashraat haShekhinah is rarely obvious, a lesson Mr. Jacobson doers not seem to appreciate! Life need not always be a grand event to be meaningful!

    MB: Not knowing the gentleman, i tend to give him the benefit of the doubt, as you seem inclined to do. But as a member of an orthodox shul, I would prefer you give us the benefit of the doubt as well; there are not that many atheists in my midst!

    [YA 1) Maybe we are not reading the same navi. See R Nebenzahl’s Sichos on Bereishis pgs. שו-שז for his read of what Malachi tells us of the religious atmosphere in the run-up to Hellene 2) I know MB. If he says that Jacobson is an atheist, Jacobson is an atheist. Apparently, in London even atheists go to shul. In Jacobson’s case, he happens to go to the Chief Rabbi’s shul. Listening to Jonathan Sacks is probably more edifying, even for atheists, than many other things they may be wont to do.]

  7. DF says:

    Rabbi Adlersein . . . dont be so humorless. Jacobson’s piece was a fun little bit of fluff, nothing more.

    [YA – 1) You are not the only one to suggest this, and you may be right! You are in the minority of those who have reacted, which doesn’t in any way mean that you are wrong. Still, readers Jewish and not will get their only take on the inner workings of Chanukah from that piece. 2) If I had followed your take, would I have had an excuse to post some unadulterated Torah on CC?]

  8. dr. bill says:

    Rabbi Alderstein, I hope we are reading the same Navi! The debate over dating the second temple period relates to the Persian era prior to the rise of Greece. The Channukah events occured ~ 150 years after Greece conquered Persia and Malachi lived during the Perisan period. The era of “run-up to Hellene” tells us little about the period of Channukah.

    As to MB, I was reacting (humorously) ONLY to the word MANY!

    [YA – I think that Rav Nebenzahl’s point was that if the yesod of the period was faulty, the rest was not going to be much better – at least not without the intervention of some dramatic midcourse correction. Readers are directed to his words.]

  9. mb says:

    “As to MB, I was reacting (humorously) ONLY to the word MANY!”

    Just a figure of speech.

    However another Shul going atheist was the outstanding philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin A’h.
    He once asked his student, Chief Rabbi Sacks(who had a PHD in philosophy and before the Rabbinate was a university professor) how he of all people, a trained philosopher, could believe in God? The CR replied exquisitely. “think of me as a lapsed heretic!”

  10. Gershon says:

    Can someone email the chanuka shiur to me? I can’t access the linked site. Thank you

  11. YEA says:

    All in favor of Rav Adlerstein recording and posting more shiurim, comment “Aye!”

    [YA – You’ll have to convince my employer! I used to do much, much more, till I got shifted from Yeshiva of LA to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Now I have to restrict my serious discussion to Presbyterians!]

  12. One Christian's perspective says:

    E. Fink: “Jacobson makes the colossal error if comparing our most minor holiday with their biggest holiday. And all because of a coincidence of the calendar.

    I wonder what he thinks of Easter as compared to Pesach or Thanksgiving as compared to Sukkos…”

    Does it really matter what Jacobson thinks – someone said he was a decent atheist – whatever that means ? IMHO, any event in human history where God reaches down from heaven and makes a statement in the lives of mere humans is a significant event. How can one call any of these events minor is beyond my imagination. Is Chanukah a single minor holiday …… really ? Could it not be coupled with all the other events where righteous men participated in the dedication(s) of the Temple ? Could it not be a reminder of the God who is the light of the world and the One who brings light into the hearts and minds of humans by His grace.

    In regards to the other comments about Christmas and Easter, please be aware that they are linked – one came first so the other would follow by plan and purpose. Not all celebrations that you see in the gentile world consider the physical or spiritual significance of these two events. Both took place in Israel and there were no Christmas trees present. A few magi from the East came a few years later bearing gifts.

    Please consider Chanukah as one of the ultimate acts of faith that God bestowed on man when he had nothing ……. but a desire to honor God in ways that were pleasing to Him. This historic event, years ago, was a prayer acted out in word, thought, intent and deed. It pleased God and He did not see it as a minor event.

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