Turning Chanukah on Its Head

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15 Responses

  1. Marc Rnnie says:

    Per the logic of this article, philo-Semetic, pro-Israel Christians in the 21st century are equivalent to pagan Hellenized Syrians making war on Ancient Israel and distinguished Israeli rabbis, including Rabbi Riskin, co-founder of Efrat and champion of Soviet Jewish dissidents are equivalent to a rabbi focused on the threat of “transphobia”. The author continues by strongly implying that Rabbi Riskin advanced his position, not based on good faith and judgement, but on “handsome donations from several Christian ministries”.

    Given the author’s embrace of personal attack rather than analysis, it would be interesting to compare his record of courage and self-sacrifice with that of Rabbi Riskin.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      We now see that both heterodox clergy and those allied with or clearly identified with OO now have hijacked the message of Chanukah. We should never be surprised at the attempts of heterodox clergy to bend the message of Chanukah or any other halacha like a pretzel so as to suit their PC POV. What we should be ready to reject is the attempt by advocates of OO to rewrite the words of Chazal to suit their POV with respect to the message of Chanukah that we must guard against attempts by any secular culture to infiltrate and water Torah and TSBP, as well as the meaning of what it means to be Asher Kidshanu BMitzvosav, the Am HaNivchar amd how to be HaMavdil Bein Kodesh LChol, which the latest proclamation as to interfaith ecumenical dialogue simply ignores.

      We have previously discussed and debated R Riskin’s evolution in halacha and hashkafa from his earlier days as a rebbe in JSS and a pioneering rav at Lincoln Square to his current stances today, with the clear conclusion that many of us who remember R Riskin’s roles as a rebbe and a rav, myself included, do not recognize the Rabbi Riskin who was a great rebbe and rav in JSS and NYC in the stances that R Riskin has taken today on a wide range of issues, and consider the evolution of R Riskin to the realm of the far LW of MO and OO as a tragedy for the MO world.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    The most basic theme of Hanukkah is total national rejection of secular and religious alternatives to halachic Judaism. This makes the holiday a true challenge for various large sectors of today’s Jewry, so it’s no surprise how many phony makeovers have been tried on it. Things even turn into their opposites, as when Olympic-style sporting events are named after our brave Kohanim of old, who staunchly opposed athletics. Or as when modern-day Hellenists pose as authentic bearers of our sacred traditions while spouting every PC cliche in the book. How many of us have sung “Mi Y’mallel” on Hanukkah unaware of its subversive meaning that substitutes human strongmen for HaShem?

    I’m reminded of all the modern “haggadahs” and “midrashim” and “life cycle events” that the charlatans throw at us.

    • Y. Ben-David says:

      When you say that the “Kohanim of old” opposed athletics, you need to clarify what you are trying to convey. If you mean a “cult of sport” such as existed in Berlin where the sports stadium was called the “sportpalast”, then we know that the Kohamim of old certainly opposed that. However, the soldiers of the Hashmonaim were certainly physically fit and they no doubt participated in athletic games to build themselves up and so I don’t think the Kohanim of old would have any objection to that.

      • Bob Miller says:

        In ancient times, basic living involved a lot of physical labor and exercise, so able-bodied Jews probably had no need for organized athletics Military training is a separate category. We have no info on how they trained and drilled.

      • Y. Ben-David says:

        I am sorry but I am afraid I don’t see what is “unJewish” about athletic competition and team sports. I think it is likely that things like foot races or even wrestling events (Rafael Halperin-style) were common as forms of entertainment and physical fitness in ancient Israel. Since the army is the ultimate form of team-work it would not be surprising if the ancient Jewish armies would encourage team sports in order to instill group pride and cooperation. What we Jews opposed was the Hellenistic cult of the body and the gymnasium with its accompanying immodest and even homosexual values.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        If you don’t see what’s unJewish about athletic competition then I suggest reading R Matis Weinberg’s book on Chanuka for a lucid and sophiscated analysis. Suffice for now to point out that Chazal see the ancient Greek mindset and value system as being in direct contrast that of the Torah. The western tradition of competitive athletics is directly derived from its Greek roots, even before the modern Olympics were started, and is reflective of the Greek mindset.
        When Chazal express their antipathy to Yavan and its associated exile, that is absolutely part of what they are opposing.
        Chazal observe that we never fully left galus yavan and that it is incorporated in our current galus. Which means, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, that failure to see the contrast probably means you’re face to face with your Inner Greek, may we all merit to meet him.

      • Y. Ben-Davidb says:

        I’ll have to think about your request that I forgive you for calling me a Hellenist simply because I have stated there is no problem with “frum Jews” like yourself participating in team sports. But you will also have to ask forgiveness from all the yeshiva students who play soccer and baseketball on Friday afternooons.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        I didn’t meantion team sports, only competitive athletics. Different issue. And I’m not calling anyone a Hellenist, just noting that everyone has a point at which they think in Greek as it were, that’s part and parcel of galus yavan, regardless of ‘frumkeit’.

      • Moshe Hillson says:

        Who said the Hasmoneans were militarily fit (as opposed to physically fit)?
        Doesn’t “Al haNissim” say “the mighty (were delivered) in the hands of the weak”?

      • Y. Ben-David says:

        I am sure you know that the Seleucids outnumbered the Jewish fighters and had the “armored tanks” of that era, i.e. elephants which the Jews were lacking. It doesn’t mean that the Jews weren’t good fighters or well trained.

  3. wfb says:

    Re: incorporation of Greek wisdom into Torah, see Rav Amiel’s דרשות אל עמי starting here http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=31851&st=&pgnum=8

  4. dr. bill says:

    We are still uncovering more and more material about the events around Chanukah, the limited response of chazal and the process by which its halakhic rituals developed. Even the basic sugyah in Shabbat faces difficult textual challenges. This has led to many questionable reconstructions and interpretations. The extrapolation made from Rambam on Avot 1:2 is completely consistent with the way many (rabbis and) scholars present Rambam’s overall view that many elements of Greek science and philosophy are intrinsic elements required for the knowledge of God and his Torah. Exactly what chazal opposed and what they appropriated from Greek wisdom remains unclear. Rambam’s view can be debated, but it is unquestionably more reasonable than those who treat all Greek wisdom as a foreign weed to be avoided in toto, and use the story of Chanukah as their proof text.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      You can easily find that the message of Chanukah can and is distorted easily R”L, by those who emphasize the Nes Pach Shemen at the expense of the miraculous military victory and vice versa. However, look at the comments of the Netziv in HaEmek Sheelah on Parshas Vayishlach , the Pri Chadash and the Meiri and you will see that celebration of the military victory per se was a basis for celebration on the first day.

      Dr Bill-in Hilcos Taanis, the SA records a fast day to commemorate the date that the Torah was translated into Greek. Yes, there are conflicting views as to that event, but SA records the day as a fast day. There are numerous Aggadic passages where Greek values such as man being born perfect, aesthetic beauty, and man being a creature of fate are viewed as whollly antithetical to Jewish values and to such bedrock Mitzvos as Shabbos, Bris Milah and Kiddush HaChodesh.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/195761/vatican-ii-at-50 must reading by R D David Berger on the continuing vitality and relevance of “Confrontation

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