Month 9:26, Week 4:4 (Revee/Shavu'ot), Year 5935:255 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 21 December 2011
The Hasmonean Touch
Which Version of Hanukkah?
Millions of Jews and Messianics around the world - but principally in the United States and Israeli Republic - are currently celebrating Hanukkah according to a religious prescription that eventually crystallised out using the version of the prevailing political party two millennia ago. Indeed, Hanukkah is one of the most politicised and historically massaged of all the non-Torah observances followed by both religious and secular Jews.
What most Messianics don't realise is that there are many versions of the origin of Hanukkah, as one might expect of a man-made festival without any kind of scriptural revelation to back it up, though there are those who claim the Apocryphal books of I and II Maccabees are scripture. Wisely, Protestants ommitted these books from the biblical canon for they are, in reality, political tractates, the first book being a propaganda exercise for Alexander Yonai (the first member of the Hasmonean dynasty to switch political affiliations and ally himself with the Saducee sect) and the second book a piece of counter-propaganda to the first one. Translated into modern American terms, these were, respectively the 'Democrat' and 'Republican' versions of a politically charged event.
There are at least four different rabbinical Jewish versions of the origin of Hanukkah. Let's take a look at them:
The fourth version prevailed after a descendant of the Hasmoneans joined forces with the Sadducees, after the decline of the Hasmonean dynasty, and after a civil war (ca.67-61 BC) during which perhaps more than 100,000 Jews were killed and the Edomites forced to assimilate through circumcision at pain of death, and became the 'official' version used today.
- 1. "[At Hanukah] we commemorate the dedication of the Temple by the Hasmoneans who fought and defeated the Hellenists, and we kindle lights -- just as when [we] finished the Tabernacle in the Wilderness..." (Pesikta Rabbati, ch.6);
- 2. "Why do we kindle lights on Hanukah? Because when the sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priest, defeated the Hellenists, they entered the Temple and found there eight iron spears. They stuck candles on them and lit them" (Pesikta Rabbati, ch.2);
- 3. "Why did the rabbis make Hanukah eight days? Because . . . the Hasmoneans entered the Temple and erected the altar and whitewashed it and repaired all of the ritual utensils. They were kept busy for eight days. And why do we light candles? Because . . . when the Hasmoneans entered the Temple there were eight iron spears in their hands. They covered them with wood and lit candles on them. They did this each of the 8 days" (Megilat Ta'anit, ch.9)
- 4. "What is Hanukah? When the Hellenists entered the Temple, they desecrated all of the oil. And when the Hasmonean dynasty grew and defeated them, they searched but found only one cruse of oil sealed with the stamp of the High Priest, and there was only enough in it to burn for one day. A miracle happened and it burned for eight days. The next year they made these days a fixed annual commemoration..." (TB Shabbat 21b; also Schol. Megilat Taanith, 25 Kislev)
Benjamin Mordecai Ben-Baruch comments:
With all the political machinations and propaganda exercises surrounding Hanukkah which Yahweh nowhere authorises or blesses in Torah, let alone mentions, and given the myths and fabrication of miraculous events that are treated as fact by its devotees,we need to beware of ever saying that 'Yahweh' or 'Adonai' or 'haShem' commanded us to light candles or anything of the sort because He did not . It took me a few years to both sift through the relevent data and then discern the real spirit behind Hanukkah before I finally made the break as I had done with Christmas many, many years before. Please see my sermon, Our Last Hanukkah: The Gospel vs. The Sword. If, as messianics, we are going to judge Protestants and Catholics for observing pagan rites then we must be sure to judge our own observances first, for Israel and Judah were hardly historically immune from paganisation and apostacy, were they?
"Each of these classical texts represents the point of view of a particular political group at a specific point in time with conflicting visions of the present and future needs of the Jewish people. One of the crucial issues for them was whether or not Jews should glorify the Hasmoneans, the leaders of the fight for independence who devolved into the tyrants that led Israel to one of its greatest catastrophes. Our tradition answered by honoring the earlier generation that achieved independence and by criticizing their heirs who corrupted the polity and plunged it into an escalating spiral of 100 years of internal and external wars culminating in the destruction of the Second Commonwealth and the end of Jewish sovereignty" .
I am glad to be out of the whole Hanukkah affair which is not what it is purported to be by its proponents. If you are celebrating it this year, I encourage you to make it your last so that we can all come before Yahweh with clean minds, hearts and hands. Amen.
 Benjamin Mordecai Ben-Baruch, The Stories of Hanukah