Chanukah: A Celebration of Fundamentalism

If we were to pick a modern Jewish leader who most closely advocated the policies of the Maccabees, it would have to be the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.
The Hasmonean uprising was not one of only spiritual and physical resistance to an outside occupier. The favorite biblical hero of the Maccabees was clearly Pinchas, the zealot who persuasively stopped fornication by spearing a couple “in the act” by spearing them through their genitals. The Books of the Maccabees (by “Books” I mean the first two) mentions him most frequently, and specifically compares their patriarch Matisyahu to him.
But though Pinchas was rewarded with descendants inheriting the ritual priesthood, all Levites–including the priests–were banned not only from political leadership, but from owning land itself, out of fear of their predisposition for zealotry.
The Maccabees glorified this zealotry and utilized their unchecked power to transform this world view into national policy.
It was tyranny.
Traditional Judaism does not sanction a democracy like the Athenians did. But it does advocate a balance of power. The Kohanim (the priestly class, of whom the Maccabees were prominent members) controlled the Temple; the rabbis were a branch unto themselves; the prophets, once recognized, also had a measure of independence; and of course, there was a king. The Rabbis criticized the Jews for their desire for a king. It was considered to be a desire by the Jews to be like the other nations of the world.
But perhaps it was a desire by the people to add another branch of government to further impede the due process for change through additional checks and balances. Such a desire was the reason the ancient Spartans had two kings.
The Books of the Maccabees (the first one is believed to have been written by a Hasmonean chronicler), were not included in the Jewish Canon. So little value was placed in these documents that only the Greek translation survived. The original Hebrew one was lost.
By the Hasmonean era, there were no recognized prophets, and Antiochus had made himself king over Israel.
After their rebellion, the Hasmoneans became not only the high priests, but also controlled the kingship as well. They certainly enjoyed at least substantial rabbinic support, but if there was rabbinical resistance, it was surely beaten into submission.
Those who disagreed with them surely faced the threat of being declared a Hellenist, that is to say, a “collaborator.”
And known “collaborators” rarely fare well in Middle Eastern fundamentalist uprisings.
Jewish men attempted to reverse circumcision during the Hellenistic period, and circumcision had fallen out of favor with many Jewish families, not only because of Hellenism, but because of the death penalty attached to it courtesy of Antiochus.
But the Maccabees restored the Jewish norm with forced circumcision for Jewish children of all ages. And perhaps went further.
There is speculation that a more radical form of circumcision was enforced more broadly, or perhaps even introduced during this period, in order to prevent its potential reversal. If so, this included instituting two new procedures: brit priah (the inner skin is torn and pulled back, today often removed in its entirety, as it’s just part of the penis, so who cares? Let’s just excise as much as possible), and metzizah (the very, very, very important holy sucking of the wounded and bloodied penis which today’s Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis assure us rarely, if ever, leads to complications, since we all know diseases and infections are rarely communicable through blood).
For the Maccabees, it was not enough to make sure the Jews were sufficiently religious. The gentiles, who were absorbed by the eventual Maccabee land expansion needed to be as well, which included forced conversions, and of course, more forced circumcisions.
The brilliant Maccabees also brought in Rome to help mediate the situation, and the Romans, as we know, eventually decided to mediate the Jewish state by liquidating it.
The Eight Day “Miracle” Oil
Though the Books of the Maccabees were not included in the Bible nor even preserved for posterity by the rabbis, Chanukah was included as a rabbinically legislated holiday. Much attention is paid to the oil that lasted eight days when it should have lasted only one. It would appear, however, that if that were the case, the holiday should be kept for seven days. It is therefore customary in some yeshivas to offer a different reason on each day of Chanukah for inclusion of the eighth day as a miracle.
Except it wasn’t like that. There was no miracle oil. If there were, the Maccabee chronicles would surely have mentioned them, since they find miracles and proofs of their G-d given mandate to kick butt all over the place, and according to the Talmud, this is the most important aspect of Chanukah’s significance. The fact that there is no mention of the miracle oil strongly suggests it didn’t happen, as it would have been included in the document. This may also be one of the reasons why the Books of the Maccabees were not included in the Jewish Canon. This was a celebration of an activist fundamentalist uprising, the last and only time such an event succeeded. It was, as Mobius noted, a precedent for future failed uprisings later.
The rabbis apparently created a completely different core reason for Chanukah’s celebration.
Inclusion of the second book of the Maccabees would have revealed that, “And they kept eight days with joy, after the manner of the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long before they had kept the feast of the tabernacles when they were in the mountains, and in dens like wild beasts.”
No miracle oil, folks.
So I’m sitting this one out.
Wake me up for Purim, when we celebrate a holiday whose megillah was included in the Jewish Canon (because it wasn’t a national embarrassment of hatred), whose heroes are not disparaged by the Talmud, and whose victories are not considered so problematic that a new one needs to be fabricated and placed as the holiday’s headline.

43 thoughts on “Chanukah: A Celebration of Fundamentalism

  1. yeah, I’ve been having that problem with chanuka this year too– what exactly am I celebrating?
    the lights are really pretty, though.

  2. Wait…you would want to celebrate purim instead!? I feel like the body count in Esther perek 9 is more problematic.
    You’re ambivalence towards the political and religious nature Hannukah, if anything, is supported by what is found in the Talmud. If you take a look in a book called Megillat Taanit, a document dating to the Taanitic period, the miracle of Hannukah is the rededication of the alter through a military victory over the Greeks. The miracle of the “pach hashemen”, is conceived much later in the Amoraic. There is a very strong feel in the academic community as to why a new miracle was “created” to prop up the practice of celebrating–either it was never very popular in the first place, it had fallen out of practice at the second exile, or what I consider to be correct–the Babylonian rabbis felt uncomfortable celebrating a holiday based on military might since they didn’t have any, and sought to spiritualize the affair by creating (or, for tradition’s sake, “reclaiming” an older tradition that got lost) a full blown miracle with 8-day burning oil. Oh, yeah, and the rabbis hated the idea of having kings be cohanim, too.
    Check out Megillat Taanit if you can. I’m cool with the invention of a new miracle because the older tradition is so much more compelling. But one question for you: why is the default to drop the practice entirely instead of fill up the old skin with newer wine?

  3. Zac,
    I don’t understand your question. It is clear from the Books of the Macabees that the oil “miracle’ never happened in any form.

  4. If you don’t like the Hasmonean spin on Chanuka, simply green it up and light your candles for the darkest part of the luach — the cusp of Kislev-Tevet moons at the winter solstice. The brochas still apply.

  5. Uh, I hate to break this to you, but just because there’s no text, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. More important is the reverse: just because there is a text also doesn’t mean it did happen. Seems to me that any thinking person would come to the conclusion that the whole gamut of ancient Jewish mythology is pretty hokey from the get-go and only valuable as neato ethnic calendrical signifiers and reasons for a hearty meal of some sort, no?

  6. Ko-Jel,
    The world did not start when cable was introduced. There were real people, and real things happened. There was a fundamentalist uprising. It was awful. The Maccabees were just awful. The only nice thing I can say about the Macabees is that they weren’t as bad as Antiochus, who in segments of the religious and gentile world has the flattering nickname of “Antiochus the Insane.”

  7. Excellent comment ko-jel.
    Unlike David, I’ll look to folks like Norma Joseph
    who use their intellect to try to understand what’s what, but stay within tradition because:
    a) We weren’t there
    b) There’s many ways to read a book, understand history, etc
    c) There are spiritual/holy reasons behind the canonization of our books (one has to be quite smug – and not so poetic – to only see politics and history behind these decisions)
    Still, I enjoyed reading the post.

  8. Um, Streimel, Dr. Joseph is attempting to grapple with the modern issues of Agunahs in the link you provided. A completely different situation.
    Yes, there might be lots of holy and spiritual reasons why these texts were not included in the canon, nor even preserved in their original Hebrew form.
    But there is still no mention of the oil, even as their (the Rabbis) criticism of the Maccabees is in line with these documents.

  9. I’ve heard/learned with Dr. Joseph and my point is that while she’s incredibly bright, she’s also humble and spiritually aware…aware enough to bring about change from within the Halachic framework. In other words, she doesn’t toss out a basic tenet of Judaism (practice or belief) after reading a few books.

  10. Shtreimel,
    The book I am referring to is not some modern bible literary critic’s interpretation. It is the definitive document drafted in accordance by the Macabees themselves.
    How do you not see this?
    Alex, if there would have been no rebellion against Rome because there would have been no Rome. Those awful, fundamentalist Macabees brought them in even after they already had the upper hand against the Greeks just out of a desire for further revenge.
    They cut off their nose to spite their face.

  11. According to Robert Eisenman’s lengthy philological study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Christian writings, Jesus (if he existed) and his brothers were Jewish fundamentalists exactly as you describe the Maccabbees and were inspired by them. They preached removal of the Roman occupiers of Judaea. Their portrayal in later Christian writings, according to the study, was satirically and expeditiously reversed via the “New Testament” by historical revisionists who did most of their writing once most of the Jews who knew history were destroyed and scattered by the Roman-Jewish wars. It is no accident, for example, that according to Eisenman the fictional story of Judas as betrayer involved the casting lots for a successor (casting lots was only done to select a High Priest in the Maccabbeean succession, and Jesus’ brother James was the opposition High Priest in the 50s-60s), and that the successor to this Judas was Matthias, reversing the names of the original Maccabbees, father Mattathias and son Judas. Eisenman links Paul to the family of Herod and points out that only those who were accomodationists towards Rome, whether Jewish or “Christian”, survived that period. Imagine living in Germany in the 1950s if the Nazis had won the war. It’s pretty clear how you would write about a family of Jews who had led people in the Resistance, especially if you wanted your writings to become popular. The book, “James the brother of Jesus”, is not exactly pop culture writing, and if you can get through the 1000 pages of dense writing, it is very provocative, and radically changes the presumptions drummed into us about the origins of Christianity.

  12. Whoa calm down a little. Valid criticism is an exalted thing, but don’t get carried away. Just because Kahane saw himself as a modern Maccabbee doesn’t mean that the Maccabee would have seen themselves as pre-modern Kahanes.
    The evidence that the Macabees invented a new “extreme” form of milah seems a little scanty, since foreskins can be simulated and extended even after today’s version of milah.
    You also leave out that the next generation of Maccabee monarchs were some of the biggest hellenizers of them all, and the generation after that was the ones who brought in Rome.
    Perhaps the reason the primary miracle of the holidays (small defeating the big) was neglected in the Talmud (but not in our prayers) was because they didn’t want to get the Romans any angrier than they wre already, with constant Jewish talk of rebellion. Also, some of the Maccaabee (Hasmonean) kings massacred the Rabbis and crucified hundreds! (ie. Yohanan Hyrkanos)
    Another thing: Who says Judaism doesn’t abide a democracy? You seem to be buying in to Kahane’s ideas instead of combatting them. Read the Abravanel on the perfect form of government (hint: its not a monarchy), the Ran on canon/civil law in Judaism (hint: its not a theocracy), and the Netziv on the basic question of whether the Torah prescribes a monarchy or not (hint: it doesnt – the form taken by the secular Jewish government is up to you).
    Also – the Hellenizers weren’t so great. They weren’t secularists – they were just as fascistic as the opposition. They were forcibly trying to stamp out the “backward” religion of ISrael, and replace it with something else, no matter what any Jewish believers wanted. They desecrated the temple! At least the Maccabees were fighting for national freedom of religion, if not individual freedom of religion.
    There’s more stuff, but I can’t think of it right now. Happy Hanukah!

  13. DK why exactly are “those awful fundamentalist maccabees” “just so awful”
    the jews existance was threatened and due to the desperate times, desperate measures were taken and an uprising was provoked to stop this from happening. what would you have done?
    And where exactly did u come to find out that the maccabees forced the conversion of “the gentiles who were absorbed by the eventual land expansion”?

  14. EP,
    Thanks for the source! I will try to get to it eventually.
    The Maccabees would certainly have preferred Kahane to the other Jewish groups. Like them, he is a Cohen, and a zealous and blood thirsty one.
    I am not saying the Hellenists were all “great.” But I was not even considering celebrating their holiday. It is not one or the other. When I advocate that, by all means call me on it.
    Your point on the Netziv and others is a good one, but democracy had not been practiced in ancient Israel, while it was in other cultures.
    Today we can reverse circumcision (to some extent) much easier than we could years ago when they lacked the technology and special tapes to do so, but relied more on pulling and weights. So brit priah did make it harder–much harder– for the ancient Jews to reverse the circumcision as they had been doing.
    I did not go into the fact that they became Hellenizers, as it isn’t relevant to the inital uprising itself, and my goal was not to show their corruption in their entirety, but how it was a fundamentalist uprising, and that they relied on brutality and were motivated by a thirst for power and revenge at the expense of the good of the nation. I felt Rome clearly demonstrated that, and this was included as well in the Books of the Maccabees, while the later Hellinist influence was not.

  15. Danny,
    I would not have killed Jews who disagreed with me and justified it by declaring them collaborators. I would have not brought Rome in to “mediate” when I had already restricted the Greeks essentially to a military base. I would not have declared the victory a new Succoth. I would not have circumcized children against their parents will. I would not have radicalized circumcision. I would not have instituted bloody baby penis sucking in order to check that the circumcision had been radical enough. And I would not have forced gentiles to convert. I would not have taken the kingship of Yehudah for myself when it wasn’t mine to take. I would not have killed dissenting Rabbis for express their opinion.
    And as for my not so controversial statement that these thugs forced conversion in order tofaciliate absorbing other peoples land, which the Talmud itself deplores, here you go — on a not exactly religously pluralistic site — Aish.com, Danny. They’re frummer than G-d. And even they say it happened, and that it was horrible and wrong.
    Read it and weep.


  16. Wow. Really thought provoking post. Thanks DK
    You’d think that the War on Christmas folks would jump all over stuff like this, thankfully they’re just trying to forcibly convert our tax dollars (for now).
    Ironically, my spam block is circumcision.

  17. It is so sad to see that people are trying to destroy one of the greatest examples of an attempt to bring people back to the way of torah. It is absolutely unbelievable to me…
    The Greeks were determined to remove Torah study and practice from the Jews. Torah is what makes us Jews. Did you read that? Without Torah what would the Jewish people be? There were people trying to pry it from our hands, the hands of our great forefathers. We needed someone to stand up for this.
    The miracle is that Judiasm survived to go through history. It is seriously doubtful that any semblence to Judaism would have existed if the Greeks succeeded in destroying the love of Hashem.
    Whether or not historically the oil miracle happened is debatable. I would believe it happened because it is a part of the lesson of Chanukah. Whether the Macabees significantly changed the leadership of ancient Israel could be debated. But it is sure that the return of the Temple was an important aspect of that time.
    And DK, sometime drastic measures are required. To you in your comfy position it is easy to make snap decisions. But I am grateful for the Macabees and I am very happy that my parents Circumcised me. I am proud of that, and I will certainly have it performed on my child. It is a part of the covenant with Hashem, why don’t you pick up a Chumash once in a while…
    There are Jews who are stabbing other Jews is the back. They are losing their part in the world to come. Just as Pinchas was inspired to kill the man who was fornicating in the temple, the Macabees were inspired to remove all sin from Israel. This in my mind was a noble goal. It doesn’t justify killing those who disagree with us now, but there may be justification at some time in the future.
    Hashem has a purpose for the Jews. Those who are righteous can see a world of peace and love, where we all accept the yoke of his kingship. Through Chesed we find that more is accomplished than through violence. We can be a shinging light and a beacon for the people of the nations. This is our calling, and I pray that we can comprehend the unity which we express through our prayer SHEMA.
    Happy Chanukah!
    Michael U

  18. Michael U,
    You wrote,
    “Whether the Macabees significantly changed the leadership of ancient Israel could be debated.”
    No, there is no debate anywhere. No one, not even the frummie leadership–doubts this. This is fact all around.
    You wrote,
    “Whether or not historically the oil miracle happened is debatable.” So is Santa Claus… In 3rd grade.
    “It doesn’t justify killing those who disagree with us now, but there may be justification at some time in the future.”
    No Michael U — Now! It is being justified NOW. But it is and will be us who are killed, not “them”
    Understand this — we are certainly welcome to play the Middle Eastern fundamentalist game. But we will not win through OUR (G-D given) MIGHT and OUR (G-D given) POWER.
    That will be another monotheistic religion.
    Not us. We won’t win that way.
    We haven’t since Chanukah.
    And we didn’t really on Chanukah either.

  19. A lot of the things you blame the Hasmoneans for were completely normative in most of Jewish history, i.e. circumcision.
    Even if they did invent today’s style of milah, why are you bringing metsitsa bepeh into the conversation? Everyone knows that saliva was used to clean small wounds in ancient days.
    I repeat that the Macabees were not Kahanists or Taliban who overthrew some kind of democratic secular Jewish leadership — they were zealots who saved the rest of the Jewish people from FORCED hellenization. That does not excuse what they did afterwards, but I don’t think you want to make the argument that we’d all be better off (i.e. not existent) if the Maccabbees had not fought.
    What’s with the random attacks on “frummies”? And with using Aish.com as a historical source? And the weird obsession with proving to people that many Hasmonean kings did horrible, asshole-y things, including forced conversions to Judaism for conquered peoples, empire-building, and general political thuggery? It’s all in the Gemara, everyone knows it.
    It’s like you’re just looking to scream at people. History is complex and nuanced. You can’t cover that up with random barely-topical rants.

  20. Alan,
    I used the Aish.com website to prove that my assertation that the Maccabees employed forced conversions upon gentiles was accepted. Not all Orthodox Jews respect historical sources. If he hasn’t heard about it before, he may not be able to look it up in the Talmud. Giving an ultra-Orthodox site proves (to such a person) that this is an accepted thing, as Aish is not a controversial site in the black hat world, but nice and sugar coated, just the way they like it.
    History is complex and nuanced, Alan, that is true. But for many Jews, their understanding of the Hasmonean Revolt, of Chanukah, and the bogus miracle oil story, is simply childish.

  21. DK,
    I love Aish.com and find your dissing it in poor taste. I also find your hatred for Orthodox very disturbing. I am involved with an Orthodox Minyan and they are very nice and concerned people. They are not radical as you like to imply.
    Your view of history seems like a childs. Without the wisdom you are here to try to destroy one of the great miracles of Jewish history. You are doing this to ‘enlighten’ us, so you say.
    I doubt that you are here to enlighten us. You are here because you are angry at Jews. Maybe you are one of those self-hating Jews, or one who likes to identify with the bullies. Maybe you even don’t believe in Hashem at all, which would certainly be the saddest of the options I have listed.
    You claim that Jews are killing people because of their ideology now. I bet you are talking about the people who call themselves Palestinians. Well, we are not killing them. They are trying to kill us. You may want to pretend that the Jews are at fault. That the Jews ‘stole’ Palestinian land, etc. Those excuses fall flat in the face of facts and history. My brother died as a result of Terrorism. I know that they mean it when they say they want to see the destruction of Israel. While I support the 2 state solution, most of the Palestinians don’t really support that idea. It is more popular to call for the destruction of Israel. I say NO WAY MUFTI. But that is another issue…
    My point is this. There are forces which are calling for the destruction of the Jewish identity, of the Jewish soul {which I don’t think you believe exists}. This force has existed since the beginning of Jewish identity, the father Abrahams time. The hatred of Hashem is strong amongst some nations. Either you see the forces of the evil or you don’t. The Jewish people need to see what is facing them into this millenium. Sitting idly by as your brother bleeds is a prime sin of Torah. Why are we waiting as these forces are regrouping to try to destroy us?
    Hashem will answer on the day we call..
    Michael U
    I pray for peace every morning and try not to hate others. I think that Hashem and our people will defeat the evil tides.

  22. Micahel U,
    You wrote,
    “I am involved with an Orthodox Minyan and they are very nice and concerned people. They are not radical as you like to imply. ”
    I never implied that most Orthodox minyans were radical.
    You said,
    “You are doing this to ‘enlighten’ us, so you say. ”
    Where did I use that term? You are making things up.
    “You are here because you are angry at Jews.”
    I am angry at Fundmentalists of all types. I do not exclude Jews. The Maccabees were the only type of fundamentalist uprising that we support. Other cultures have a whole slew of such people. I think we are still having problems now because of those types of celebrations.
    “You claim that Jews are killing people because of their ideology now. I bet you are talking about the people who call themselves Palestinians.”
    wtf are you talking about? You really make shit up and pretend it’s mine.
    No — I am talking about people who were killed down the street from me in these two big towers, and I am talking about Jews who are killed on buses in Israel. Because of Fundamentalism. I am talking about people who declared Sharon a Nazi because he decided that Gaza was not a viable option. I am talking about people who compared the Israeli soldiers who so sensitively removed the setters as “Cossacks.”
    Those are the type of people I am talking about, Michael U.

  23. DK,
    My brother was one of those killed in the attack on 9/11… And it was not the Jews who killed him. It was the fanatical muslims who want to destroy ‘us’.
    I support the settlers and feel sorry for their plight. It was the belief of many that the modern state of Israel was to be a Jewish state, one with its roots in biblical Israel. The powers which created the modern state of Israel supported the settlers and told them that what they were doing was supported by the government. In the end they were let down, and they have a right to be upset. Those who had been there for decades, who fought and stood up to the opposition in the name of the land of Israel. It is a sad, sad story in my opinion. I just hope that the much hoped for peace is around the corner. Every time I get optimistic that peace is coming, more violence from the terrorists. Its as if they are afraid of peace with Israel. I believe that most Israelis truely want peace in the holy land. But we cannot just believe them.. I am old enough to remember many broken promises on the other side of the fence. I want peace, then land… Not vice versa. We can make peace only if the opposition wants to seek a peaceful solution.
    DK, I apoligize if my style of writing is agressive. I am not trying to ‘put words in your mouth’ so to speak. My intention in the sentence “You claim that Jews…” is to say that I supposed that you were talking about the problems we are having in Israel with the Palestinians. As I said before, if I am wrong I must ask your forgiveness.
    From your responses I come to the conclusion that you have thought about your position, so I respect that. But my point must also be respected.
    The point I would like you to understand is that my undestanding of Judaism includes the belief that everything in history has happened for a greater good, a bigger picture. So no matter what happened there, we are now here. What we learn from that event in history is what is important now. This is true now as ever. Even as a victim of 9/11, I believe it happened for a greater, unknown purpose to change the course of history. My return to Judaism was predicated on this event, along with some other life changing events. They all happened for a reason. So did the destruction of the second temple. To argue about this is absurd.
    I believe that Torah study is important in our times. I believe in supporting the orthodox in Israel and their schools. Jewish fundamentalism is simply the ideology of the covenant of Abraham, the promise of the lands of Caanan. They dont want to destroy the world, they dont want to convert or dominate the world. What they want is what they believe was promised by the one and only L-rd Hashem, blessed is is name. What is wrong with this? Other religions have their holy lands, some are very oppressive. Israel is like a shining light in the land of oppression, even with its blemishes.
    I am sorry to argue about this openly for the fear of offending others, as I want to share your feelings. Again, I truely believe you feel the way you do, and would like to better understand the problem. Chanukah has a place in Jewish culture. We learn about the history, warts and all. You can decide what is right or wrong…
    Thank you,
    Michael U

  24. Kinda of like how post-colonial countries quickly become dictatorships. Maybe we should celebrate the independence, yet mourn the oppression that the independence brought?

  25. “The book I am referring to is not some modern bible literary critic’s interpretation. It is the definitive document drafted in accordance by the Macabees themselves.”
    Again, my comments weren’t debunking the “facts” of your post merely the overall suggestion that we should, what…do away with all ritual, prayer and belief that disturbs our 2005 sense of right and wrong? Moreso, to apply said values, preconceptions, etc. about miracles, etc. Super duper chutzpah.
    Anyway, I concur with Alan:
    “What’s with the random attacks on “frummies”?”
    It’s clear you’ve got a bone to pick and your using Jewschool to do it. You’re coming in loud and clear.

  26. Shtreimel,
    What do you mean “random” attack? I have certainly been known to criticize Fundmendantlists, which is different — very different — than traditional — something you proved you don’t understand in your suicide girl comment above, where you referred to the most extreme Chassidic sects as “traditional.” They are not. They are fundmentalists.
    Aish is a Fundmentalist recruitment organization, but like the Chassid who is attempting to address the inherent immorality and liscentiousnous of coed telephone conversations, they are of the quiescent, not activist, strain — which is much more common in Jewish circles.
    If you are suggesting that I have issues with fundamentalism, you are absolutely right. And both with secular fundmentalism, and religious fundmentalism.

  27. “Aish is a Fundmentalist recruitment organization…”
    Really now? Funny, I spent some time sampling their classes…as well as Ohr and Isralight. A super duper 3 weeks. Not once did I feel any pressure to buy, say, eat, pray anymore than I do when I enter a Gap store.
    My politics/theology appears much more centric than your rants/posts. But of course, this is all relative. I have no doubt a Satmar Chassid feels they’re liberal (in relation to how they understand the world to be) compared to the “Fundmentalist” secular culture they try to protect themselves from.
    “If you are suggesting that I have issues with fundamentalism, you are absolutely right. And both with secular fundmentalism, and religious fundmentalism.”
    I’m suggesting you have problems with Judaism. Nothing wrong with that though, but you’d appear more honest if stopped masking the angst.

  28. DK,
    What does Fundamentalist mean to you? To me it means one who wants to get to the fundamentals of their religion. Does it mean that to you? IF SO GOOD!
    So if a Jew wants to get to the fundamentals of their religion what would those fundamentals be:
    1) Observance of mitzvot, prayer at morning noon & night, Shabbos Observance, Yom Tov Observance, etc.
    2) A desire to reside in the holy land.
    3) The belief in the unity of the Creator, blessed is his name.
    DK, what is so bad with the Jewish ‘fundamentalist’? What are they trying to make you do, what are they forcing on you? It is true that they are living the Torah, which is what ever Jew SHOULD be doing. I look at the Orthodox and have MUCHO RESPECT for their beliefs. They have the GUTS and the DISCIPLINE to carry out what they believe.
    Again I come to the conclusion that you just plain don’t like Jewish religion, the way you write about Jews is plain embarassing. If you read the Wisdom of the Fathers you find that all Jewish wisdom is rooted in Torah study. Observance of ritual is important to strengthen the ties which bind Hashem to the human soul.
    Jewish Fundamentalists are not equal to Muslim Fundamentalists who are carrying out a Jihad to destroy those who don’t agree with them.
    I fully support the Jewish ‘Fundamentalist’ while I abhore and detest the Muslim Fundamentalist because while the word DK uses for a religious person is a fundamentalist.
    I fully support the Jewish Fundamental ideas:
    1) Hashem created the world and perpetually continues creation.
    2) Performance of mitzvot helps an individual on a path toward spiritual enlightenment.
    3) Hashem is compassionate and wants an individual to perfect him/herself which in effect transforms the world.
    4) By making a good example the people around us will be positively influenced and in turn want to perfect themselves.
    5) Hashem is one and his name is one and he has been and always will be Hashem.
    I have found all the previous to be true in my own life. This is MY WISDOM. If this makes me a Fundamentalist in your eyes then so be it. In my eyes you are the biggest example of a Hellenist there is on this web site. You seem to want the Jews to give up on Hashem, to not observe, to not praise and glorify his name. If they do, you label them “Fundamentalists”.
    I am truely tired and disappointed with this conversation. I try to fill my life with goodness and kindness. I feed my animals before I myself eat, because Torah teaches that this is good. It is good because it reminds me, daily, that my act of Chesed for my animals makes me like Hashem in my compassion and caring for my servants {cats}. I am commanded to “Walk in his ways” which I observe with the proper intention {kevanah}. Similarly my kippah continually reminds me of Hashems presence in my home and at my office. I think twice before acting unseemly, in fear of commiting Chillul Hashem or desecration of the great name. Again, you think this is “Fundamentalist” but I see it as doing His Will.
    I would like to be able to help you on the path toward spiritual enlightment, but I dont think it is the right time for you. I was away from Judaism for almost 25 years before opening my heart and mind to be filled by Hashem. I am 40 now and feel the benefits of my teshuva, though I surely know that the true rewards are in the world to come.
    May peace be with you,
    Michael U

  29. “read it and weep”.
    why would i weep? i asked you for your source. you gave it to me. thanks. i was trying to have a discussion with you. grow up.

  30. DK,
    I read that site… And while it is true that some people get too involved with particular aspects of religious belief, they truely want to have peace on earth. Most of the Orthodox I know also have normal lives beyond their Judaism. There is nothing which prevents them from enjoying sports and other hobbies.
    There are people who go too far. But there are such people in all groups. All of my recent experience with Jewish resources has been one of spiritual growth. I don’t know if your professor Heilman truely believes in Hashem. He quickly dismisses the belief of Moshiach without looking into the reasons people actually believe in Moshiach. He is quick to dismiss the observance of some without understanding why they believe this way.
    It is always easier to divide others than bring them together. It seems that the purpose of some people here is to concentrate on the things which divide us. Let us come to some agreement…
    Is a person a Jew if he/she denies the existence of Hashem? If he/she denies the value of Torah. What is your definition of a Jew? I think I have explained mine… That article just defined what he thought a fundamental jew is without explaining what a Non-fundamental jew is.
    I will wait for your reply before I start making assumptions…
    Michael U

  31. Michael U,
    I am not as theologically or philosphically as focused as you may be, but I guess I would break it down in these terms:
    I think that there are some things that both traditional and Fundamentalist Jews have in common in contrast to secular or liberal Jews. Therefore, I would say that those things they have in common would not be what defines a Jew as fundmentalist.
    I guess I would offer a person such as Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik as an example of a person who is a traditional Jewish leader who was not, and in fact fought against, fundamentalism, just as he fought against secularism.
    If you contrast him to the B’nai Torah like Aish Hatorah, or the Messianic Settlers, (quiescent and activist fundmentalists, respectively) you will hear something quite different and less broad in their interpretation of Judaism, as well as a certain demonization of those not like them which you won’t hear from J.B.
    Pragmatically, I have written about what I felt was wrong with the quiescent Ba’al Tshuvah institutions — here is one where I outline seven specific areas I consider problematic: http://unorthodoxjew.blogspot….
    Tell me what you think!

  32. The genuine tradition of Israel, preserved in the Oral Law,
    explains the true nature of the Hannukah celebration. “What is Hannukah? (RSHI: For which miracle was it instituted?) The Sages taught …. A miracle took place and they kindled the Menorah from it (from the vessel of oil) for eight days” (Shabbos 21 B). The miracle of the lights was the central cause of celebration; for the battles were by no means finished, for soon afterward the power went over to the Hellenisers entirely, after the death of Judah the Maccabbee, and the worst part of the Shmad commenced, followed by 25 years of war. It is thus clear that the celebration of Hannukah was not because of any victory, but because of their rejoicing at the demonstration of the Shechinah in their midst.
    The episode of the miracle of Hannukah “was not permitted to be written” (Yoma 29 A). It is certain that none of the Sages ever mentioned the book of the Hasmoneans (the book of the Maccabbees); and this book has not been in the hands of our nation throughout the past two millenia. It was illegal for loyal Jews to have any public writings other than the Scriptures. All secular narratives were forbidden as “outside books” (Sefarim Hitzonim) (Sanhedrin 90 A), and no sacred writing other than the 24 books of the Scriptures was permitted. It was forbidden to write even prayer-books (Shabbos 115 B), and there is no mention of a written Mishnah or Talmud until the days of the Rabbanan Savorai, after the last of the Amoraim. All historical narrative was contained in the Oral Tradition in the form of carefully-memorized Baraisas, of which a number are found in the Talmud and other compilations, such as Seder Olam and Mid­rashim; but, like all the Oral Tradition, this had been forbidden to put into writing. Even Josephtus states: “We do not possess an unlimited number of books among us … but only the books of the Scriptures” (Contra Apion I, 8), and he states: “Every one is not permitted of his own accord to be a writer” (ibid. I, 7). Josephus wrote his own books not for the Jews (vid. Jos. Vita 76). The book of Hasmoneans (including II Hasmoneans) was therefore certainly not composed by any of the Sages or their disciples (who were always the majority of the nation, as testified even by Josephus-Antig. XIII, 10, 5; XIII, 10,6).
    The narrative of the book of Hasmoneans concludes soon
    after the period of Jochanan Hyrcanus (I Hasmoneans 17: 25 ). Since it goes no further, it obviously was composed at that time (for if it were merely a chronicle of the Syrian wars, it did not need to include the history of Jochanan Hytcanus). This demonstrates that it was written under the regime of the Sadduccee-Hasmonean rulers, of whom Jochanan Hyrcanus was the first; and the writer was under their dominion. Because the Sadduccee regime of Jochanan Hyrcanus forbade the practice of all Rabbinic laws and inflicted punishment (in some instances death) upon those who observed these laws (Antiq. XIII, 10, 6), the writer was careful to omit any mention of the Rabbinical law of kindling the Hannukah lamp. He could therefore make no mention of the miracle of the Menorah which the entire nation knew as the occasion for this Rabbinical law. The practice of Hannukah was not repressed, although it was a Rabbinical edict, for it was the memorial of the glory of the Hasmonean family and the sole justification of their authority. Josephus, who followed the Sadduccee chronicles throughout, also omitted the miracle of the Menorah; but he could not brush off the fact that the entire nation kindled the Hannukah lamps, and he therefore mentions the festival called Lights (Antiq. XII, 7, 7). He gives a lame explanation: “I suppose the reason (for this name of Lights) was because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us” (ibid.).
    Despite the attempts of the Sadduccees to suppress the
    fame of the miracle of the Menorah and the practice of the Mitzvah, the Sages and the nation made every attempt to publicize this miracle; and the universal practice of the people was to kindle the Hannukah lamps at the gates of their homes, in the public thoroughfare (Shabbos 22 A; Bava Kama 62 B).
    from “Tzur Hate-udah” by Avigdor Miller

  33. AC,
    This makes no snese. If there had been a miracle of oil, the Maccabees would surely have sought to publicize it, and it would not have been considered a Rabbinic legislation.

  34. With all this energy spent trying to explain why your traditions are worthless and unworthy to be remembered is it any wonder that Jews are assimilating like salt in the sea? Kicking ass is what you will have to do until the messiah so get used to it or get a vomit bag. Acting like sheep in a den of wolves will get you killed.
    How millions of apathatic Jews like you stay alive in Israel is a miracle big enough to prove the existence of G-d.
    As for Kahane, don’t blame him for being radical, he needed to compensate for all the wimps surrounding him.

  35. Formermuslim,
    You wrote, “As for Kahane, don’t blame him for being radical, he needed to compensate for all the wimps surrounding him.”
    That’s a completely different issue, and not one I was addressing. What I was saying was that I would not want to give the likes of him (or anyone else, for that matter, but I figured that was implied) absolute, unchecked power, which is what occurred during the Hasmonean regime.

  36. How refreshing!
    I thought I was a lone voice in the wilderness claiming the Chashmonaim were the Taliban of their place and time – which I came about more intuitively than through scholarly work (I’ve never even read any volume of sifrei Macabbee)…
    However – it is also clear to me why the rabbonim inserted this holiday in the liturgical year … others above posted this as well – it’s the SOLSTICE – it’s the darkest time of the year – it’s scary… even here in the 58th century it’s scary! That’s what’s with the putative neis, the oil, the eight days (well they eight days comes from sefer macabbee, with the reference to Sukkot) – it’s all about LIGHT, light in the time of darkness.
    Sure it’s all made up – but it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness…
    or reject the tradition… we just need a few more songs that tell the truth about the Chashmonaim (I’m writing one by the way… stay tuned…)

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