Chanukah: "Rebellion Against Tyrants Is Obedience to God.”

Straight from the Jerusalem Cloakroom #186, June 12, 2005

1. CHANUKAH, THE HOLIDAY OF EDUCATION. The Hebrew root of Chanukah is identical to that of "education" (Chinuch).  According to the first book of The Maccabees, the Jewish People was instructed to observe an eight day holiday on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, in order to commemorate the "dedication" (Chanukah in Hebrew) of the Temple's holy altar, following Syrian occupation and desecration. Chanukah consists of two words - CHANU (they rested/stationed) and KAH (25), which refers to the 25th day of the month of Kislev.  Some suggest that the celebration of Christmas on December 25th and the celebration of the New Year 8 days later, have their origin in the 25th day of Kislev (always around December) and the 8 days of Chanukah as well as the eight days of circumcision.


2.  ORIGIN OF MACCABEE.  Yehuda’s (Judah) middle name was Maccabee, derived from the Hebrew word Makevet (a power hammer), describing Yehuda’s power, or from the Hebrew verb Cabeh (to extinguish), which described the fate of Yehuda’s enemies.  MACCABEE is also the Hebrew acronym of “Who could resemble you among Gods, Jehovah” (“Mi Camokha Ba'elim Adonye” in Hebrew).


3.  HOLIDAY OF LIGHT AND REMEMBRANCE.  The month of  Kislev commemorates Noah's Rainbow.  Moses completed the construction of the Holy Arc on the 25th day of Kislev, as was the date of the laying the foundation of the second Temple by Nehemaya. The 25th Hebrew word in Genesis is ”light" (OR in Hebrew), which is also a metaphor for the Torah. The 25th stop of the Israelites - on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land - was Hashmona (same root as Hasmoneans in Hebrew).  Chanukah commemorates the victory of Light and Remembrance over Darkness and Forgetfulness. The last two words are spelled with the same Hebrew letters (Chashecha-darkness, Shechecha-forgetfulness). 


4. A LESSON TO ISRAEL'S LEADERSHIP.  Simon the Maccabee response to Emperor Antiochus' ultimatum to end "occupation" of Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gezer, Ekron and Gaza (Maccabees A, Chapter 15, verse 33): "We have not occupied a foreign land; we have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation." 


7.  THE ORIGINAL "GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH." The Maccabees were a tiny minority, condemned by the "pragmatic" loyalist establishment as "the enemies of peace". They demonstrated the victory of conviction over convenience and few over many, preserving Jewish religion, language, culture and sovereignty. They have inspired the Founding Fathers, Paul Revere and the organizers of the Boston Tea Party.



10.  CHANUKA-PASSOVER-PURIM.  The heroes of Passover and Purim had no choice but to defy their enemies.  The Maccabees refused physical peace in return for spiritual assimilation and a sellout of the cradle of Jewish history. Their legacy: No free lunch for sovereign peoples, especially in the violent and volatile Middle East.