Saturday, December 24, 2005

The real meaning of Hanukah

Liberation is a theme that courses through all of Jewish history. The story of the Israelites’ escape from Egyptian slavery and return to their homeland under the leadership of Moses resonates with many oppressed minorities. That particular escape from tyranny long resonated with black slaves and was incorporated into their liturgy and gospel singing.

Jews have always been a people on the move – usually not by their own choice. The Romans dispersed them after they rebelled against Roman imperialist rule. This was the genesis of the Diaspora.

Jewish communities were chased from one European nation to another in a brutal “whack a mole” pattern endured by Jews for centuries. The Inquisition was just one manifestation of this history.

The tragic history of the Jewish experience reached its apotheosis in the Holocaust, when many in Europe tired of the game and just decided to eliminate its Jews once and for all. The brutality of the Holocaust did lead to one of the most spiritual events of the modern era: the return of Jews to their original homeland, Israel.

Today, many ill-informed or biased people feel that the Jews no longer deserve a home and that Israel should not be supported: that, in the words of the United Nations, the day it was founded was a day of “mourning.”

Israel has been hit by a never-ending series of wars and terror attacks, boycotts and slanders. The genocidal threat that now faces Israel comes from Iran, which is rapidly developing nuclear weapons and has boasted of its intentions to destroy Israel. The world dithers or looks away as the policy of appeasement and defeatism overwhelms any sense of morality.

By one means or another, the survival of Jews and Judaism has always been in question since ancient times. As Jay D. Homnick pointed out in The American Spectator, the Festival of Lights, Hanukah, has its roots in the Jewish struggle for survival:

The conceptual basis of Hanukah is simple enough: The Greeks were the first nation to wage war not so much against Jews as against Judaism. They sent an occupying force to Israel and enlisted Jewish collaborators known as Hellenists. Their primary goal, as the liturgy expresses, was “to make them forget Your Torah.” It was a war against the Bible, and it was founded in the Greek worldview of scientific secularism. Sadly, it was mostly successful. Although the Talmud never overtly admits this, most independent historical sources indicate that this campaign succeeded in seducing the vast majority.

The small group of guerrilla fighters known as the Maccabees are celebrated for their brilliant military campaign, overcoming great odds. But perhaps more challenging was winning the population back to their national patrimony. Indeed, tradition has it that only one flask of sanctified oil survived the Greek occupation of the Temple. An amount ordinarily sufficient to burn one day, it miraculously lasted for eight full days. Light is used as a symbol for intellect in Judaism, because it illuminates where there is doubt. Thus, the candles represent the ability of the Bible to be restored to prominence as long as a small loyal group safeguards it in time of crisis.

In a day and age when the leadership of the largest branch of American Judaism is worried more about Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell than Abu-Musab El-Zarqawi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this story seems more relevant than ever.

For Jews, the Bible is not solely religious; for Jews, it is also a national epic. The disasters, the betrayals, the resurrections and liberations that occur in tthe Bible are a tragically recurring motif in Jewish history. The Pharoahs and all the other tyrants have never died. They have just assumed new titles.

Ed Lasky is news editor of The American Thinker.

Ed Lasky

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