Happy Hanukkah to the new Maccabees

As every Jew will tell you, in the traditional Jewish calendar Hanukkah is not big deal.  It reached its present status because it happens to fall at the same time as Christmas.  Jewish parents, therefore, turned it into a gift-giving holiday so that their children didn’t feel completely left out from the happy, generous, celebratory Christmas season.

The fact that it’s not a big religious holiday, though, doesn’t mean that Hanukkah doesn’t commemorate an extremely important event, one that has enduring meaning to all freedom seeking individuals.  For those who don’t know it, the story of Hanukkah is as follows:

Since time immemorial, nations have fought over that small patch of land we now call Israel.  Considering that nature was less than generous in endowing Israel with fresh water or arable land, there must indeed be something special about the Holy Land, some transcendent aura, that has made it such a tantalizing prize to so many nations and people.

In 168 B.C.E., Greek soldiers located in modern-day Syria seized the great Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and defiled it by dedicating it to Zeus.  Jews were appalled and offended, but still passively accepted this insult, for fear of incurring even greater wrath from the Greeks.  Human nature, though, is human nature, and you cannot appease a tyrant.  Heartened by Jewish passivity, the very next year, Antiochus, the Syrian-Greek emperor, mandated that any Jews who observed Jewish rituals would be put to death.  Just to make sure he was completely clear, he also ordered that all Jews must affirmatively worship the Greek gods.

The Jews realized that it was one thing to be barred from a building, and another thing to be barred from their faith entirely.  The smoldering tinder of Jewish resistance was lit when Greek soldiers in the village of Modiin gathered Jews together, and tried to force the Jews to bow to an idol and eat pork.  Realizing that where the leader goes, the others will follow, a Greek officer focused his efforts on Mattathias, a High Priest.  Mattathias refused to acquiesce to the Greek demands.  In fear, another villager offered to violate Jewish law on Mattathias’ behalf.  Mattathias, rather than being grateful, was outraged.  He killed first the appeasing villager and then the Greek officer.  Mattathias, his five sons, and some other villagers then came together and killed the remaining Greeks.

Outlaws now in Greek-controlled Israel, Mattathias, his sons, and their followers hid in the m0untains and began a guerrilla campaign of resistance against the Greek occupiers.   The fight was a deadly one.  Mattathias and several of his sons died in battle, leaving one of his sons, Judah Maccabee to carry the fight to its conclusion.  As was the case with the American revolutionaries fighting their seemingly insane battle against the might of the British Empire (the most successful military in the world at that time), it seemed impossible to believe that the Maccabees (or Hasmoneans) could win — but they did, driving the Greeks from their lands and restoring the Temple to its rightful glory.

Of course, once the Maccabees first re-took the Temple in Jerusalem, it had been completely defiled by Greek religious practices, including the slaughter of swine on the altar.  The Jews believed that they could purify the Temple by burning the ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days and eight nights.  To their dismay, however, they discovered that they had only enough oil left for one day and one night.  Nevertheless, they lit the menorah and a great miracle happened there:  the menorah burned for eight days and eight nights.  It is this miracle that the Jews celebrate when they light the menorah every night for the eight days of Hanukkah.

The Hanukkah story is a wonderful story of faith, commitment, and bravery.  It is also a reminder that tyrannies, despite their power, are fundamentally unstable.  A committed band of people can come together to topple them.

We are blessed to live in a republican Democracy.  Obama is not a tyrant, but he is creating an infinitely more powerful federal government that has the seeds of tyranny in it (as all too-powerful governments do).  For many of us, the 2008 election was the equivalent of the Jerusalem Temple takeover.  It was a fearsome thing, but we did not yet feel that our lives and beliefs were being fundamentally transformed.

This 2012 election, however, has made us realize that Obama can follow through with vigor on his Big Government initiatives.  All too soon, we may be forced to bow down.  Now is the time for us to fight.  We won’t slay people and take to the hills, though.  Instead, we’ll run for elected office, refuse to let our children’s public schools use our tax dollars to indoctrinate them, boycott anti-American Hollywood products, invest in conservative businesses and news sources, assert our beliefs without apology, and in every way we can, become a conservativism that’s resurgent.

We are the new Maccabees.

Happy Hannukah!

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    The following is a translation from the Hebrew text taken from the book, Pardes Chanukah. From the personal journal of a Jewish Soldier who fought side by side with General George Washington at Valley Forge during the period of Chanukah. It is Chanukah in the year of 1776. The winter is hard and the cold is fearsome. We are sitting in Valley Forge and waiting. Waiting for what? I do not know. Possibly, for days better than those at hand. I am to my knowledge the only Jew here. Possibly, there are others, however, I do not recognize any as such. We are starving for bread. We have no clothes to warm our bodies and no shoes for our feet. Most of the soldiers curse General Washington who went to fight the English. There are also those among us who seek and hope for his downfall; however, I believe justice is with him. We need to remove Britain from the colonies. Britain seeks to extend her hand upon all she sees. I believe with all my heart in General Washington though we suffer here so greatly. I observe the General as he is passing at night in the camp among the sleeping troops. He looks upon them with compassion as they struggle with the cold. There are those among them that he approaches to cover as a father would his son. There are those who suffer with the famine and cold bringing them to the brink of death. However, I do not curse General Washington who fights to bring independence to America . At these moments, I am reminded of my father in Poland . I recall how much he suffered at the hands of the cruel Baron. I remember I was but a youngster and saw my father dance before the Baron. How terrible was the sight. My father was made to dress up in the skin of a white bear and he danced for the sport of the Baron and his guests. How great is my pain and shame. Father dances as a bear and the Baron jests and revels. I affirm in my heart that I will never be so humiliated myself. At my first opportunity, I set sail to America . Behold; I am at Valley Forge and trembling from the cold. There are rumors in the camp that General Washington is about to fall. However, I firmly believe he will surely succeed. I sleep at nights and pray for his welfare.. It is now the first night of Chanukah. This very night, two years ago, I fled from my father’s home in Poland . My father gave me a Chanukah menorah and said, “When you will light, my son, these candles for Chanukah, they will illuminate the path for you.” From that day on, my menorah was as an amulet. Wherever I go, I take it with me. I do not know what to do here and now; to light the menorah among the gentiles or not. I resolve to wait until all are asleep. When all are sleeping, I take out my father’s menorah. I light the first candle and say the blessings. I gaze upon the flame and I see the home of my parents. I see once again my father dancing as a bear before the Baron with tears welling up in the eyes of my mother. My heart is filled with pain and I burst forth in tears like a young child. I resolve that for the sake of my parents and siblings left in Poland , I will assist the General with all my might, to make America free and a land of refuge for my entire family who suffer so harshly. Suddenly, I feel a soft, tender hand upon my head. I lift my eyes, and behold it is him, in all his majesty, standing upon me. He asks me, “Why soldier do you cry? Is it then so very cold?” Pain and compassion are in his voice. I could not bear his pain, and I jumped up from my place. I forgot at that moment that I am a soldier in the presence of my superior, and spoke before him as a child to a parent. “My master the General,” I said. “I cry and pray for your victory. I am certain with the help of G-d, we shall prevail. Today, the enemy is strong; tomorrow they will surely fall, for justice is with us. We seek to be free in this land; we desire to build a country for all who flee from oppression and suffer abroad. The Barons will not rule here. The enemy will falter and you will succeed.” The General shook my hand. “Thank you, soldier,” he said, and sat at my side next to the menorah. “What is this?” asked the General. I told him I brought it from my parent’s home. Jews the world over light this menorah to celebrate the great miracle of Chanukah and the miraculous salvation of the Jews. The light of the Chanukah menorah danced in the eyes of General Washington as he called forth in joy, “You are a Jew from the children of prophets and you declared that we shall prevail.” “Yes my master,” I answered with confidence. We will be victorious as the Maccabees of old, for our own sake and the sake of all who follow us to build a new land and a new life. The General got up; his face was ablaze. He shook my hand and disappeared into the darkness. My faith was rewarded, victory was achieved, and peace reigned in the land. My General became the leader of our new country, and I became one of its citizens. I quickly forgot those frightful days and nights at Valley Forge . However, that first night of Chanukah, with General Washington, I carried in my heart always as a precious dream. I never told anyone of my encounter, for I reasoned, who would believe me. Certain I was that General Washington himself had long forgotten the matter. However, this was not to be. He indeed had not forgotten that night at all. The first night of Chanukah the following year of 1777, I was sitting in my house in New York on Broome Street , with the Chanukah light in my window. Suddenly, I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door, and incredibly, my General, George Washington is standing in the doorway. “Behold, the wondrous flame, the flame of hope of all Jewry,” he called forth in joy as he gazed upon its light. The General placed his hand upon my shoulder and said, “This light and your beautiful words lit a flame in my heart that night. Surely, you and your comrades will receive due recognition for all of your valor at Valley Forge . But this night, accept from me, this medallion.” He hung the medallion of gold upon my chest and shook my hand. Tears came to my eyes; I couldn’t say a word. The General shook my hand once again and left the house. I stirred as if coming from a beautiful dream. I then looked upon my medallion and saw a beautiful engraving of a Chanukah menorah with the first candle lit. Below was written, “As an expression of gratitude for the candle of your menorah.” This medallion is part of the permanent collection in the Jewish Museum in New York .

    http://www.jcca.org/jwb/PDFs/Chaplines_fall06-winter07.pdf pages 10 and 11

  • lee

    Thank you, Sadie! I had never heard about that before.

  • Caped Crusader

    A wonderful thing to share! Chanukah is a magnificent historical event that all lovers of freedom, and haters of tyranny, should hold in their hearts for it belongs to all lovers of freedom and liberty.

  • bizcor

    Sadie, I came to this page to comment on Bookworm’s wonderful post however I must say your post brought tears to my eyes. I have never heard that wondewrful story. Thank you for sharing and Happy Chanukah

  • Beth

    Thanks, BW for this place of freedom and peace; and thank you Sadie!  Again, thank you!

  • Spartacus

    The Continental Army wasn’t in Valley Forge over the winter of 1776-77, but 1777-78…


    I’ve only been in Valley Forge since the winter of 2000.

  • Spartacus

    I wasn’t suggesting otherwise!  😉

  • https://picasaweb.google.com/102427392960537405774 Kevin_B

    I loved this post, dear Bookworm. I didn’t previously know about the story of Hanukkah – I hadn’t heard it or been taught it (I admittedly know little about the Jewish faith and the history of the Jews) and I hadn’t looked it up. Now I have read it, and it is quite a wonderful story. 
    One also sees that reading conservative/non-main stream media and blogs can result in one learning new things and gaining knowledge.
    I thank you for that, Bookworm.
    Sadie’s story about the Jew and General Washington is a great story as well. Thanks for sharing, Sadie. That was a very enjoyable read as well.
    Happy Hanukkah.

  • Wolf Howling

    What a wonderful post.  And I concur, we are indeed the new Macabees.  For over 50% of American voters to pull the lever for Obama means that we are indeed in a war for the soul of America.  I still cannot believe that he was re-elected.  The people who are really going to get screwed are the middle class.

    I would add a few things to your list of things to-do.  

    1.  Closet conservatives need to come out of the closet and be utterly vociferous in both their defense of conservatism and in pointing out the falacies and fantasies of the left.  For example, “tax the rich” for their “fair share” is nothing more than Lenin banging on the Kulaks – class warfare to incite the support of people too ignorant of history or economics to know better.  Taxing the rich more will limit available capital for investment while doing essentially nothing to improve our economy.  The increased taxation proposed by Obama will fund the government for a week.

    2.  Take no prisoners with the left.  Try to educate them if you run into one that is just misguided, but I really think the time for rational discussion with these people is over.  They need to be treated to Alinsky tactics in spades and it needs to be vociferous.  We will be getting there when I hear, on a Sunday talkshow, Pelosi described as insane, Reid as a scurrilous, lying scum and Obama as so economically incompetent he shouldn’t be put in charge of a lemonade stand. 

    3.  Truly boycott everything associated with the left that you can do without.  Do you know who advertises on MSNBC?  You should.  Do you know who advertises in the NYT?  You should.

    Other than that, Happy Hannukah 

  • https://picasaweb.google.com/102427392960537405774 Kevin_B

    “The people who are really going to get screwed are the middle class.”

    The left is lying when it says they will do something for the middle class (or the poor). The left absolutely hates the middle class, because it represents many of the things the left doesn’t like. And they need the poor to remain poor.

    “I really think the time for rational discussion with these people is over.”

    I once ACTUALLY believed that many religious persons and conservatives were irrational. I still think some probably are, but I have come to realize that irrationality and incapacity to debate are very common on the left side of things.


  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Thank you so much, Kevin_B, for the kind words.  I do agree with you that conservative blogs tend to be packed full of useful (and sometimes trivial) information.  The Hanukkah story isn’t a trivial one, because it has little to do with religion, and much to do with courage, faith, and freedom, all of which are universal constructs.

  • BombthePeasants

    I bought this book, Maccabee!: The Story of Hanukkah for my kids 2 weeks ago. It is absolutely wonderful. We read it almost every night now. Please spread the word about this fun book.

  • http://gregorys-rantsite.blogspot.com gkong3

    I actually like the story of Purim better; it highlights the power of a righteous woman possesses without her overstepping the roles society demanded of her. Of all the books in the TaNaKh, the Book of Esther is one which is about as secular as they come, and yet demonstrate the divine protection of HaShem over His Chosen People.
    I do have one teeny, tiny objection. Was it necessary to use the politically-correct abbreviations BCE? I know that BC might stick in the craw of Jewish people, seeing as you do not believe HaMoshiach has come. But it is the correct and dominant dating system, and even the Muslims in my country use the precise translation of the terms BC and AD, and they don’t believe Yehoshua bar-Miriam was the Christ, either (if you’re interested, the terms they use are SM and TM, Sebelum Masihi, “Before Messiah” and Tahun Messiah, “Year of Messiah”).