I love Hanukkah. It's one of Judaism's most fun holidays, perhaps second only to Purim. Kids spin dreidels and eat chocolate coins, and though not all people get vacation during Hanukkah, for those who do, it is the only extended time off between the High Holidays in the fall and the holidays of late winter and early spring. However, to really enjoy the Festival of Lights, liberal secular Jews must ignore the true origins of the holiday.
We were taught in school that Hanukkah was born out of Judah Maccabee's war against the Greeks and their imposition of their religion on the Jews. It was a war for national sovereignty and religious freedom - that's what the teachers said.
In truth, religious intolerance is more of a monotheistic trait than a polytheistic one. There is no evidence that the Greek rulers of Judea made any decrees forcing Jews to worship Zeus and the other Greek gods. Jews who decided to assimilate into Greek culture did so of their own will. They probably liked the less restrictive culture, and were the closest thing to secular people to exist at the time.
Judah Maccabee's war wasn't just against the Greeks, it was just as much against those assimilated Jews. He did not fight for religious freedom. He wanted to force the Jews to follow strict Jewish laws.
That is exactly why I wasn't upset to hear that Mel Gibson is going to make a movie based on the Books of Maccabees. Mel Gibson shares a lot in common with Judah: they're both violent, intolerant religious fanatics who are sure of the power of the Jews (of course, that last part meant very different things for each). There are also differences, like the fact that Gibson never went to war and killed anyone to impose his beliefs, which is a point in his favor.
The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P.
3 weeks ago