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Sunday, December 13, 2009

An important reminder about Chanuka

A lot of people have no idea what Chanuka is really about. It's not a Jewish Christmas and it's not a universal holiday at all. Jonathan Tobin gives a reminder of what Chanuka's about.
Though the tension between the parochial aspects of the faith and its more universalist tendencies is as old as Judaism itself, Chanukah is not an empty metaphor into which other narratives or unrelated themes — whether praiseworthy or not — can be poured at will. Far from being a Jewish version of “goodwill toward men” or some trendy contemporary cause, the original story of Chanukah is about something very different: the refusal of a people to bow down to the idols of the popular culture of their day — their resolve to remain separate and faithful to their own traditions. Even more to the point, Chanukah is the story of a particularly bloody Jewish civil war whose outcome has stood ever since as a warning against the perils of discarding faith and freedom to fit it with more popular ideological movements. This is a lesson that applied to the Maccabees, who sought to resist the pull of Hellenism more than 2,000 years ago, as well as to those fighting back against the siren song of totalitarian ideas in the last century.
Indeed. Chanuka is a time when we are meant to increase Torah study, especially the study of the oral law. So let's get to it!


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