Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My Hanukah Pet Peeve

Here's what I hate about Hanukah:

The incessant articles and lectures about the ideological battle between Judaism and Greek philosophy that totally ignore the vast extant Greek literature.

Instead of making sweeping statements about the Greeks, how about acknowledging that they were not a monolithic group and intelligently discussing which Greek philosophies we fought against? Most of us have, at some point, been exposed to Greek thought, whether by taking Philosophy 101, reading Plato's The Republic, studying Moreh Nevukhim or otherwise. The Greek philosophers did not have one single approach to life. How about addressing that? Did the Hellenists at the time of Hanukah espouse any of these philosophies? Were they Stoics, Epicureans, etc. (see here)? Were the Hasmoneans fighting against every Greek ideology or just one (or some)?

It boggles my mind that someone can publish an entire book about the struggle between the Jews and the Greeks relying entirely on rabbinic descriptions of the Greeks and not once mentioning that we know a good deal about them from their own literature. I mean, come on! I learned some of this stuff in ninth grade.

Every time I hear someone say "The Greeks believed..." I immediately think "Which Greeks?" I'm surprised that even intelligent and well-read rabbis do this.

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