Monday, February 27, 2006

The Enemy of Hanukah

Not long ago, during Hanukah time, I saw it asserted that the Modern Orthodox are the equivalent of the Hellenists of the Hanukah era and are the "enemy" of the Hanukah story. At the time, I pointed out that this is a total misunderstanding of the Hanukah story. The successful Hasmonean rebellion was against decrees forbidding the practice of Judaism, not against any form of mildly assimilating secular knowledge or culture while maintaining strict adherence to halakhah (in the approaches of R. Azriel Hildesheimer and R. Samson Raphael Hirsch).

I now see that an old friend of mine and a new rabbi in my neighborhood, R. Baruch Pesach Mendelson, wrote something similar:

The battle was not one between Orthodox and non-Orthodox, although there was a fear of mass assimilation. It was rather a fight against those who sought to insult, disrupt and destroy any and all elements of Judaism completely - the Greeks. This fight was waged on the battlefield. The only incident in which we see a Jew killed by another Jew was one involving Matisyahu. The act involving Matisyahu, while Halachicly justifiable, is still nevertheless difficult to understand, but we can at least put it in perspective by examining the scene surrounding it... Matisyahu accomplished his victory by successfully battling the Greeks on the battlefield, not by oppressing or killing those of his brethren who sided with the Greeks. Indeed, even after Matisyahu and his men were victorious, Hellenistic Jews still remained and were still vocal. Our celebration of Chanukah is a celebration of perseverance against religious persecution by our enemies - those who wished to rid the world of a religion we know as Judaism.

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