Sort of about Chanukah and Christmas

Got this in the email today:
The lasting achievement of the Maccabees was not that they won a war but that they rekindled the light of hope in Jewish hearts and saved the faith of monotheism from defeat. – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, 1997
[Background: Chanukah celebrates the victory in the 160s BCE of a Jewish People’s War/guerrilla war (possibly the first of its kind) against the gigantic armies sent from Persia to impose Greek culture and religion on them. The Jews were the last hold-outs who insisted on retaining a religion and culture of their own. The Maccabees were the leaders in the war.]
Rabbi Sachs is surely wrong about monotheism; it has enough juice in it to have emerged somewhere besides Palestine (and indeed it did, including, in a different way, the Mysteries). But Christianity? That’s different. That might really be so: No Judaism in Palestine, no Jesus and Christianity.
Besides its origins, the Jewish legacy was an indispensable impetus to the growth of Christianity, not just because of monotheism, but also the deep ethical dimension so weirdly absent from the culture of the Greeks. Communities who cared for the widow and orphan, for all of the needy, and who affirmed a fundamental equality before God for all, were an immense part of the attraction that drew to Christianity such vast numbers in Rome and the Roman Empire.
There would still be some kind of tree complementing the Menorah at the Winter solstice, but it might have been a different kind of tree.



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2 responses to “Sort of about Chanukah and Christmas”

  1. Mike Wofsey Avatar
    Mike Wofsey

    Excellent entry, I have never thought of it that way. I had always thought of Channuka as a minor holiday, inflated in importance by its proximity to Christmas. That just isn’t so … no Macabees, no Jesus. No Macabees, possibly even no Mohammed.
    That’s a beautiful thought. The real value of religious and political liberation can’t be gauged just for its immediate results.

  2. David Kolodney Avatar
    David Kolodney

    Thank you kindly!
    Yes, I even experience all the great religions worldwide with a kind of “all is one” relatedness, even though it is not historically rooted as it is with these.