What Happens When a Secular Jew Approaches the Truth About Hanukkah
Originally published as a comment to the article "Confrontation at Ma'ale Levona", 14 December 2009;
Copyright © R. Kossover, 2009
Some of you may have read the first article I ever wrote for Blogcritics Magazine, depicting the events Hanukkah celebrates for what it really was - a civil war.
Four years later, on 11 December, a secular Jew, David Brooks, wrote a similar article as an op-ed piece for the New York Times - depicting the events surrounding Hanukkah as a civil war - but of course, being an American assimilated Jew, he could not reach for the truth of the matter. And being a blinded secular American Jew, he cannot see the terrifying reflection of events 2,100 years ago recurring once again today. This is no surprise. The thumbnail of education he brings to the matter helps him not at all, and similar Jews whine that he has ruined their holiday - so says this article in Ha'aretz comparing 'fanatic' Maccabees to modern 'Jewish hard-core'.
From the Ha'aretz article:
Some readers declared their holiday "officially ruined," calling on Brooks to be ashamed, while others praise him for shining a light on the true nature of the lovable winter festival.Brooks' conclusion (from his NYT op-ed piece):
In his article, Brooks seeks to trace the historical underpinnings of Hanukkah, thus refuting its governing myth of "the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire."
The writers emphasizes the fact that the Maccabean Revolt took place in a time of internal Jewish discord which culminated in what he sees as a Jewish civil war.
While the Maccabees, who the writer says are "best understood as moderate fanatics," were "fighting heroically for their traditions and the survival of their faith," Brooks emphasizes the fact that the language they chose to justify their rebellion was in fact that of Greek law.
"They were not the last bunch of angry, bearded religious guys to win an insurgency campaign against a great power in the Middle East, but they may have been among the first," Brooks wrote in his New York Times article.
But there is no erasing the complex ironies of the events, the way progress, heroism and brutality weave through all sides. The Maccabees heroically preserved the Jewish faith. But there is no honest way to tell their story as a self-congratulatory morality tale. The lesson of Hanukkah is that even the struggles that saved a people are dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices.What a fool. All history is dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices. This is not news. What fools his whiners are. The truth always hurts when you've been taught lies all your life.