By: Romi Morales
In recent months we have talked about the concept of “Restart”, trying to think about how when a crisis arises, we can use it as a springboard that allows us to grow, change, learn and revolutionize. In this article we would like to analyze the history of Hanukkah in the light of the concepts of “Restart” and see how the events took place so that the Macabim also managed to enter this mode.
Whenever we tell the story, we start from Antiocus IV. However, to understand the process that Am Israel was going through, it is worth understanding what preceded this stage. According to various sources, it is estimated that Antiocus III had not only allowed 2000 Jewish families in Babylon to return to the lands that were under Hellenic rule, but it is also reported that King Antiocus III was friendly to the Jews of Jerusalem, to the point that he reduced taxes, granted subsidies to the Temple and let the Jews live according to the law of their ancestors. When King Antiocus finished his term and his son Antiocus IV went up, things began to look different.
The conquest of Jerusalem by Antiocus IV was extremely brutal. Not only did he conquer the city, but he also sent his soldiers to loot it, desecrate the temple and declare illegal many of the fundamental practices of Judaism such as Kashrut, Shabbat, Torah study, Brit Mila, among others.
On a philosophical level,people of the time have probably felt that this drastic change took them by surprise. And when this happens, generally people tend to think that what is happening is something temporary and, therefore, at a practical level,it is not yet necessary to adopt measures or establish changes in the daily life in relation to it.
But those who do not evolve in the face of the crisis are destined to lose the game. Therefore, even when on a philosophical level Am Israel thought that the situation was still reversible, that is, that they would soon return “to the normality” they knew with Antiocus III, on a practical level the Jews understood that they had to start changing certain issues while Antiocus IV was in power.
And here we can understand how certain behaviors that have been seen for a long time, perhaps deepen and begin to be increasingly antagonistic to each other. On the one hand, there are the “Hellenistic” Jews. That is, those Jews who think that on a practical level the solution is to adopt many of the cultural issues that the Greeks bring to Israel: clothing, leisure, the relationship with the body, names, etc.
This is how they believe that they will be able to survive this empire, until the next one arrives and from there, then they would analyze how to continue.
On the other side are the Jews who follow the leadership of the Macabim. That is, Jews who refuse to include foreign practices and rigidly defend Jewish customs, culture and values. For this group of Jews, changing practices in order to survive is a much bigger challenge. Even so, according to our sages, they managed to find creative answers to many of the laws enacted by Antiocus IV against the Jews. For example: Antiocus IV asked that in every house where Jews lived, that on the doors be written “Here God of the Jews was not respected.” As this was something unthinkable for this group of Jews, what they decided to do was to remove the doors of their houses, so as not to have to comply with the decree and that they cannot be tried to death for not having complied with it.
In the adaptation stage, we see a very important qualitative change.
In the two previous stages, there was no understanding that “the crisis that arose with the arrival of Antiocus IV pushed us to begin a new chapter in Jewish history” and therefore that “returning to normality” prior to this mandate was simply impossible.
However, at this stage that element is present. Here, the Jews begin to understand that Antiocus IV came to stay for a long time and that the adaptations they made so far were more or less effective, but only in the short term. If they really wanted to move on, they would need to think “the how” more deeply.
Moreover, at this stage, although in philosophical terms there is a leap in understanding, at the practical level, it still works with the practices that they had adopted when philosophical understanding did not yet exist. In other words, there is still no harmony and logical relationship between philosophy and practice.
In this sense, we can see that there is a group of Jews who decide to simply adapt to the situation of the moment and renounce the Hebrew cultural baggage they previously had. As the practices they had previously adopted were Hellenistic, here the adaptation is so effective that it ends up becoming assimilation and therefore total loss of Judaism.
For the other group of Jews, it is clear that you can no longer give partial answers and now that they understand that reality has changed and that they are going to be the ones who define the future of Judaism, it is necessary that their practice is adapted to the understanding that “there is no return to normality” there is only “creation of a new future”. Only the revolution lies ahead.
And that’s how the Macabim decide to organize. And although they are a few against a powerful army of many, they choose to go out and fight for their values, ideas, principles, customs, history and common future.
The Macabim choose to make a revolution against all odds of victory. And, miraculously for some, humanly for others, they overcome and go up to the Temple to purify it. Without a doubt, it is not what we expected. And yet, it happened. There the second miracle occurs, when the oil that was supposed to illuminate only one day, I reach 8 days, exactly the time it took to create more pure oil to keep the light of the Temple chandelier on without interruption.
BY WAY OF CONCLUSION
Hanukkah is the festival of lights, of miracles, of battles won even against all odds. Hanukkah is the holiday that teaches us that what we did not expect can happen. Hanukkah is the holiday of the Revolution. Hanukkah is the holiday that teaches us that “Restart” is an invention that has existed for a long time and that works, in those days and in our time too!