Every year for the past little while, as I already summarised on this blog, my conception of Chanukah has been completely overturned. First it was livredor (see above link). Then along came Rachel Elior at Limmud '05, then other people (whose identity I have forgotten, but whose teachings are summarised at the above link), and then Stephen Rosenberg at Limmud '07.
By this point I'm thinking I must have plumbed the story of Chanukah to its depths, but then along comes Rabbi Shoshanna Boyd-Gelfand and revolutionises my understanding all over again:( Read more... )
Every year for the past little while, my conception of Chanukah has been completely overturned. First it was livredor, telling me the Hasmoneans weren't the good guys overthrowing the religious oppression of the Seleucids, but, really, a bunch of religious fundamentalists—the delivering the wicked into the hands of the good, etc, stuff in על הניסים is actually about the Hasmoneans slaughtering the Hellenised Jews—acculturated Jews like myself. (Undaunted, I did not let this put me off celebrating Chanukah, but took great pleasure in the knowledge we today subvert the fundamentalists' victory commemoration by turning it into a celebration of the overthrow of religious oppression.
Then came along Rachel Elior, with a radical new interpretation of what the Hasmoneans, Pharisees, Saducees and Essenes stood for.
At some point further along the way I then learned that the Talmud talks about the miracle of Chanukah being that of the jar of oil, which is not attested anywhere in the contemporary accounts, rather than the military victory of the Hasmoneans, because the rabbis of the Talmud disapproved of the Hasmoneans for taking on the High Priesthood, to which they were not entitled (see also my notes from Prof. Elior's talk), and the kingship, to which they were not entitled not only not being of the House of David, but being of the wrong tribe altogether; also, or so it was implied by the people who told me of this, because they did not altogether approve of religious fundamentalism.
I also learned that far from needing us moderns to subvert what the Hasmoneans stood for; their own descendants did it themselves: After the first generation of Hasmoneans had died, the next generation acknowledged that it was impossible to wall themselves off from the surrounding Greek world, and this realpolitik is reflected in their names, which combined Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek names, e.g. Alexander Yannai.
And then along came this talk, which... well, I'll let it speak for itsef.( Read more... )