Sunday, December 25, 2005

The true story of Channukah, or "Religious Freedom," my ass!

As a public service we provide our readers the true story of Chanukah. Amazing paralels witgh present-day politics. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

The narrative provided here is abstracted from "The Art Of Jewish Living, Seder Hanukkah," by Dr. Ron Wolfson, 1990, Federation of Jewish Mens Clubs, and from "Chanukah, it's History, Observance, and Significance," By Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm, 1981, Artscroll Mesorah Series, who in turned summarized the contents of the First and Second Books of the Macaabees and Josephus's Antiquities.


Our story begins in 175 BCE when Antiochus IV ascends to the throne of the Seleucid Empire under rather questionable cicurmstances. (His brother and pedecessor Seleucus III was mysteriously assasinated.) Now, this caused a bit of trouble for the Cohen Gadol in Jerusalem, one Chanya (Onias) III, who has considerable utonomy as the local ruler for the Seleucid kings, as they generally didn't care about the deatils of local rules, as long as the taxes were collected. The kings had somewhat more interest in Judaea becuase of it's strategic location as a buffer between the Seleucid heartland and the Ptolomeic empire in Egypt. [Yessir, thank you Hashem our eternal G-d, for giving us a hotly contested peiece of real estate for a Promised Land. ] Chanya at the time of Seleucus's death was doing some serious damage control due to rumors (apparently wildly overstated) of the vast wealth being held in the Beis Ha Mikdash (Temple). These rumors were beibng circulated by disgruntled former tax collectors (who happened to be Jewish), who had been ousted by Chanya due to their greed and cruelty. They also happened to be hard-core Hellenizers, that is, Jews who were more inclined to accept the trappings of Greek culture.

Anyway, when Antiochus ascended the throne, Judaea, not Georgia, was on his mind. Not only becuase of the strategic location, but also because of the rumors of great wealth to be extracted there. In addition, Antiochus apparently was something of a nutcase who could have benefited greatly from the pyschiatric pharmacopeia of the early 21st century CE. Unfortunately, such medication wasn't avialable, and leeches and drilling holes in the head didn't seem to work very well. Antiochus called himself "Epiphanes" (God-Manifest"), his subjects called him "Epimanes" (Nut-case). He was masically and Unstable micro-manager, who also happened to be greedy. (Sound like any people in high positions who you happen to know? :) _ )

Well, with the new administration, the Hellenizing tax-collector faction in Jerusalem was ready to make its move. Chnaya's brother, Yeshua (Jason), offered a hefty bribe to Antiochus to have Antiochus depose Chanya and install Jason as Kohen Gadol. Antiochus, was not only a greedy, mad micromanager, he was also stupid, because he let Jason take power before Jason delivered the bribe. On the other hnad, maybe it was Jason, who was really the stupid one, because he made his move before the deal was closed. In any event, Jason starts making big changes to the Temple, Hellenizing the place, though it's hard to say whether his innovations were justified attempts to modernize Judaism or evil abrogation of the Torah. The accounts in the Books of the Macabbees were, after all, written by people who opposed Jason adn the Helleniziers.

Finally, the folly of Jason not paying off Antiochus immediately becomes evident. He had to send an emissary to the king with the final payment. This emissary, one Menelaeus, brother of a crooked Temple official named Shimon, was a dirty double crosser if there ever was one. Mennie, off in Antioch away from Jason's control, cut a sperate deal with the king, offered a bigger bribe than Jason's, and induced the King to authorize Menelaeus to oust Jason and become the Kohen Gadol.

Now Mennie wasn't even a Kohen, but here he was in charge of the Temple. Naturally, he started despoiling the Temple to pay his bribe, an early example of the business model of "using other people's money," and killing Chanya, who protested the whole business. Jason, on the other hand, kept quiet, waiting for his time to strike back....

-to be continued..

19 Comments:

Blogger Stephen said...

I got a laugh at this...Georgia's always on my mind, whether I want it to be or not (I live in Atlanta). :D

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