Who are the bad guys in the Hanukah story? And who are the good guys?
These are serious questions with serious consequences.
Most Jews (and certainly most Christians) dismiss the winter holiday as a trivial, feel-good festival about candles, potato pancakes, spinning tops (dreidls),and eight nights of gifts, without coming to terms with its serious, relevant and distinctly uncomfortable messages. While frequently (and fatuously) described as a “celebration of tolerance,” Hanukah is more properly designated as an annual re-dedication to the values of the Religious Right.
No wonder that so many American Jews (with their reflexive, often ignorant liberal instincts) refuse to acknowledge the real Hanukah and its politically incorrect messages. In last week’s Washington Post, a householder from Potomac, Maryland named Kenneth Nechin proudly explained that his home attempts to honor the “deeper meaning” of the holiday: “Religious tolerance, the freedom to practice religion, minorities overcoming majorities who are trying to take your rights away.”
Actually, far from celebrating “diversity” or “tolerance” or “respect for every faith,” Hanukah (the name means “dedication” in Hebrew) marks a singular display of intolerance-- when religious zealots, exalting the values of “that old time religion,” came into the Temple in Jerusalem and drove out all alternate, “creative” forms of worship. In the “For the Miracles” (Al HaNissim) prayer recited at least three times a day by religious Jews during the eight days of the festival, we salute this uncompromising assertion of absolute truth: “Your children came to the Holy of Holies of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified the site of your Holiness and kindled lights in the Courtyards of Your Sanctuary.” No, the fervently faithful rebels did not assign a special area for other religious impulses as part of some ancient commitment to multiculturalism.