For Maccabees, Goal Was Power


In “Chanukah and the Holidays” (Dec. 19), Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Druk characterizes the message of Chanukah as “the victory of freedom over tyranny.” This is factually incorrect.

Commenting upon the common belief that Judah Maccabee was a crusader for freedom of religion, Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser points out that this “statement is true only if you add two words to the end of the sentence: ‘for himself.’ The Maccabees today would be regarded as religious zealots. As much as they fought a military war, they also fought a war for religious domination. To the Maccabees, ‘freedom of religion’ meant freedom to kill Jews who adopted Greek worship.”

Furthermore, according to the Union for Reform Judaism’s website, “The book of Maccabees says that the Israelites celebrated their triumph with garlands made of ivy — a Greek symbol of celebration that is identified with the god Dionysus. That says a lot. The Maccabees’ fight was not about assimilation, as the Maccabees themselves were assimilated; rather, their fight was about nationalism and power, not cultural identity.” Sad to say, the Chabad-Lubavitch understanding of the import of this festival, as presented by Rabbi Druk, amounts to little more than assimilation-driven truthiness.

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