Sunday, 8 December 2013

Chanukah: The Greek Side of the Story*

(This article originally appeared as "On Chanukah, We Met the Enemy, and they Was Us," 21st December, 2001.
* See "Hanukkah Reconsidered" by Louis H. Feldman)

(The American Mizrachi Woman, Vol. 54, no.3 (6-7), Dec., 1981) for a full discussion.)

«It was Antiochus IV's bad luck to ascend the throne in a time of both internal political conflict in Judea and of strife with Egypt and Rome.  The hereditary high-priesthood, a powerful position indeed, was at the time held by the pious Onias III, who (unluckily for him) was pro-Egyptian/Ptolemaic in his sympathies.  Onias's brother, Jason, knowing that Antiochus needed huge sums of money for his campaigns against the Ptolemies and the Romans, promised the king substantial cash if the high-priesthood were transferred to him.  Antiochus agreed.  Jason, a committed Hellenist, instituted or permitted many Hellenistic and indeed pagan practices, without any compulsion by Antiochus.

Three years later (171 B.C.E.), Antiochus dismissed Jason as High Priest and replaced him with Menelaus, who had offered even greater sums of money.  Menelaus, who was not even a priest, was backed by the financially-powerful and highly-assimilated Tobiad family.  Antiochus of course "went with the money."  Menelaus inaugurated his high priesthood by murdering Onias III and by plundering the temple treasury, and proceeded aggressively to advance the agenda of Hellenization.  That agenda, it must be remembered, represented a crossing of cultural lines, and potentially a total collapse of Jewish identity.  The First Book of Maccabees suggests that it was the Jewish Hellenizers—not the Greeks—who initiated the imposition of pagan culture in Judea.»

Kol Tuv,

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