Earlier in December, an email hit the log which was put away until the time appropriate to Chanukah. Now is that time. So here is a Vort on Chanukah;
Down With Hanukah
By Rabbi Meir Kahane
If I were a Reform rabbi; if I were a leader of the establishment
whose money and prestige have succeeded in capturing for himself the
leadership and voice of American Jewry; if I were one of the members
of the Israeli Government’s ruling group; if I were an enlightened
sophisticated, modern Jewish intellectual, I would climb the
barricades and join in battle against that most dangerous of all
Jewish holidays – Chanukah.
It is a measure of the total ignorance of the world Jewish community
that there is no holiday that is more universally celebrated than
the “Festival of Lights,” and it is an equal measure of the intellectual
dishonesty and hypocrisy of Jewish leadership that it plays along with the lie.
For if ever there was a holiday that stands for everything that stands for
everything that the masses of world Jewry and their leadership has rejected – it is
this one. If one would find an event that is truly rooted in everything that
Jews of our times and their leaders have rejected and, indeed, attacked – it is this one.
If there is any holiday that is more “un-Jewish” in the sense
of our modern beliefs and practices – I do not know of it.
The Chanukah that has erupted unto the world Jewish scene in all its
childishness, asininity, shallowness, ignorance and fraud is not the
Chanukah of reality. The Hanukah that came into vogue because Jewish
parents – in their vapidness needed something to counteract
Christmas; that exploded in a show of “we-have-lights-just-as-our-
goyisha-neighbors” and in an effort to reward our spoiled children
with eight gifts instead of the poor Christian one; the Chanukah that
the Temple, under its captive Rabbi, turned into a school pageant so
that the beaming parents might think that the Religious School is
really successful instead of the tragic oke and waste that it really
is; the Chanukah that speaks of Jewish
Patrick Henrys giving-me-liberty-or-death and that
pictures the Maccabees as great liberal saviors who fought so that
the kibbutzim might continue to be free to preach their Marx and eat
their ham, that the split-level dwellers of suburbia might be allowed to
violate their Sabbath in perfect freedom and the Reform and Conservative
Temples continue to fight for civil rights for Blacks, Puerto Ricans and
Jane Fonda, is not remotely connected with reality.
This is not the Chanukah of our ancestors, of the generations of Jews
of Eastern Europe and Yemen and Morocco and Spain and Babylon. It is
surely not the Chanukah for which the Maccabees themselves died.
Truly, could those whom we honor so munificently, return and see what
Chanukah has become, they might very well begin a second Maccabean
revolt. For the life that we Jews lead today was the very cause, the
real reason for the revolt of the Jews “in those days in our times.”
What happened in that era more than 2000 years ago? What led a
handful of Jews to rise up in violence against the enemy? And
precisely who was the enemy? What were they fighting for and who were
they fighting against? For years the people of Judea had been the
vassals of Greece. True independence as a state had been unknown for
all those decades and, yet the Jews did not rise in revolt. It was
only when the Greek policy shifted from mere political control to one
that attempted to suppress the Jewish religion that the revolt
erupted in all its bloodiness. It was not mere liberty that led to
the Maccabean uprising that we so passionately applaud. What we are
really cheering is a brave group of Jews who fought and plunged Judea
into a bloodbath for the right to observe the Sabbath, to follow the
laws of kashrut, to obey the laws of the Torah. In a word everything
about Chanukah that we commemorate and teach our children to
commemorate are things we consider to be outmoded, medieval, and
At best, then, those who fought and died for Chanukah were naive and
obscurantist. Had we lived in those days we would certainly not have
done what they did for everyone knows that the laws of the Torah are
not really Divine but only the products of evolution and men (do not
the Reform, Reconstructionist, and large parts of the Conservative
movements write this daily?) Surely we would not have fought for that
which we violate every day of our lives. No, at best Chanukah emerges
as a needless holiday if not a foolish one. Poor Hannah and her seven
children; poor Mattathias and Judah; poor well meaning chaps all —
but hopelessly backward and utterly unnecessary sacrifices.
But there is more. Not only is Chanukah really a foolish and
unnecessary holiday, it is also one that is dangerously fanatical and
illiberal. The first act of rebellion, the first enemy who fell at
the hands of the brave Jewish heroes whom our delightful children
portray so cleverly in their Sunday and religious school pageants,
was not a Greek. He was a Jew. When the enemy sent his troops into
Modin to set up an idol and demand its worship, it was a Jew who
decided to exercise his freedom of pagan worship and who approached
the altar to worship Zeus (after all, what business was it of anyone
what this fellow worshiped?) And it was this Jew, this apostate, this
religious traitor who was struck down by the brave, glorious,
courageous, (are these not the words all our Sunday schools use to
describe him?) Mattathias, as he shouted: “Whoever is for G-d, follow
What have we here? What kind of religious intolerance and bigotry?
What kind of a man is this for the anti-religious Ha’shomer Ha’tzair,
the graceful temples of suburbia, the sophisticated intellectuals,
the liberal, open-minded Jews and all the drones who have wearied us
unto death with the concept of Judaism as a humanistic, open-minded,
undogmatic, liberal, universalist (if not Marxist) religion, to
honor? What kind of nationalism is this for Shimon Peres (he who
rejects the ‘Galut’ and speaks of the proud, free Jew of ancient
Judea and Israel)?
And to crush us even more (we who know that Judaism is a faith of
peace which deplores violence), what kind of Jews were these who
reacted to oppression with force? Surely we who so properly have
deplored Jewish violence as fascistic, immoral and (above all) un-
Jewish, stand in horror as we contemplate Jews who declined to picket
the Syrian Greeks to death and who rejected quiet diplomacy for the
sword, spear and arrow (had there been bombs in those days, who can
tell what they might have done?) and “descended to the level
of ‘evil” thus rejecting the ethical and moral concepts of Judaism.
Is this the kind of a holiday we wish to propagate? Are these the
kinds of men we want our moral and humanistic children to honor? Is
this the kind of Judaism that we wish to observe and pass on to our
children? Where shall we find the man of courage, the lone voice in
the wilderness, to cry out against Chanukah and the Judaism that it
represents – the Judaism of our grandparents and ancestors?
Where shall we find the man of honesty and integrity to attack the
Judaism of medievalism and outdated foolishness; the Judaism of
bigotry that strikes down Jews who refuse to observe the Law; the
Judaism of violence that calls for Jewish force and might against the
enemy? When shall we find the courage to proudly eat our Chinese food
and violate our Sabbaths and reject all the separateness, nationalism
and religious maximalism that Chanukah so ignobly represents? Down
with Chanukah! It is a regressive holiday that merely symbolizes the
Judaism that always was; the Judaism that was handed down to us from
Sinai; the Judaism that made our ancestors ready to give their lives
for the L-rd; the Judaism that young people instinctively know is
true and great and real. Such a Judaism is dangerous for us and our
leaders. We must do all in our power to bury it.
May it be in this year and beyond, that our brethren; the refugee families from Gush Katif and the Shomron, as well as our dear brother, Jonathan Pollard be central in our thoughts, prayers, chassadim and actions. May our prayers that he soon know freedom and long life in Eretz Yisrael be fulfilled quickly.
B’Ezrat Hashem, may we soon know the day when Torah is the law of the land; when we see the day when our Brethren, expelled by the evil regime from Gush Katif and the Shomron towns, know freedom, success, happiness and long life in Eretz Yisrael for all time and are restored to bigger and more beautiful homes and neighborhoods, Bati Knesset, Yeshivot in Gush Katif and the Shomron. May our brethren from Gush Katif and the Shomron rise up today to do battle for the Jewish mind and soul, together with all intellectually honest and enlightened Jews, just as the Maccabees did in doing battle against the Greeks.
May this abominable period of history called hitnatkut be as a bad dream and may we be zocha in this coming year to take giant steps toward fulfilling Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations.” .
May we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Meiyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of the Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.