Hannukah is a typical rabbinic charade. It takes the Biblical story of the Maccabees and embroiders it with fantasy. After their victory in 165 B.C., the Jews retook control of the remains of the temple, but it had been defiled. They wanted to rekindle its eternal flame, but they found only one small flask of consecrated oil. According to the Talmud, that small supply, enough for only one day, miraculously lasted for eight, which gave the Jews time to prepare new oil. And which gave the world Hanukkah, meaning "dedication" or "consecration" in Hebrew.
There is no oil that lasted eight days in the Biblical text. This story first appeared in the Talmud, which was concocted by rabbis who lived in Babylon after the destruction of the Temple.
The nonsensical miracle of the oil hoax has led to the rabbinic custom of eating foods fried in oil for Hanukkah. In the United States, the most popular is latkes, (potato pancakes).
The pagan/Babylonian root of Hannukah can be glimpsed in the fact that during Hannukah Talmudic children play a gambling game with a dreidel, a spinning top. Each side has a Hebrew letter. In most places, the letters spell "A Great Miracle Happened There."
In San Francisco for several years a huge Hannukah menorah was displayed in Union Square while the square had no Christian Nativity scene.
Traditionally in Judaism, Hannukah was a very minor observance. The contemporary emphasis on Hannukah was created as a rival to Christmas observances.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Hannukah: A Nonsensical Talmudic Holiday
From Michael Hoffman's blog, On the Contrary: