Magazine article Tikkun

Chanukah

Magazine article Tikkun

Chanukah

Article excerpt

CELEBRATING THE WORLD'S FIRST RECORDED NATIONAL LIBERATION STRUGGLE

evening of December Il to December 19, 2009

The Ritual

Each night of Chanukah we light candles, starting with the shamash (used to light the others) and one candle, and then adding one additional candle each night for a total of eight nights. The tradition is to sing, dance, and rejoice in our liberation and our freedom.

THE TRADITIONAL BLESSINGS OVER THE CANDLES

*Allnights*

1. Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech ha'olam, asher kidshanu bemitzvotav, vetzivanu, lehadleek ner, stiel chanukah. (Blessed are you, the Force that rules all of existence, who sanctifies us by giving us a way of life directed by holy commandments and commanded us to light the lights ofChanukah.)

2. Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech ha'olam, she'asah nisim la'avoteynu, bayamim hahem, bazman hazeh. (Blessed are you, the Force that núes the universe, who made possible miracles for our ancestors, in those days, and also makes the same possible for us in our own times.)

*Addon the first night*

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech ha'olam, shehechiyanu, vekee-imanu, veheeg-iyanu, lazman hazeh. (Blessed are you, the Force that rules the universe, who has kept us in life, made us flourish, and made it possible for us to reach this happy occasion.)

The Story

(the nonmythohgized version you may never have heard)

When King Cyrus of Persia allowed the remnants ofthe ancient tribes of Judah and Benjamin to return from the exile imposed upon them by Babylonian conquerors in the seventh century bce, they formed the kingdom of Judea. As part ofthe Persian Empire, and later as part ofthe empire of Alexander the Great, Judea had relative autonomy to shape its own internal religious life.

When Alexander died at the end ofthe fourth century bce, his empire split into three rival factions, and Judea was caught between two of them: the Seleucids, centered in Syria, and the Ptolemies, centered in Egypt. For the next 150 years, these two kingdoms warred and each sought to incorporate Judea as part of its empire.

Although the battle was largely military, there was an important ideological dimension. Alexander had introduced the Jews to Hellenistic Greek culture- its philosophy, its literature, and its impressive technology and power. Forcibly dragged into the larger Mediterranean world, many Jews could see that "the real world" was dominated by wealth and power. Some Jews, primarily those who lived in and around the larger cities, saw an opportunity to join this larger world by becoming merchants and traders, or by establishing political and economic relationships with others in the Hellenistic empire. It was apparent to these Jews that their tribal religion would have little meaning to those who had conquered the world. The religion of their fathers seemed irrelevant in a world reshaped by the "modern" realities of science; they were drawn by the allure of a society that worshiped the body and saw reality in terms of what could be tasted, touched, and directly experienced by the senses.

These Jewish Hellenizers saw no point in resisting Greek rule. Their goal was to live in peace with the powers that ran the world. They could benefit from the connection to the expanding trade of the Hellenistic world. On the other hand, the vast majority of the Jewish people were small, independent farmers who lived on the land and brought its produce to Jerusalem three times each year to celebrate their hard-won freedom from slavery. They bore the brunt of the oppressive taxes imposed first by the Greeks, and then, alternately, by Seleucids and Ptolemies. These Jews resented foreign rule and detested the city-dwelling elites, who seemed to be culling favor with the Hellenistic conquerors, imitating their ways, abandoning the religion of the past, and becoming worshippers at the shrine of political and cultural "reality. …

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