Today President Obama gave his usual nonsense statement about the Jewish holiday of Chanukah which starts tonight. He misses the real story of Chanukah which based on events the past year, should be particularly relevant to Americans. Besides being a holiday with countless amount of spellings, Hanukkah is a holiday about a government and population trying to enforce their religious views upon people of faith.
The president’s short statement reads:
Tonight, Jews in America, Israel, and around the world come together to light the first candle of the Festival of Lights. At its heart, Hanukkah is about the struggle for justice in the face of overwhelming obstacles. It’s a chance to reflect on the triumph of liberty over tyranny, the rejection of persecution, and on the miracles that can happen even in our darkest hours. It renews our commitment as Americans – as people who live by faith and conscience – to lead the way and act as unyielding advocates for the fundamental dignity of every human being.
During these eight days, let us be inspired by the light that can overcome darkness. As we recall the Maccabees’ struggle to free a people from oppression, let us rededicate ourselves to being the engine of the miracles we seek. May the lights of the menorah brighten your home and warm your heart, and from my family to yours, Chag Sameach.
The Chanukkah story is primarily about a civil war between the Jews. Judea (what the Jewish State was called back then) at that time had been affected by the Hellenization begun by Alexander. Some Jews, mainly those of the urban upper class, wished to dispense with Jewish law and to adopt a Greek lifestyle. They claimed the people who clung to Jewish law were on the wrong side of history.
When Antiochus IV Epiphanes who was the King Seleucid empire based in Syria which controlled Judea, saw what was developing between the two Jewish sides, he chose sides (but not wisely). Antiochus pursued a zealous Hellenizing policy he put a statue of Zeus in the holy temple, made possession of the Torah a capital offense and burned the copies he could find, he banned many traditional Jewish practices: including ritual sacrifice, Shabbos and festival observance were and feasts were banned. Circumcision was outlawed, and much more.
A rural Jewish priest from Modiin and Judah the Maccabee’s dad, Mattathias the Hasmonean (their last name was not Maccabee), sparked the revolt against the Hellenization by refusing to worship the Greek gods. The first blow in the war was when Mattathias killed a Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol in Mattathias’ place.
The real Hanukkah Story is about a civil war against a government and population who were trying to prevent them from observing their faith. Times had change and Hellenism was much more modern and those the Maccabees were fighting felt they were on the right side of history (they were wrong).
The struggle of the Maccabees was very similar to the struggle of Hobby Lobby, or the Little Sisters of the Poor, government and public opinion are trying to force them into changing their faith and provide insurance covering abortion and birth control (although I do not expect the Little Sisters to take up arms).
The owners of Liberty Ridge Farm north of Albany New York, who said they would host the reception but refused to host the 2013 wedding ceremony of a lesbian couple because it violated their religious beliefs are like today’s Maccabees. They were not only fined by New York State but they were ordered to re-education training classes so they could learn that their religious beliefs are wrong.
Just like the two modern examples and others like it, the Maccabee weren’t fighting against people who had changed their own religion and practice, they were fighting against people who were trying to force people who believed in the Jewish faith like Mattathias and his boys, to change their religious beliefs. The owners of Liberty Ridge Farm aren’t trying to force their beliefs on others, they are just trying to observe what they believe.
If we continue to allow our government and popular culture to force people of faith to change their beliefs it won’t be long until they ban certain parts of the bible as hate speech, or other rituals as abhorrent to modern culture. If we continue to allow our government to ignore the 1st Amendment, it won’t be long before we see the modern equivalent of a giant statue of Zeus in all of our houses of worship.