Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The untold story of Chanukka (part 2)

In the year 169 BCE (3591, Hebrew calendar), Antiochus Epiphanes launched his reign of terror against the Jewish people. Impatient with the slow results of the Hellenization process of the Jews, after trying for 150 years to assimilate them,  Antiochus led his armies to Jerusalem. He canceled the sacrifices and desecrated the Temple.  In the year 167 BCE, practicing Judaism was forbidden under death penalty. Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Kashrut laws and particularly, circumcision were banned. Jews were forced to bow down to idols and thousands chose death, instead of worshipping idols.   When the Greeks got the city of Modi'in Matiatyahu haKohen was ordered under the threat of execution to offer a sacrifice to an idol. He refused and killed those who were carrying the orders of the King. He was the first Jew that instead of martyrdom (= letting himself to be killed) chose rebellion, and thus, started the insurrection against Antiochus the tyrant. He and his sons, especially Yehuda haMaccabbe, defeated the Greek armies in several battles and in 165 BCE restored  (for a few years...) the Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel.  

Ironically, it was Antiochus' impatience what triggered the uprising against the hellenization of the Jews. Rabbi E. Melamed hints that if the Greeks would have been more persistent, assimilation might have eventually taken place with most of the Jewish people, as it happened with the rest of the civilizations at the time. It was providential that Antiochus lost his patience. Similar to the time when HaShem hardened the heart of Pharaoh, allowing for the portents of God Almighty to be witnessed by His own people. In the case of Antiochus, by forbidding the practice of Judaism, the Jews were inspired to react and generated the rebellion.  (Penine Halakha , zemanim, 218-220)