2 Responses to “Moshe Benovitz on the History of Hanukkah”
December 1st, 2010 at 9:20 pm
Martin Goodman proposes the lighting is indeed quite a bit older than Benovitz lets on, and was quite political even in its origins:
“The Hasmonaeans were not without opponents, not least because some Jews doubted their right to usurp the High Priesthood. The festival of Hanukkah, still celebrated today for eight days from 25 Kislev, around mid-December, originated as a commemoration of the victory of the Maccabees over the forces of the Seleucid king in the 160s BCE, but during the period of the Hasmonaean rule it also provided an opportunity for all citizens of the Jewish state to demonstrate their loyalty in public; the essence of the demonstration was the exhibition of the lighted wicks in a position where they could be seen by the public. Visibility of the lights was crucial: a rabbi quoted in the Mishnah ruled that a shopkeeper would generally be liable for the damage to a camel-load of produce if it caught fire in the street because lighted lamps had been left outside the shop, but made an exception for the lamps lit for Hanukkah, when the danger of naked flames on the street was outweighed by the religious duty to proclaim the miraculous victory achieved by Judas Maccabee. What it felt like for an opponent of the Hasmonaean regime to be forced to protest his loyalty in this public way can be readily imagined.”
Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations, by Martin Goodman, p50
December 2nd, 2010 at 1:01 am
A very interesting article by Moshe Benovitz. So does that mean I have an option not to light a Chanukah menorah?