Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Look into the Meaning of Hannukah

Paganism is not separate from Christianity or Judaism - it's part of them. ~Jay Michaelson

"Judith Beheading Holofernes" - by Caravaggio

By Acharya S.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, Hannukah, Channukah, Chanukkah or other variant thereof is over, having begun this year at sunset on December 11th and ended eight days later, as sunset on the 19th. Bearing the happy title of "Festival of Lights," this holiday is celebrated by millions of Jews worldwide as a time of great rejoicing. Indeed, by its alternate title and its month of observance Hanukkah appears at first glance to be another form of the ancient winter-solstice celebration. But what does Hanukkah really represent?

The holiday of Hanukkah was established, it is claimed, in commemoration of the "cleansing" of the Jewish Temple by the Jewish military family of the Maccabees, during the second century BCE. Over prior centuries, the Temple had been "polluted" by the foreign and gentile presence of the Greeks, Romans and Syrians; hence, Jewish fighters decided to seize it in a purported act of patriotism and religious duty. During this siege, called the "Maccabean Revolt," an oil lamp was lit that supposedly "miraculously" lasted for eight days. Thus, Jews light one candle of the nine-branched candelstick or candelabra called a "menorah" each day. With today's religiously based fracas over which faith gets to be represented at "Christmas" time, it is often suggested that a menorah be included in public displays. But what does the menorah truly symbolize?

The rest of the story...

While most tales of Hanukkah stop with the miracle of the oil lamp, writer Andrew Marantz continues the narration of the temple siege by what he calls "Rambo Jews," based on the Jewish books 1 and 2 Maccabees:

The tale of the magic fuel starts and ends in chapter 4 of 1 Maccabees, but for the rest of that book (chapters 5 through 16) and for the entirety of 2 Maccabees (15 more chapters), the Rambo Jews go on kicking ass. They slaughter gentiles and lapsed Jews alike. "They forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys they found within the boundaries of Israel,"
says the book. They burned their enemies alive and "divided a very large amount of plunder." They decapitated the enemy king and impaled his head on a pike, "a clear and conspicuous sign to everyone of the help of the Lord."

Marantz concludes: "At best, the Maccabees were fundamentalist freedom fighters. At worst, they were terrorists - the Bible clearly reports that they targeted civilians. When the Maccabees were triumphant, they made sacrifices unto God; when times were tough, they went on praying and retreated to the mountains, sleeping in caves and growing scraggly terrorist beards. These are the heroes of the Hanukkah tale: the Taliban without dialysis."

So, that's what is being commemorated during this happy festival season! Perhaps it's time to reform or toss out this blatantly anti-gentile holiday, which others have claimed was devised in actuality some centuries ago in order to compete with Christmas.

The pagan candlestick

And the menorah? Typically it is claimed that its branches represent the eight days of this Maccabean lamp-lighting "miracle" and that the ninth, middle branch is the "shamash," which it is said, means "guard" or "servant." In reality, shamash means "sun" and is the name in several Semitic cultures for the ancient sun god. In his Antiquities of the Jews (3.6.7), Jewish historican Josephus (37-c. 100 AD/CE) says that the Jews had a candlestick of "seven lamps," which "referred to the course of the planets, of which that is the number." This tradition, along with the twelve loaves upon the tabernacle table - representing the months of the year - and the candlestick also being branched out into 70 parts - symbolizing the "Decani, or seventy divisions of the planets" - Josephus traces back to the great Hebrew prophet Moses himself. Hence, this ancient "Jewish" holy celebration is based largely on patently astrotheological or pagan nature-worshipping motifs.

As Jay Michaelson says in the Huffington Post, "...paganism is not separate from Christianity or Judaism - it's part of them." Let us therefore end once and for all this pretension to superiority by the Abrahamic cultus that is so divisive and destructive to the human family as a whole.


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