The Story & History Of Hanukkah | Aleph Beta

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The Real Story of Hanukkah (Part 1 of 3)

The Hanukkah That Might Have Been

On Hanukkah, we celebrate the fact that many hundreds of years ago, the Maccabees defeated the forces of Antiochus, and liberated Israel from Greek rule. This victory wasn’t just about political independence – it was also about religious freedom. The Greeks had outlawed many Jewish practices, and actively tried to replace Judaism with Hellenism and its worship of beauty. By defeating the Greeks, the Maccabees ended this persecution and allowed the Jewish people to return to Judaism.

The story of Hanukkah raises a perplexing question: was the clash between Judaism and Hellenism inevitable? Are these two ways of life just completely incompatible, to the point that the Jews would have had to either assimilate or revolt? And, if that’s the case, what about those of us who are faithful Jews today, who also appreciate beauty and aesthetics? Are we living a contradiction?

Join Rabbi Fohrman as he analyzes a fascinating story recorded in the Talmud about a different encounter between Jews and Greeks, one which ends much more peacefully than the story of Hanukkah. This story may hold the key to understanding the right way for Judaism and Hellenism to interact – and where, if anywhere, the ideas of Hellenism can fit in Jewish life.

When you’re done here, check out other great Hanukkah content at Aleph Beta including What Is Hanukkah, Hanukkah in The Book of Maccabees & What Does Hanukkah Commemorate?

Rabbi David Fohrman

Founder and Lead Scholar






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