Jews and Greeks
Alexis (until quite recently, his name has been Amnon) has with pleasure settled down in the shadow of an old sycamore… Right beside the entrance to the gymnasium.
Into the head, the thoughts of how much his life has changed since Judea adopted the Greek laws, culture, philosophy, science popped.
People became different. Hellenization was with joy welcomed by Jews. Beauty, luxury, the power of thought.… Harvests increased. The local population shaved off their beards.
Much attention was paid to sports exercises. Panegyric on the beauty of the body is already a norm.
The people of Judea began to introduce changes in their lives.
Alexis’s reflections were interrupted by his friend Pluto (previously Itzhak).
“Hi, friend!” Pluto has just got out of the pool. A white cloth covered his lower body. He sat down next to Alexis, and the friends continued their long-time conversation about what the culture of Hellenes brings to inhabitants of Judea.
The friends’ attention was drawn by a wayfarer who at a fast pace was going up the hill, toward the gymnasium. He obviously was a mountaineer not yet affected by transformations.
A shaggy beard, in the form of a spade, covered his breast. The hair was disheveled.
The mountaineer has climbed unexpectedly quickly.
“My name is Matisyahu. Please call my son!”
Alexis has raised himself politely.
“Your son has classes now. We cannot interrupt them.”
“I want to take him out of here! I feel my son has partaken the Greek contagion,”
said angrily the mountaineer. The father cast menacing glances toward the half-naked Pluto.
“You will make a big mistake by taking your son from the gymnasium,” said Pluto, “young men practice running, long jump, discus throw, study higher geometry, works of philosophers .…”
“He must study the Torah!”
“But our gods are no less beautiful!” objected Pluto.
“Your gods!!!?…. They with animals… Fie!!!… And you too!!!” exploded Matisyahu.
“Give me my son back or else I will burst in!”
When a nice-looking young lad wearing a light tunic appeared before his father,
the latter shouted: “Follow me!”
Having made an abrupt turn round, the mountaineer went back, away from the gymnasium. The lad, with his head bent down, followed his father.
“He makes a serious mistake,” said Pluto.
Alexis could not help having a vague feeling… that this spiteful mountaineer
is going to create problems for them.
Jerusalem was hard to recognize.
Many stadiums, auditoria, theaters appeared. Jews absorbed the Greek language, manners.…
The population adopted the canons of the beauty of the human body. Did sports a lot. Took interest in philosophy.
The Greek governors began to change Judea. In their likeness.
Alexis had a walk near the stadium. The servant brought a bowl of wine.
Tastefully dressed people passed by. Spoke Greek.…
His gaze fell upon a man pulling a cart.
Alexis recognized Matisyahu at once. Last time, they have seen each other five years ago.
“Hello! Do you still not let your children into the Greek culture?”
“What culture? What are you talking about?” shouted the mountaineer.
“The highest culture,” answered Alexis.
“Many gods cannot be the highest culture!”
“Yes, we have many gods, and there is no contradiction. Some gods are worshipped by scientists, the others by governors… We all live in harmony. The people very much like democracy.”
“Democracy?!“ exclaimed Matisyahu. “The power of the crowd? Knowledge, this is the basis of governance!”
Alexis has already started losing his temper: “Well, what knowledge do you have? You have nothing.… It’s Greeks who develop science!”
“Our God is our knowledge!” Matisyahu’s voice sounded like a crack of doom.
“There can only be one power! The power of God!”
“What god?” Alexis was surprised. “You want to say that an unknown force can govern the people?”
“It’s not realistic! Go down to the earth. In our time, the time of enlightenment,
to state there are some unknown forces… The most superior force is the man!
The human voice is god’s voice!”
Matisyahu darted a spiteful glance at Alexis, grabbed his cart and left quickly.
Hellenization became tougher…, Greek soldiers put up field altars at which they
made sacrifices to Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite.…
There was only one untouched place left. The old temple in Jerusalem.
Its turn came too.
At an altar, they have put a pig.
There was blood all over the place.
His connection to God.
It was terrifying to look at the fathers of Jerusalem, judges, priests, inhabitants
who were driven together to the central square, taken into custody and… beaten.
One by one, the remote villages surrendered to the power of Hellenes.
The Greek state grew stronger.
Once, merchants brought the news of that, in one of the mountain villages, Matisyahu has killed the priest who broke the Judaic altar and erected a Greek god at it.
Matisyahu gathered his sons and called: “He who believes in God, come along with me!”
The inhabitants of the village left with him. Jews from the neighboring villages followed and joined the Matisyahu’s troop.
This event marked the beginning of “the Maccabean Revolt.”
The forces of insurgents were incommensurably small in comparison with the troops of Greek soldiers.
But the Maccabees did the impossible.
For the sake of the common goal.
For the sake of faith.
In one God.
Villages between themselves, individual inhabitants.…
They liberated Judea.
In commemoration of “the Maccabean Revolt,” we celebrate the Hanukkah.
“Hanu-ko” — a stop in the middle of the path. To make a transition.
What kind of transition?
From the disconnection and the immersion into pleasures…, to the unification between ourselves and the acceptance of the protection of the Higher power.
The Maccabees who won the victory came into the old temple in Jerusalem.
Lit it. There was only one candle.
The Higher power showed up among them.
It gave as much Light as was needed.
The light was on for eight days!
Maccabees and Hellenes… are inside each of us.
The Hellene inside us, says that everything has to be rational, weighted, calculated. We must act in the way all people do. Socially acceptable.
And also…, inside each of us, there is a little Maccabee.
A spark inside us.
The spark which feels that the compliance with the principle given to us by Adam: “Love your neighbor as yourself” will be the only right attitude to life.
But then the huge Greek inside us would cry:
“Wait a minute…! It’s not realistic! It’s not possible!”
We aren’t capable of it! It’s ridiculous!
How can I come to love my neighbor?
It’s not rational…
Yes, the Maccabee inside us, he is not rational.
Celebrating the Hanukkah, we recall those Maccabees who, having unified these small sparks in the heart of everyone, could attract the Great Light which represents the whole of nature.
And in honor of this Light,
In honor of those sparks of love, which are inside us,
we light the Hanukkah candles…
to attract the force which will enable us to beat our egoism.
Hellenes inside us.
Happy Hanukkah to you!