What most Jews don’t realise about festival with more gifts than Christmas

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Well, no, on various counts, even though that is what most Jews believe. Some 168 years before the Common Era, Antiochus IV outlawed some Jewish practices. This led to a civil war between the more Helenised Jews and the more “orthodox” priestly family of the Maccabees. We have to remember that the Temple and priesthood were not the only way to be Jewish by then.

There was also the more egalitarian, non-Temple, non-priestly tradition that had developed after the exile to Babylon, already 400 years old, that was now found alongside the Temple in Jerusalem, and that would develop into the synagogue and the rabbis and Rabbinic Judaism (and indeed, Jesus).

We also don’t believe in miracle oil. The “spirit of the universe” does not overturn the laws of nature. But we don’t have to – it is only a note in the Talmud from 600 years later, giving an easier story for kids to remember (anyway, it doesn’t take a week to press a few olives).

The real miracle is Jewish survival, against all the odds and all the persecutions and hatred. We are still here because we hold fast to values – and stories – which urge us to continue to work for a better, fairer, kinder world for all its inhabitants, whatever their race, religion, colour or gender identity.

This year, we have more reason than usual to celebrate survival, here in Victoria especially. Our state has pulled together. Our leaders have been strong and resolute. As we light our Chanukah candles, as we celebrate the festive seasons and the secular new year, let us commit to survival not for its own sake but to build a better, cleaner, safer and more just and equal world.

READ  Lack of support means no Cenarth River Festival this year

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