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#1 Chaim613

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 11:34 AM

A secular Jewish neighbor told me that his "rabbi" sent out an email that the story of the oil of Chanukkah was made up by the rabbis to glorify the Jewish victory. I explained to him the real meaning of Chanukkah, etc.

My question is, when it comes to the historical event of the giving of the Torah, the 600,000 witnesses do the trick. With Chanukkah, from a historical point of view, is a little tougher because it was only the Kohanim who were privy to see it, correct? Is there any place that you recommend reading a little bit about how we know that the miracle of the oil took place?


thanks.

#2 taon

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Posted 24 December 2011 - 10:24 PM

The Same way you know anything. Because you trust the source not to be lying about it. We can't have 3 million witnesses for everything that ever happens. And it isn't necessary.
That claim doesn't make sense anyway, though. First of all, the victory was years later. With Channukah we had recaptured the Beis Hamikdash, but if the whole point was to glorify the victory, they would have made a holiday celebrating the complete victory. And the Gemarah even says the miracle is the main thing Channukah is celebrating. That wouldn't be so if it was just made up to make the victory seem somehow better (though doesn't it just detract from the glory of the victory?).

#3 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 25 December 2011 - 11:03 AM

A secular Jewish neighbor told me that his "rabbi" sent out an email that the story of the oil of Chanukkah was made up by the rabbis to glorify the Jewish victory. I explained to him the real meaning of Chanukkah, etc.

My question is, when it comes to the historical event of the giving of the Torah, the 600,000 witnesses do the trick. With Chanukkah, from a historical point of view, is a little tougher because it was only the Kohanim who were privy to see it, correct? Is there any place that you recommend reading a little bit about how we know that the miracle of the oil took place?
thanks.

I would appreciate it that when you come to the site to try to post some random assertion by some unnamed, or even named, random whoever, that before you expect any response except that your question is ignored, you should please bring some evidence or logic to the table to respond to. The Chanukah miracle was history, like any other recorded history. There is no record of anyone questioning it until contemporary ignoramuses decided to. Can you please tell me why this rabbi thinks this? If not, then why would you give credence to what he says? Everyone with an opinion needs a response? Please. Come on. This is merely engaging is sillness. Here's some more quesitons you may want to ask in the future:

A non-religious rabbi told me that ___________________________ can you please explain how we know it is true:
  • Rabi Akiva was never ignorant and the rabbis made it up.
  • Hillel's school was not the majortiy but they threatened Bais Shammai that if they dont concede the Halachah they will burn down their houses.
  • Moshe Rabbeinu was really a non-Jewish Egyptian convert
  • Yehoshua was really a secret Baal worshipper
  • The Egyptians let the Jews out on their own volition
  • The Chefetz Chaim always spoke Loshon Horah
  • The Satmar Rebbe really wanted his Chasidim to vote in the Israeli elections but the Kanoim wouldnt let him say that (this was really stated by a Rosh Yeshiva in YU)
  • There was no Paroches on the Aron in the Bais Hamikdash. The rabbis invented it.
You see what I mean? The burden of proof is on someone who wants to change historical records to at least come up with some reason to do so. To respond to every baseless random assertion is unwise and a waste of time.


So please - and this is a rule in general for how we operate as logical human beings - before you expect someone to take seriously some random claim made by some random person, you need to provide a reason why the statement should be taken seriously. Otherwise, אין לדבר סוף.

You've done this twice - here and with that youtube video that claims they found a civilization more than 6000 years old. I listened to the video and they do not explain at all what evidence they have that the civilization is in fact that old. They mention vague dating methods but they do not explain how they came to their conclusion. I cannot take such questions seriously. Every clown in the street makes assertions. I have no reason to do anything but ignore those that do not come with some remnant of evidence or logic.

And nether should you. You can, following this path, c"v become a very mixed up Apikores one day who believes all sorts of crazy things. Not only should you not blindly believe every random claim made to you, but you should also not even bother taking them seriously unless they come with some reason to do so. You need to filter the baseless opinions from the things worth considering.

At the very least, I have no reason to respond to claims that Jews put blood in the Matzos, or that Moshe was really an Egyptian convert, or that George Washington's horse wasn't really white, or that the Menorah miracle never happened, UNLESS someone gives me some reason to even consider these things. Doing so would be quite an irrational approach to life in general, and to scholarship in particular.

#4 torah613

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Posted 25 December 2011 - 01:54 PM

The miracle of the oil is not mentioned in the following:

Macabees 1 (end of the second century BCE)
Macabbees II (around 124 BCE)
Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus: (around 94 CE)
Megillat Taanit
The Mishna

So why is it only mentioned in the Gemarah but none of the above?

#5 Chaim613

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Posted 25 December 2011 - 07:41 PM

I think my true question came across incorrectly, my fault. I wasn't swayed by the question, nor confused. What I was really trying to get at, is that this neighbor belongs to a "reconstrctionist temple". She feels very connected to Judaism, unlike a lot of people who are totally unafilliated and can do teshuva in some ways a bit easier because they weren't indoctrinated in false Judaism first. How can I explain to this neighbor (or anyone else) that they have been lied to, or at best misinformed, without sounding like a "close-minded" orthodox Jew? In other words in a way that doesn't sound condemning of the person or the temple that they have belonged to for 20 years etc.

thanks

#6 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 25 December 2011 - 07:55 PM

The rabbi of your secular Jewish neighbor can be forgiven for his ignorance about Josephus and Megilas Chashmonayim, but his statement about the Mishna is outrageously dishonest.

But the odds are that rabbi is just parroting some stuff he saw written by ignorant and dishonest Maskilim or pseudo-Maskilim.

We would not expect the miracle of the oil to be found either in Josephus or the Megilas Chashmonayim (a.k.a. the Book of Macabees).

Josephus wrote his entire history from an anti-Chachamim perspective, following the Sedducee perspective throughout (see Rav Avigdor Miller's Torah Nation p. 122) and would never accept anything the Rabbonim said about miracles or Chanukah to begin with. He distorted his perspective with a very obvious anti-Pharisee bias to make him and his ideology (he was not friend of the Chachamim) good and that of the Torah-loyal Pharisees bad. He would never - and has never - given Chazal any credit for any miracles done by them and for them - ever. As an example of this, Josephus writes that it was not Rav Yochanan ben Zakai that prophesized to Vespasian that he would be Emperor, but Josephus himself who made that prophecy!

Especially since the entire Chanukah war to begin with had the Seducess and Hellenists (who Josephus favored over the Pharisees) siding with the Syrian-Greeks against the Pharisees. The Chanukah miracle of the oil was a Heavenly declaration of the victory of Chazal over the Seducees and Hellenists. The message was: The Light of Torah still burns within the sages as bright and as strong as it did within the prophets.

Chacham adif minavi. Torah SheBal Peh is real. That's what the oil miracle said.

You expect Josephus to write that there was a miracle of oil? A Hellenist? A Seducess sympathizer? An enemy of the pharisees?

No way. It's not happening.

Besides, don;t forget - Josephus wrote his history at the behest and for the sake of the Romans. He was not writing for the Jews. He never wrote anything that the Romans would not accept. (If I remember correctly, Josephus did not write that the military victory was a miracle either.)

Josephus claims that the entire holiday of Chanukah was declared because the Jews were celbrating their ability to practice their religion once again. But at the same time, he admits that the Chanukah holiday was commonly referred to as the holiday called "Lights." Now why the holiday should be called "Lights" if there was no miracle of oil was a sticky thing for Josephus to explain. Here is his lame explanation:

And from that time to this we celebrate this, which we call the Festival of Lights [phôta], because, I imagine, beyond our hopes this right was brought to light [phanênai], and so this name was placed on the festival.











Besides the obviously unrealistic interpretation he is offering, and besides the fact that he admits he is only guessing ("I imagine," he says. I have also seen this phrase translated: "I suppose."), what he is saying is obviously untrue because if it were so, the holiday would be called "light", not "lights," plural, which means many individual lights. The secular scholars of Josephus have recognized this obvious mistake and have posed various guesses as to why Josephus fabricated this reason. But we need not guess.

Chanukah was obviously called the holiday of LIGHTS because of the miracle of the oil.

Josephus could not deny the well-known name of the holiday. But he did try, quite unsuccessfully, to jump through hoops to explain it away.

Now as for the Book of Macabees, surely you jest. Just as there is now, there was in those days different factions of Jews with varying degrees of religiosity, loyalty to the Torah, and intellectual honesty. The Book of Macabees, while interesting because of when it was written, was certainly not written by any of the sages or their disciples. From Rav Avigdor Miller's Torah Nation (p.121):

It is certain that none of the sages ever mentioned the book of the Hasmoneans (the book of the Macabees); and this book has not been in the hands of our nation throughout bthe past two millenia. It was illegal for loyal Jews to have public writings other than the scriptures. All secular narratives were forbidden as "outside books" (Sefarim Hitzonim) (Sanhedrin 90A), and no sacred writing other than the 24 books of the Scriptures was permitted. It was forbidden even to write prayer-books (Shabbos 115B), and there is no mention of a written Mishna or Talmud until the days of the Rabbonon Savorai, after the last of the Amoraim. All historical narrative was contained in the Oral Tradition ... but, like all the Oral tradition, this had been forbidden to be put into writing ... The book of the Hasmoneans (including II Hasmoneans) was therefore certinaly not composed by any of the sages or their disciples (who were always the majority of the nation, as testified even by Josephus ....)

The narrative of the book of the Hamoneans concludes soon after the period of Jochanan Hyrcanus (I Hasmoneans 17:25) ... This demonstrates that it was written under the regime of the Saducee-Hasmonean rulers, of whom Jochanan Hyrcanus was the first; and the writer was under their dominion. Because the Sedducee regime of Jochanan Hyrcanus forbade the practice of all Rabbinic laws and inflicted punishment (in some instances death) upon those who observed these laws (Antiq. XIII, 10, 6) the writer was careful to omit any mention of the Rabbinical law of kindling the Chanukah lamp. he could therefore make no mention of the miracle of the Menorah which the entire nation knew as the occasion of the Rabbinical law ... Josephus, who followed the Sedducee chronicles throughout, also omitted the miracle of the Menorah..."












That is why there were no history books written from a true Jewish perspective in those days - we were forbidden to write them.

As for the Mishna, that is an excellent question, but your friend's rabbi didn't do a full disclosure here.

He didn't tell you (or perhaps nobody told him) that it's not that the Mishna omits the miracle of the oil. Rather, the Mishna omits anything that has to do with the details of Chanukah altogether. No Halachos of Chanukah; no explanation of what it was about - not oil, not a war, not Chashmonayim, nothing. The disagreement between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel regarding how to light the Menorah - not in the Mishna, even though Shamai and Hillel were Mishnaic sages.

It's not that Chanukah is not mentioned. It is. In Bava Kamma, there is a case where a Chanukah Menorah does fire damage, so it's not as if the Mishna was hiding the existence of the holiday or the way we celebrate it, but any explanation of what this holiday is about, or how to fulfill your obligations for it -- is strangely, mysteriously, not there. The war between the Jews and the Greeks? No mention of it in the Mishna. This is a very good question, and it is addressed by many of our Meforshim. I also suggested a possible answer, here.

But one thing is certain - what your friend's rabbi said, that the fact that the "miracle of the oil" is omitted from the Mishna indicates that the oil miracle was not really part of Chanukah is a pathetic display of either gross ignorance or dishonesty - or, of course, both. It's not that the Mishna omits the oil element of Chanukah - it omits everything about it - except that it exists. It even omits the Halachos and discussions by Mishnaic sages.

I am going to make a separate post explaining why the Mishna did this. There are both Hashkafic and historical explanations for it in the Meforshim.

(As for what to tell her, tell her in short that Josephus and Macabees were written under strict censorship and/or by people who were sympathetic to the Greek Hellenizers and that they are not serious reflections of mainstream Jewish thought, which actually prohibited the writing of history books in those days. Plus, the fact that Josephus admits that the holiday was called "Lights" and struggled to provide what was obviously a bogus explanation shows that the miracles in fact had to do with "lights" and that Josephus clearly had something to hide. And as I said, I will get to the Mishna shortly.)



#7 Menorah

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 12:25 PM

It should also be pointed out that the surviving text of Josephus that we have today came through the Church. It has been definitively demonstrated that the Vatican modified Josephus to their liking. One example is where they simply added something where Josephus supposedly testified to the "miracle" of yushke.

#8 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 08:29 PM

It should also be pointed out that the surviving text of Josephus that we have today came through the Church. It has been definitively demonstrated that the Vatican modified Josephus to their liking. One example is where they simply added something where Josephus supposedly testified to the "miracle" of yushke.

Absolutely correct. There are two such places if memory serves, one in Antiquities (18:3) and the other I don't recall where off hand, and they are most definitely interpolations.

#9 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 09:25 PM

I think my true question came across incorrectly, my fault. I wasn't swayed by the question, nor confused. What I was really trying to get at, is that this neighbor belongs to a "reconstrctionist temple". She feels very connected to Judaism, unlike a lot of people who are totally unafilliated and can do teshuva in some ways a bit easier because they weren't indoctrinated in false Judaism first. How can I explain to this neighbor (or anyone else) that they have been lied to, or at best misinformed, without sounding like a "close-minded" orthodox Jew? In other words in a way that doesn't sound condemning of the person or the temple that they have belonged to for 20 years etc.

thanks


Well, I'm glad you didn't think of falling for this because, honestly, I was holding back on explaining to you how - pardon the expression but this is really the correct word to use here - stupid this idea is, for fear of turning away a confused Jewess.

What this "rabbi" is suggesting is as follows:

Around the year 150 BCE, the Jews established a national holiday called Chanukah, which was in honor of whatever, but there was no such thing as a miracle of oil. Every year, all Jews would celebrate this holiday with their families. This went on for a little over 500 years. All Jews all over the world celebrated Chanukah every year. They lit the Menorah and sang Zemiros and observed the laws of the holiday.

Then, one day in Bavel, either Ravina or Rabbah or Rava (those are the sages named in the Gemora that discusses Chanukah) or one of their contemporaries decided to fabricate a new reason for the Chanukah celebration - a new miracle that nobody ever heard of: The oil lasted 8 days. Out of nowhere, he claimed that Jews all over the world had no idea why Chanukah was established as a holiday. Only he knew the reason. For over 500 years nobody ever heard of this oil miracle of course, and in the academies in Eretz Yisroel as well as the competing Babylonian academies they never taught this. For over 500 years the Jews were celebrating and discussing and teaching and observing a holiday, and the reason ALL of them thought the holiday was established was totally wrong.

You see, there was this oil miracle in the Bais Hamikdash which, although it was why they established Chanukah, nobody knew about it. Ever. Except for one person who lived 500 years later. How he knew it, he did not say.

This ​is what that "rabbi" is suggesting was taught in the academy of Pumbedisa or Sura or wherever.

And guess what? Suddenly, everyone just accepted that without any question. The Talmudic sages, who questioned and analysed and picked apart every little detail of every little Torah declaration, the Talmudic sages who argued and disagreed and debated each other on every page of the Talmud - not to mention the deviant sects that did not accept the Chachamim - none of them raised an eyebrow to this new revelation. Not a single dissenting opinion exists on record questioning the accuracy of this newly concocted oil miracle-reason for Chanukah.

Nobody said Boo. And suddenly, all Jews throughout the world, even in the Palestinian academies that did not follow the Babylonian Talmud, all somehow decided to conspire to accept this clearly fictitious teaching, without question, without any disagreement, without a peep.

And the old, established, true, reason to celebrate Chanukah, the reason that was accepted for over 500 years by all Jews throughout the world, just vanished from memory. No record of it in any traditional sources. Not a sage, not a student, has ever explained any other reason for the Chanukah holiday except the fictitious oil miracle.

How much more comical can these Maskilim get? Clearly - and I really mean clearly, as in כשמש בצהרים kind of clearly - this assertion and its acceptance by even the most secular rabbi in the world is nothing but a glaring demonstration that the Yezter Horah for Kefirah is not any less strong, and not any less irrational, than the Yezter horah for Avodah Zorah was in the olden days. How else, save for the dictum אין אדם חוטא אלא אם כן נכנס בו רוח שטות, can anyone explain how otherwise intelligent people could believe such drivel?

So, as I said - I am glad you were not taken in by this nonsense, and it is only for דע מה שתשיב reasons that you asked. Because now I can really explain how absurd this idea is.



#10 torah613

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 11:53 PM

So does this mean that R' Chaim Selig Slonimski, who advanced this position in his newspaper Hatzefira, was a maskil?

#11 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 07:58 PM

Yes, of course. The man you mention was nothing more than a common Maskil.