Religious leaders can move their people from lesser to greater jihad; as the historical development of the eight day Jewish holiday of Chanukah (ending this year on 12/14/15) shows. The popular current explanation of Chanukah, which reflects the greater jihad focus, is as follows.
By celebrating Chanukah, Jews recall the deeds of the ancient Syrian Greeks who defiled the Holy Temple and its pure olive oil which was used in lighting the Temple menorah. After the Hasmonean fighters drove the Greeks out, they came into the Temple and searched for pure oil with the seal of the High Priest; and all they found was one small jug among the many defiled ones. This single jug of oil, burnt in the menorah, illuminated the sanctuary for eight days!
But the long lasting oil was not the miracle of Chanukah. The true miracle was that they lit the lights of the menorah in the first place. Everyone ‘knew’ that the small amount of oil would never be able to last for at least a week, until new oil could be refined and purified.
The smart thing was to wait a week, and then start the eight day re-dedication celebration; copying the way Solomon had dedicated the first Temple. The Second Book of Maccabees, which is found in all Catholic Bibles, relates: “We are also told how the wise King Solomon offered a sacrifice of dedication at the completion of (building) the Temple” (2 Mac 2:9) and “Solomon celebrated the festival for eight days.” (2 Mac 2:12).
To kindle the menorah right away would be to expose oneself to disappointment, disparagement and recriminations, if the flames died out before the new purified oil arrived. To kindle the menorah right away would be stake your reputation, and place your faith, on an optimistic outcome.
All human beings face similar challenges in their own lives. We know that frequently faith, hope and trust can result in failures that lead to despair and cynicism. We also know that faith, hope and trust can lead to wonder-full experiences of love, courage and accomplishment.
Without 18 centuries of faith, hope and trust; the State of Israel would never have come into existence. Without faith, hope and trust in the future, Israel will never be at peace with its enemies.
Jews must believe that miracles do sometimes occur, as the blessing recited when kindling the Chanukah lights says; “in those days, and (can still occur) in these times” because that is the only reasonable explanation for 3.500 years of Jewish existence.
The oil is the spiritual lesson of Chanukah. The fable of the long lasting oil is first mentioned very briefly in the Babylonian Talmud some four centuries after the historical events, although lights have always been part of the celebration.
For those who prefer the original lesser jihad, mundane historical and political facts of Chanukah, written down only a generation after the events; this is what the Second Book of Maccabees chapter 10 says:
“Judas Maccabeus and his followers, under the leadership of the Lord, recaptured the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. They tore down the altars which foreigners had set up in the marketplace and destroyed the other places of worship that had been built. They purified the Temple and built a new altar. Then, with new fire started by striking flint, they offered sacrifice for the first time in two years, burned incense, and lighted the lamps.
‘After they had done all this, they lay face down on the ground and prayed that the Lord would never again let such disasters strike them. They begged God to be merciful when he punished them for future sins, and not hand them over any more to barbaric, pagan Gentiles
‘The happy celebration lasted eight days, like the Festival of Sukkot, and the people remembered how only a short time before, they had spent the Festival of Sukkot wandering like wild animals in the mountains and living in caves. But now, carrying green palm branches and sticks decorated with ivy, they paraded around, singing grateful praises to him who had brought about the purification of his own Temple. Everyone agreed that the entire Jewish nation should celebrate this festival each year.” (2 Mac 10: 1-8)
The military victory of the Maccabees led not only to religious freedom in Judea; but after another two decades of intermittent warfare, led to political independence in Judea, that lasted for 7-8 decades, until Rome took over.
In the year 66 C.E., a little over a 120 years later, for reasons much less important then in the days of the Maccabees, a large scale rebellion against Roman governance occurred, which ended in 70 C.E. with the destruction of both Jerusalem and its Holy Temple.
Two generations later, another rebellion against Rome (132-135 C.E.), again ended in failure. Over the following generations, the encouraging and hope-filled rabbinic fable of the oil grew to became central, in order to overcome widespread feelings of defeat and despair among the Jewish People; and so displaced the focus on the lesser jihad military victory.
The success of the rabbinic leadership in moving the focus of Chanukah from celebrating a military victory (lesser jihad) to believing in spiritual resistance through non-violent faith based hope and endurance, enabled the Jewish People to survive eight centuries of religious oppression from the First Crusade to the end of nineteenth century.
Only the advent of modern raciest, genocidal, anti-Semitism in the twentieth century, shifted the focus, to some extent, back to its earlier origins. The great hope of democracy in the 21st century; is that all human conflicts can be solved by non-violent political activities, and so the greater jihad will always succeed.
Related posts from similar topics: