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Re: orion Hanukkah a civil holiday?
On Fri, 25 Dec 1998 RGmyrken@aol.com wrote:
> Marty Jaffee writes (in connection with my claim that Hanukkah is not a
> religious festival such that we would expect references to in in the scrolls):
> > What exactly distinguishes a "civil holiday' from a "religious festival"
> > in Second Temple Judaic culture?
> I would very much welcome discussion of this point by others perhaps more
> knowledgeable than myself. I believe that the festivals can be stratified
> with the three major Pilgrim Festivals at which attendance (within Judea) was
> mandatory ranking most important. The other biblical festivals (with the
> exception of Purim) rank under this as purely religious days on which work was
> forbidden and for which special sacrifices at Jerusalem's temple were
> legislated. The extra-Biblical festivals in the Temple Scroll and other
> Qumran scrolls possibly should be included among this last class, since they
> apparently had specific sacrifices associated with them.
> Below these were the days of joy listed in Megillat Ta'anit, including
> Purim, second Passover, Hanukkah, Nicanor's Day, etc., in which work was
> permitted but fasting was prohibited. These days were (as I understand them)
> less than holy, and given the almost purely national character of several of
> these days in M.T., I find this category to be civil rather than religious in
> their essential legal character vis a vis Torah and temple.
This is a helpful taxonomy of the warrants behind the various 2nd Temple
celebrations. But the distinction between "religious" and "civil" is not a
helpful way of interpreting your observations. Yom Kippur is not more
"religious" than Hanukkah--its observance is simply governed by different
procedures within a larger economy of obligations incumbent upon the
Nation. There are indeed "solemn convocations" (miqraei qodesh) and other
days that are almost carnivalistic in character (such as the Mishnah's
description of the 15 of Av as a kind of "Sadie Hawkins Day")--but the
distinction between "religious" and "civil" implies that ancient Judeans
recognized a sphere of political identity untainted by "Judaism" that
would permit one to celebrate a "civic" holiday without participating as
well in the larger "religious" community.
Certainly it seems to me that
one of the major Hasmonean achievements was to obliterate any possibility
of defining for Judeans a political/civic sphere unconnected to sacred
warrants. This would be particularly true of Hanukkah, with its close
associations with the political/religious institution of the Temple. Have
I got this all wrong? MJ