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Re: orion Hanukkah civil holiday?; Etc.

On Mon, 28 Dec 1998, stephen goranson wrote:

> Notes on some overlapping threads;

> Hasmonaean innovations. In the Hanukkah Anthology (Ph. Goodman ed.), which
> R. Gmirkin recommended to some of us, S. Grayzel wrote (p.22) that, since
> Hillel and Shammai are said to have argued about the order of lightings,
> Hanukkah was not prevalent just before their time. Is this a safe
> assumption?

To pick one thread, I'd be sceptical about drawing the above implication
from the Hanukkah dispute. What the dispute testifies to in the first
place is, at best, a dispute about how Jews within the Rabbinic orbit
should perform a ritual commemoration of Hanukkah. We don't know if this
ritual commemoration is of rabbinic origin or whether it is a rabbbinic
appropriation of a more common custom. If, for argument's sake, we say the
latter, all that can be concluded is that the debate testifies to a
dispute about celebrating the festival in rabbinic circles. MAYBE you can
even say that the custom of kindling lights in commemoration of the
festival is recent. But you can't simply assume that the festival itself
is "not prevalent just before there time." As the official commemoration
of the Hasmonean regime, I'd think that it had alot of state support
during the life of that regime, even though opponents might have resisted
it (as, apparently, at Qumran). And why should it have died away during
the Herodian period at a time of rising nationalist resentment against
Roman occupation? As has been recognized, the Rabbinic Hanukkah is quite
creative in emphasizing the miracle of the lights rather than the
Hasmonean victory. 

To conclude: even if, as is likely, the Rabbinic version of Hanukkah is
relatively recent (first cent ce?), we would still not be able to draw the
conclusion that Hanukkah itself is a relatively recent festival (despite
its absence at Qumran). Does this sound reasonable? Marty Jaffee