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Re: orion Hanukkah civil holiday?; Etc.
On Fri, 1 Jan 1999 RGmyrken@aol.com wrote:
> Jaffee comments, "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." I would respectfully submit that
> Yom Kippur and other holy days revealed at Sinai were indeed held to be more
> sacred than lesser days of gladness such as Hanukkah. Jewish national
> assemblies had authority to proclaim a day of gladness, but had no power to
> raise such a day to a sacred status. Can both be equally religious but not
> equally sacred?
Yes, both can be equally religious but not equally sacred. The "sacred",
and its polar opposite, the "profane" are categories established by
"religion." To define someting as Profane is to make a religious judgment.
In secular culture, nothing is profane since nothing is sacred. I'm
speaking, of course, in technical terms, rather than in popular language.
So, in our case here, the continuum of holidays from the
hashabbaton of Yom Kippur all the way down to commemorations of various
historical victories is a "religious" continuum establishing various
reference points on the sacred-profane continuum. The basic behavioral
marker on this continuum is the degree to which forms of rest appropriate
to the Sabbath are required or not. Not so?
> > Jaffee also writes:
> > 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?
> It seems to me that the Yom Tob or "days of gladness" listed in the
> Megillat Ta'anit provide a concrete example of semi-holidays (to use Zeitlin's
> terminology) without sacred warrants. A number of these Yom Tob originated in
> the Hasmonean Era and even earlier. (See S. Zeitlin, "Megillat Ta'anith as a
> Source for Jewish Chronology and History in the Hellenistic and Roman
> Periods," JQR n.s. 9 [1918-19] 71-102; 10 [1919-20] 49-80, 237-290 or his 1922
> book by the same title or Jewish Encyclopedia s.v. Megillat Ta'anith.) Yet
> nearly all these festivals ceased to be observed. This could hardly have
> occurred if these holidays did indeed have a sacred warrant as you suggest.
Right. They "fell out of the religion". But there is no "intrinsic" aspect
to them that defines or would enable us to predict their survival on the
grounds that they were "More" or "Less" sacred. If we go by this standard,
Hanukkah and Pesah are the two most sacred holidays for most American
Jews, since these are the ones most often observed. Sukkot and Shavuot,
sacred indeed in Rabbinic tradiiton, are barely known in contemporary
American Jewish piety. Most American Jews would be hard pressed to tell
you when they fall in the calendar. See the point?