Dean Abramson on “Judah the Maccabee”
Dean Abramson’s lecture on “Judah the Maccabee” was the first in a series of free community Jewish history lectures delivered each week on Monday evenings.
October 30, 2015
Here are the three things you (probably) never knew about Judah the Maccabee and the story of Chanukah…
- The Jews weren’t really fighting the Greeks. Contrary to what people may think, the Chanukah battle was “a civil war—Jews fighting Jews,” explained Dean Abramson. “Everyone talks about how the Jews fought the Greeks, but what they don’t realize is that the word ‘Greek’ in those days really meant ‘participant in Greek culture.’” The Jews who were assimilated were called Greeks because they represented the culture of hellas (Greece), he clarified.
- It was a cultural war. The reason for this conflict, in fact, was not political but cultural. “It was a Kulturkampf,” said Dean Abramson. “There were Jews who wanted to blend into the very powerful Hellenistic culture, and those who wanted to remain traditional. It was a battle of the minds, of philosophies. As such, it’s still a very relevant dispute even today, in the culture of America,” he added.
- Judah wasn’t considered a hero until later in history. “It’s ironic that Judah the Macabee himself received so little attention among historians until the Middle Ages,” shared Dean Abramson. “Because the book of the Maccabees didn’t become incorporated into the Jewish canon, Judah largely disappeared from Jewish historical memory but still lived on among Christian readers, who regarded him as a hero for religious freedom.”
Missed the lecture, or want to hear more? Watch the video above!