Questions with Answers to a Chanukah Quiz  --  2008

 

1.       The Maccabee rebellion was a fight for which of the following?

a.       Equal rights.

          No.  Antiochus offered the Jews equality with his other subjects - as long as they would worship like the others.

b.       Independence.

          No.  Although not their preference, the Jews accepted Antiochus as king, and were willing to pay the taxes levied on them and even the Temple.

c.       Freedom of religion.

          Yes.  It was not about the right to be equal, but the right to be different - to worship Adonai rather than the statue of Zeus.

d.       Freedom of assembly.

          Possibly - to assemble publicly in the synagogue for worship.

e.       Survival.

          Yes - of the Jewish faith.  Not as an individual.  Freedom to live as a Jew is more important than individual survival.

 

2.       What is the miracle of Chanukah?

a.       A small band of guerrilla rebels defeats a mighty empire.

          This unlikely victory happened - but is not the "miracle."

b.       The small band was able to hold onto the empire when the empire struck back.

          This was very significant - unlike other Jewish rebellions such as in 66 CE or 132 CE.  But the miracle is not about military might.

c.       A one-day supply of oil burns for 8 days.

          Yes.  This is 7 extra days; there was enough oil for one day.

          Is there a miracle on day 1?  Some say Yes.  Explanations:

          i.        That no oil was consumed on day 1 at all.

          ii.       That the people had the faith to light the lamp, despite the small amount of oil.  The people's faith fueled the lamp for 8 days (like the impoverished newly-weds living on love).

 

3.       The word "Chanukah" means:

a.       Set aside for a special purpose.

          Yes!

b.       Dedicate.

          For sure.

c.       Rededicate.

          Not really - although the holiday celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple.

 

4.       The word "Maccabee" comes from which of the following?

a.       A name for a great warrior.

          Yes - it is a nickname for a great warrior....

b.       "Hammer."

          ...Yes - because it means this, from "Makkah."

c.       The initial letters of "Mi Chamocha Ba-elim Adonai."

          Yes, according to one theory.  The idea behind the Song at the  Sea is that if Jews are true to their one God, God will uniquely be true to them.

 

5.       The military victory of Chanukah made the Talmudic Rabbis uncomfortable.  Jewish heroes who were primarily warriors had serious flaws.

          Can you name some?

          Samson, Saul, Bar Kochba

          What other Jewish warriors are redeemed by their spiritual qualities in the view of the Rabbis?

          Joshua, Jonathan, David

 

6.       Why do we celebrate Chanukah for 8 days?

          Because the Chanukah lights burned for 8 days.

          Also, because the holiday is modeled after Sukkot, which the Maccabees could not observe when they were fugitives in the hills of Judea.      

 

7.       What are the primary sources of the story of Chanukah - and what is the major difference between them?

          The First Book of Maccabees, The Second Book of Maccabees.

          Josephus, the historian, 1st Century.

          The Gemara, closed around 600 CE.

The big difference is that the story of the one-day cruse of oil lasting 8 days appears only in the Gemara [Shabbat 21b]!  The Rabbis are concerned with elevating the spiritual meaning.

 

8.       How would you account for this difference?

          The Rabbis are discomforted by war heroes who then became violent in repressing any internal dissent.

          The Hasmoneans later became Hellenized, and some persecuted the early Rabbis.

          Also, the Hasomonean dynasty had fallen after ruling for <100 years, and the Rabbis were now under Roman oppression.  So the military victories of the Maccabees did not have a lasting effect.  Also, the rabbis of the 3rd - 6th Century may have wanted to avoid any Gung-Ho attitude that might inspire another disaster like the revolts of 70 CE and 132 CE.  So they focused on the spiritual meaning.

 

9.       Martyrdom is associated with Chanukah.  Before the Maccabean revolt, Eleazar the elderly scribe refused to eat pork and was killed by torture.  Hannah urged each of her 7 sons to die rather than eat pork (or bow down to an idol).

          What is the rationale for this martyrdom?

          Death is preferable to idol-worship.

          With respect to the story re eating pork, the public nature of the desecration is a problem because it can influence others to stray also.

          The story is retold each generation and serves as a model for obedience to the Torah.

 

10.     What are the two legends of heroines regarding Chanukah?

a.       The daughter of the High Priest.

          The Syrian governor demanded the right of the first night with all Jewish brides.  The daughter of the High Priest, right after she was married, tore off her clothes and stood naked before the wedding guests.  Her brothers wanted to kill her.  She said: "You are angry at my nakedness, but remain silent over what the Syrian governor will do to me."  Roused to fury, her brothers killed the governor and the revolt started.

b.       Judith.

          A Jewish city was besieged by the Syrians.  Judith left the city and entered the Syrian camp.  The Syrian general desired her, and that night she prepared a feast for him.  She fed him many cheeses to make him thirsty, and so he drank wine and fell asleep.  Judith beheaded him, and the Syrian soldiers fled.

          This tale is based on the Book of Judith, found in the Apocrypha (like the Books of Maccabees).  The Book of Judith is actually set in Babylonia many centuries earlier.

 

11.     From where comes the custom of eating cheese on Chanukah?

From the story of Judith.

 

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