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    Two sides of Chanukah

    The sages in the Talmud (Shab. 21b) connected Chanukah with the miracle of the little flask of Temple oil that continued to burn for a total of eight days.

    The Apocryphal Books of Maccabees (I Macc. 4:36-59) linked it with Judah’s military victory that led to the Temple being reconquered.

    The sages emphasised the spiritual and metaphysical aspect; the authors of the Apocrypha stressed the military and political side of the episode.

    The sages were not unaware of the military victory but did not mention it. Their idea was that events only have significance if they can be seen as part of God’s design for history. In celebrating such events there had to be a spiritual focus.

    Their principle ought to guide us when we consider how to assess and celebrate the State of Israel.

    If it is judged and marked in terms of airplanes and weaponry its message is obscured. Only if it is seen as the finger of God in human history does it assume a real cosmic significance.

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