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    Hostility to Hasmoneans – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why did the sages have such a poor opinion of the Hasmoneans?

    Maccabees warriors battleA. They saw both their good and bad points.

    At the same time as praising their achievements, they criticised the Hasmonean egotism and power hunger, wanting both the spiritual and temporal crowns as high priests and kings at the same time (Jerusalem Talmud, Horayot 3:2).

    The commentator Nachmanides praised the Hasmoneans for their service to the Torah and said that without them the Torah might have been forgotten. Nonetheless he adds that they should not have brought the integrity of the priesthood into question by wanting to be kings at the same time (Ramban to Num. 18:7).

    Temporal rulers do not (and possibly cannot) base themselves solely on the rules of the Torah.

    The Chatam Sofer even goes further by suggesting that because the Hasmoneans grabbed too much they risked losing the credit for what they did, which explains why the Talmud has no distinct tractate about Chanukah and the only Talmudic reference to the festival is rather fleeting (Shab. 21b, Bava Kamma 62b).

    In contrast, Purim has a whole Megillah of its own and a whole volume in the Talmud.

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