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    Maccabi or Maccabee? – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Maccabi or Maccabee – which is the right spelling?

    maccabeeA. Both. The Hebrew word is spelled M-K-B-I, possibly from a word meaning “hammer”; a well-known interpretation sees it as the initials of the words, “Who is like You among the powerful, O Lord?” (Ex. 15:11).

    There is also a view that it is the initials of “Mattityahu Kohen ben Yochanan” – “Mattathias the kohen, son of Yochanan”.

    References in English to the Mattathias family generally use the Maccabee spelling, but this is not essential.

    General usage is to apply the spelling “Maccabi” to sporting teams, though there is a paradox; one of the things the original Maccabees opposed was the Greek athletic contests that valued physical form over spiritual attainment.

    However, one might fittingly quote the words of Justice Brandeis, “The Maccabees’ victory proved that the Jews – then already an old people – possessed the secret of eternal youth: the ability to rejuvenate itself through courage, hope, enthusiasm, devotion and self-sacrifice.”

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