Judah Maccabee (Jewish Biography as History) First Lecture of the Fall 2015 Lecture Series!

We begin the Fall 2015 Lectures in Jewish History series with a presentation on the life and work of Judah (Yehudah) Maccabee, famed military commander of the Hasmonean revolt. Enjoy in good health!

Here’s the link to the Prezi.

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10 thoughts on “Judah Maccabee (Jewish Biography as History) First Lecture of the Fall 2015 Lecture Series!

  1. Another excellent lecture. I feel that you explained the historical facts of the “Festival of Lights” and the spiritual beliefs surrounding the vial of oil in the Chanukah celebration in a tactful and scholarly manner. I hope that you continue to hold fast to both in your own life.

  2. Your students and followers might enjoy reading the actual texts. I hope that this is useful to them.

    Texts relevant to Chanukah.

    A passage from the Talmud concerning the lighting of the chanukiah (Chanukah menorah)
    A compilation of passages from the First And Second Books of the Maccabees
    Josephus’s Antiquities on the Festival of Lights (Chanukah)

    On Lighting The Chanukiah:
    Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, page 21b

    Our Rabbis taught: The commandment of Chanukah requires one light per household; the zealous kindle a light for each member of the household; and the extremely zealous — Beit Shammai maintain: On the first day eight lights are lit and thereafter they are gradually reduced [by one each day]; but Beit Hillel say: On the first day one is lit and thereafter they are progressively increased. Ulla said: In the West [Eretz Yisrael] two amoraim, R. Jose b. Abin and R. Jose b. Zebida, differ concerning this: one maintains, the reasoning of Beit Shammai is that it should correspond to the days still to come, and that of Beit Hillel is that it shall correspond to the days that are gone. But another maintains: Beit Shammai’s reason is that it shall correspond to the bullocks of the Festival [of Tabernacles; i.e. Sukkot], while Beit Hillel’s reason is that we increase in matters of sanctity but do not reduce.

    Rabbah b. Bar Hana said: There are two old men in Sidon: one did as Beth Shammai and the other as Beth Hillel: the former gave the reason of his action that it should correspond to the bullocks of the Festival, while the latter stated his reason because we promote in [matters of] sanctity but do not reduce.

    Our Rabbis taught: It is incumbent to place the Chanukah lamp by the door of one’s house on the outside; if one dwells in an upper chamber, place it at the window nearest the street. But in times of danger it is sufficient to place it on the table. Raba said: Another lamp is required for its light to be used, yet if there is a blazing fire it is unnecessary. But in the case of an important person, even if there is a blazing fire another lamp is required.

    What is the reason for Chanukah? For our Rabbis taught: On the 25th of Kislev begin the days of Chanukah, which are eight, during which lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils in it, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they [the Hasmoneans] searched and found only one cruse of oil which possessed the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient oil for only one day’s lighting; yet a miracle occurred there and they lit [the lamp] for eight days. The following year these days were appointed a Festival with the recitation of Hallel and thanksgiving.

    From The First and Second Books of the Maccabees
    [The First Book of Maccabees 1:1-23; 41-50; 2:1-6; 15-28]

    After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated Darius, king of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. (He had previously become king of Greece.) He fought many battles, conquered strongholds, and put to death the kings of the earth. He advanced to the ends of the earth, and plundered many nations. When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted, and his heart was lifted up. He gathered a very strong army and ruled over countries, nations, and princes, and they became tributary to him.

    After this he fell sick and perceived that he was dying. So he summoned his most honored officers, who had been brought up with him from youth, and divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. And after Alexander had reigned twelve years he died.

    Then his officers began to rule, each in his own place. They all put on crowns after his death, and so did their sons after them for many years; and they caused many evils on the earth.

    From them came forth a sinful root, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king; he had been a hostage in Rome. He began to reign in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks.

    In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many, saying “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many evils have come upon us.”

    This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king. He authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to the Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.

    When Antiochus saw that his kingdom was established, he determined to become king of the land of Egypt, that he might reign over both kingdoms. So he invaded Egypt with a strong force, with chariots and elephants and cavalry and with a large fleet. He engaged Ptolemy king of Egypt in battle, and Ptolemy turned and fled before him, and many were wounded and fell. And they captured and fortified cities in the land of Egypt, and he plundered the land of Egypt.

    After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred and forty-third year. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the Temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found…

    Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and feasts, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and the leave their sons uncircumcised They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.”…

    In those days, Mattathias, the son of John, son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib, moved from Jerusalem and settled Modiin. He had five sons, John surnamed Gaddi, Simon called Thassi, Judas called Maccabeus, Eleazar called Avaran, and Jonathan called Apphus. He saw the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem…

    Then the king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modiin to make them offer sacrifice. Many from Israel came to them; and Mattathias and his sons were assembled. Then the king’s officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: “You are a leader, honored and great in this city, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.”

    But Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen t do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons wand my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.”

    When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar of Modiin, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, he burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu.

    Then Mattathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!” And he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the city.

    [The Second Book of Maccabees 1:1-9 and 10:1-8]

    The Jewish brethren in Jerusalem and those in the land of Judea, to their Jewish brethren in Egypt: Greeting and good peace.
    May God do good to you, and may God remember his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his faithful servants. May he give you all a heart to worship him and to do his will with a strong heart and a willing spirit. May he open your heart to his law and his commandments, and may he bring peace. May he hear your prayers and be reconciled to you, and may he not forsake you in time of evil. We are now praying for you here.

    In the reign of Demetrius, in the 169th year, we Jews wrote to you in the critical distress which came upon us in those years after Jason and his company revolted from the holy land and the kingdom and burned the gate and shed innocent blood. We besought the Lord and we were heard, we offered sacrifice and cereal offering and we lit the lamps and we set out the loaves. Now see that you keep the Feast of Booths in the month of Kislev, in the 188th year…

    Now Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the Temple and the city and they tore down the altars which had been built in the public square by the foreigners, and also destroyed the sacred precincts. They purified the sanctuary and made another altar of sacfifice. Then striking fire out of flint, they offered sacrifices, after a lapse of two years, and they burned incense and lit lamps and set out the bread of the Presence. When they had done this, they fell prostrate and besought the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes, but that if they should ever sin, they might be disciplined by him with forbearance and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations. It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the 25th day of Kislev. They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the Feast of Booths, remembering how not long before, during the Feast of Booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. Therefore bearing ivy-wreathered wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public ordinance and vote that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.

    From Josephus’s Antiquities
    [Book 12, Chapter 7, Part 7]

    Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the Temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs when after a long time of intermission they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival on account of the restoration of their Temple worship for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls around the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein. He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies.

  3. Hi
    Can you please upload the lecture to Prezi? Its so much easier to follow the lecture with the clear slides side-by-side.
    Thanks so much,
    Your biggest Latvian fan!

  4. Greetings! Can you confirm, had Judas of Macabee not pushed the Greeks back, Judaica would not have continued and Jesus would not have lived as a Jew, hence, no Christmas?!?

    1. The majority of scholars I’ve heard or spoken with would agree that it set the stage for the rise of Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism.

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