On the second night of Hanukkah I lit candles with my friend Danny, who’s getting a master’s degree in Judaic Studies. After we’d finished with the blessings Danny told me that he was annoyed by Hanukkah because he didn’t agree with the way the Maccabees forced everyone to go along with their rebellion. Earlier that afternoon I read Chuck Klosterman’s newest column in Esquire, where Klosterman basically says that even if we wanted to overthrow our government and stage some sort of rebellion, Americans today are too sedate and confused to pull it off. Klosterman says, “I assume the type of person who hurls rocks in public is not the type of person I would agree with about anything. Modernity has created a cosmic difference between intellect and action, even when both are driven by the same motives; as such, the only people qualified to lead a present-day revolution would never actually do so. Contemporary leaders are not rock-throwing guys. And this is a problem, because it's the rock throwers who get things done.”
It’s hard to know who’s right in this case. I think Danny has a good point- the Maccabees were pretty hardcore and ended up alienating half of the Jewish community at the time. On the other hand, if they hadn’t stepped up, the Jewish people could easily have disappeared altogether.
For a safe (and possibly wimpy) middle ground, check out the Progressive Jewish Alliance’s website for some tips on how to keep your Hanukkah celebrations economically just, whether you’re buying presents, traveling, or just want some relevant materials to study during the holiday.