A Hanukkah Song’s Hidden Anti-Christian Polemic

Dec. 26 2016

Composed in the late 12th or early 13th century by a German Jew, Ma’oz Tsur (“Mighty rock”) is the best known Hanukkah hymn. Modern scholars have long thought that its sixth and final verse, a prayer for future redemption, was added by a later author. Yitzhak Melamed argues otherwise:

To the best of my knowledge, the sixth stanza first appeared in print in Amsterdam in 1702. The fact that the sixth stanza was first printed only hundreds of years after the hymn was written has led some scholars to suggest that it is not original but a later addition. Nevertheless, the intricate style of the sixth stanza is identical to that of the first five stanzas, and it complements almost perfectly the topic of the first stanza. Thus, the last stanza [appears to have been] intentionally repressed and passed by oral tradition for almost five centuries due to its strong anti-Christian theme.

The first line begins by beseeching God to “expose his holy arm,” an expression referring to God’s violent redemption of the Hebrews from Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 26:8). . . .

Against whom is God meant to apply his mighty arm? The phrase which follows may mean simply: “bring the end, the redemption.” But the text may have a [coded] meaning as well: “bring the end of Jesus-ism.” In other words: “Bring the end of Christianity.” The intentional double meaning of y’shua as salvation, on one hand, and as a collective noun referring to the followers of Jesus [in Hebrew, Y’shua], on the other, allowed the medieval Jews to assert and conceal their hatred of Christianity at the same time.

The succeeding line is a natural continuation of the hidden meaning of the opening line of the stanza: “Avenge the abuse of your servants / From the wicked nation.” The term “wicked nation” is a standard rabbinic reference to Rome and Christianity, and the historical context of the hymn, [an] era of massacres [of Jews] perpetrated by the Crusaders, explains the desire for revenge and the urgent request for redemption expressed in the third line.

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More about: Hanukkah, Jewish-Christian relations, Judaism, Religion & Holidays

 

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy