Hanukkah Is the Ultimate Celebration of Jewish Particularism

Dec. 26 2019

While Judaism undoubtedly has its universalist elements, writes William Kolbrener, Hanukkah is an unabashed celebration of its particularist aspects, commemorating a national victory over an intolerant Hellenistic cosmopolitanism:

The Jewish pride of the Hasmoneans got under the skin of the Greeks, just as claims to Jewish exceptionalism gets under the skin of anti-Semites and anti-Zionists today. Of course, for the latter, the state of Israel is the most egregious and unforgivable expression of Jewish exceptionalism. In the time of Antiochus, the Syrian Greek [heirs] of Plato and Aristotle exploited their claim toward universalism—the “woke” culture of the time—as part of a program to wipe out Jewish expressions of difference: no Torah learning, no circumcision, no celebration of the new month. The Greeks sought to strike at the heart of Jewish difference.

The Greeks, like some anti-Semites today, were proud to publicize their version of enlightenment, and to tolerate the Jews, but only so long as they would give up those practices that distinguished them.

On Hanukkah, we take a lesson from the courageous Maccabees, and express Jewish singularity and difference. Moreover, on Hanukkah, we acknowledge that being chosen is not an embarrassment, but a responsibility—so we . . . advertise the miracle of the menorah, a sign of our triumph over Greek universalist attempts to eradicate us, and our commitment to being guided by a higher ideal—in every aspect of our lives. Jewish law reflects [this element of the holiday’s message through its] emphasis on “publicizing the miracle.”

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Read more at Aish.com

More about: Anti-Zionism, Hanukkah, Hellenism, Judaism, Particularism

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform