Category Archives: Hanukkah

Are the Historical Karaite Jewish Objections to Hanukkah Still Relevant Today?

Farag Menashe (still living in Cairo at the time) with the Cairo Codex.

Farag Menashe (still living in Cairo at the time) with the Cairo Codex.

In 1979, Hadassah Magazine visited the last remaining Karaite Jews of Cairo, Egypt. The magazine provides this tidbit regarding the shochet of the community, Farag Murad Yehuda Menashe:

[H]e will read a Haggada based on biblical texts, free of all Talmudic references. He will have no seder plate, no four questions, and no four cups of wine. His Shavuot will always fall on Sunday, and instead of fasting on the Ninth of Av, he will fast on the seventh and tenth. He has never heard the shofar blown, never put on tefillin, and never affixed a mezuzah to the doorpost of his home, and never lit a hanukkiya. (Indeed, Hanukkah is totally absent from his calendar.)[1]

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Filed under Aharon ben Eliyahu, Hanukkah, Jacob ben Reuben, Mikdash Me'at, Purim

A Hanukkah Gift for Rabbanites (and Karaites)

Attribution: DRosenbach at en.wikipedia

Attribution: DRosenbach at en.wikipedia

In 1979, Hadassah magazine published a story about the Karaite Jews of Cairo. Among the interesting tidbits in the piece was that the last remaining Karaites in Cairo had never celebrated Hanukkah. [1.]

Since Karaites historically did not celebrate Hanukkah, some might find it odd that I am offering a Hanukkah gift to the Jewish masses. This offer is not too good to be true.

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Filed under Calendar, Eli Shmuel, Hanukkah

Hanukkah: A Festivus For Any Of Us? (II)

Attribution: DRosenbach at en.wikipedia

Attribution: DRosenbach at en.wikipedia

Just a short post today, wrapping up our Hanukkah blogging for the year. I thought it would be nice to show one more connection between Hanukkah, the dedication of the Temple and Sukkot.

When Solomon dedicated the altar of the First Temple, it appears he did so for the seven days leading up to Sukkot. (2 Chronicles 8-10.) Perhaps, this was the reason the Jews who defeated the Hellenists chose to celebrate Sukkot upon reclaiming the Temple. Those Jews might have dedicated the altar for eight days (instead of seven) because they blended Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret together to form one, continuous eight-day event.

During my undergraduate years at the University of California, San Diego, I once asked the rabbi at the university’s Hillel about the connection between Hanukkah and Sukkot. She explained that prior to the Maccabean Revolt, the Temple had been in possession of the Hellenists for some time and that the Jews were unable to celebrate many holidays in the Temple. She added that one explanation as to why the Jews celebrated Sukkot (as opposed to other holidays) relates to the significance of Sukkot, an agricultural holiday, to ancient Israel, an agricultural society.

As a final note on Hanukkah, check out the Tanach’s description of Solomon’s dedication of the altar and the reference to that dedication that appears in the Second Book of the Maccabees.

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Filed under Hanukkah, Sukkot

Hanukkah: A Festivus For Any Of Us? (I)

Attribution: DRosenbach at en.wikipedia

Attribution: DRosenbach at en.wikipedia

Seinfeld, the popular 1990s sitcom, brought Festivus to the public consciousness. Festivus is a recently-invented holiday billed as a way to celebrate the season of giving without commercialism. 

I know what you’re thinking. A Blue Thread is going to tell us that the story of Hanukkah was made up and then suggest that the holiday (not being in the Tanakh) is no more authentic than Festivus. We’re actually going to do nothing of the sort. Well, not much of the sort.

Today, we’ll just touch upon why, at least according to the Books of the Maccabees, Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration. The Books of the Maccabees, which neither Karaites nor Rabbanites deem to be holy, contain no reference to a miracle of oil lasting for eight days.

Why, then, is Hanukkah eight crazy nights?

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Filed under Festivus, Hanukkah, Maccabees, R. HIllel, R. Shammai

Rejection, Rebellion and Revolt

"What is believed to be the Maccabees' relics - kept in the Maccabees Shrine - is venerated in St. Andrew Church, Cologne, Germany."Image Source and Description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maccabees

“What is believed to be the Maccabees’ relics – kept in the Maccabees Shrine – is venerated in St. Andrew Church, Cologne, Germany.”
Image Source and Description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maccabees

I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that David Suissa, President of the Jewish Journal, was paying a compliment to Karaite Jews when he recently referred to us as “rebellious” due to our rejection of the Talmud.

I’ve met Mr. Suissa on a few occasions (though he probably would not remember me) and several years back I actually heard him speak at a Shabbat dinner in a private home in Los Angeles. In every instance, he has shown himself to be a sincere individual and a dedicated Jew. I was, thus, particularly flattered when Mr. Suissa likened Karaites to rebels – especially around this time of year when most Jews throughout the world will soon begin the celebration of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah commemorates one of the most successful rebellions in the history of our people. The Maccabees, as they are commonly referred to, were the heroes and leaders of a rebellion against the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. Because of the Maccabean Revolt, the Jewish people reclaimed The Temple and rededicated it to the God of Israel. The word Hanukkah is Hebrew for “dedication.”

But the connection between Karaites and the Maccabees is much deeper than my not-so-artful twist on the word “rebellious.”

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Filed under David Suissa, Hanukkah, Jewish Journal, Karaite Press, Karaite Rabbanite Relations, Maccabees, Pharisees, Sadducees, Shabbat Candles, The Temple