Hanukka Hellenists

When we think about Hanukka, we see it as a conflict between the Hellenists and the traditionalists. The Hellenists sympathized with the Seleucids, exercised in the nude in their gymnasia, and followed their culture and language to qualify as young Greek ephebes, or soldier- gentlemen. The young priests neglected their Temple duties and went off to the gymnasium and some even reversed their circumcision so as not to appear too Jewish.

The Second Book of Maccabees is horrified at this (4:14 ff), and we do not sympathize with the youngsters, because the Seleucids also introduced pagan sacrifices into the Temple and tried to make the Jews adopt these practices. Matityahu was the first to refuse openly to do so, and when the Greek officer came to Modiā€™in and ordered Matityahu, as the local leader, to make the sacrifice and eat the entrails, he refused and, when another Jew rushed forward to carry out the order, Matityahu killed him and the officer and fled into the countryside with his five sons. Thus started the revolt of the Maccabees as recorded in the first book of that name. Matityahu and his sons are the heroes of Hanukka.

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