How to Use this Publication
From the Sources is designed to facilitate holiday text study around issues of social justice. We invite you to engage in the texts and use them in your community to teach and take action. Use From the Sources to:
• Learn with others. Read through this text study together with a friend or a group of friends and discuss the issues it raises.
• Enrich your own learning. This resource aims to inspire thought-provoking and challenging perspectives on the holiday texts.
• Teach. Invite others to share in this learning. Use it as the basis for a dvar Torah or to motivate action in support of advocacy or tzedakah initiatives in your school, synagogue or Hillel.
Chanukah commemorates the victory of Jewish sovereignty against the Greek/Hellenistic empire. The Greeks, and later the Romans, brought great advances in science, technology and philosophy that have profoundly shaped Western culture—and influenced Jewish practice and tradition—for millennia. They also brought religious persecution, strict political hierarchy and a foreign elite. Under the Greek king Antiochus IV, many Jewish practices were outlawed and Greek religious symbols were forcibly installed in the Second Temple.
Eventually, the Maccabees rose up against the Greeks and reasserted Jewish rule in Judea. In the 21st century, we are also witness to great advances—medical, technological and economic—that reach to the corners of the world. However, these advances also raise concerns about the imposition of particular cultural norms and ideologies from the West. Chanukah offers an opportunity to explore the conflicts and tensions that accompany globalization and development.
|In the time of Mattityahu, the son of Yochanan, the Hasmonean High Priest, and his children, the evil Greek empire confronted Your righteous people to make them forget Your Torah and to divert them from the laws of Your choosing…||
בימי מתתיהו בן יוחנן כהן גדול חשמונאי ובניו כשעמדה מלכות יון הרשעה על עמך ישראל להשכיחם תורתך ולהעבירם מחקי רצונך . . .
|The degree to which acculturation took place in Judea itself and the time when it began in earnest elude any certainty… ”Judaism” and ”Hellenism” were neither competing systems nor incompatible concepts. It would be erroneous to assume that Hellenization entailed encroachment upon Jewish traditions and erosion of Jewish
beliefs. Jews did not face a choice of either assimilation or resistance to Greek culture… The prevailing [Hellenistic] culture of the Mediterranean could hardly be ignored or dismissed. But adaptation to it need not
require compromise of Jewish precepts or practices. The inquiry can be formulated thus: how did Jews accommodate themselves to the larger cultural world of the Mediterranean while at the same time reasserting the character of their own heritage within it?
|For R. Judah, R. Jose and R. Simeon were sitting, and
Judah, a son of proselytes, was sitting near them. R.Judah commenced [the discussion] by observing, “How fine are the works of [the Roman] people! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths.” R. Jose was silent. R. Simeon b. Yohai
answered and said, ”All that they made they made for themselves; they built market-places to set harlots in them; baths to rejuvenate themselves; bridges to levy tolls for them.”
דיתבי רבי יהודה ורבי יוסי ורבי שמעון, ויתיב יהודה בן גרים גבייהו. פתח רבי יהודה ואמר: כמה נאים מעשיהן של אומה זו: תקנו שווקים,תקנו גשרים, תקנו מרחצאות. רבי יוסי שתק. נענה רבי שמעון בן יוחאי ואמר: כל מה שתקנו -לא תקנו אלא לצורך עצמן, תקנו שווקין -להושיב בהן זונות, מרחצאות -לעדן בהן עצמן,גשרים - ליטול מהן מכס.
|The increasing demand by peoples and communities to have their cultural identity preserved comes in a world context we now call globalization, which many perceive as taking us towards a progressive homogenization at a
global level…The process of globalization manifests itself as a two-headed creature. One has an unprecedented capacity for communication and exchange on a global scale…The other manifestation, in contrast, is the
imposition of a Western socio-economic-cultural model throughout the world.
|Globalization, writes Zygmunt Bauman, “divides as much as it unites...What appears as globalization for some means localization for others; signaling a new freedom for some, upon many others it descends as an uninvited and cruel fate” (Bauman 1998: 2). There can be no doubt that some of the economic surplus of the advanced economies of the world should be invested in developing countries to help eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, ensure universal education, combat treatable disease, reduce infant mortality, improve work conditions, and reconstruct failing economies. As with tzedakah, the aim should be to restore dignity and independence to nations as well as individuals. Whether this is done in the name of compassion, social justice, or human solidarity it has now become a compelling imperative. The globalization of communications, trade, and culture globalizes human responsibility likewise. The freedom of the few must not be purchased at the price of the enslavement of the many to poverty, ignorance, and disease.|
• What argument does Rabbi Sacks make in favor of globalization? What is the “compelling imperative” that he identifies?
• How does Rabbi Sacks’ view relate back to the traditional telling of the Chanukah story?
• Contemporary development includes elements of “communications, trade and culture.” Imagine the beneficiaries of that development writing their own version of Al Hanisim. What might they say?
• What do these texts teach us about how to support those in the Global South, given our people’s historical experience of oppression at the hands of the Greek and Roman globalizers?
• Does it make a difference if tzedakah is done in the name of compassion, social justice or human solidarity? How would you characterize these three approaches?
For the Jews during the time of the Maccabees, the Hellenistic imposition of development, assimilation and cultural imperialism were sufficiently disruptive that they chose to resist with violence. Now that we, American Jews, are in some ways on the other side of the equation—supporting development in the Global South and benefiting from the economic forces of globalization—we should be particularly sensitive to the ways in which we approach those whom we seek to help. This Chanukah, let us struggle with the question: How can we balance our aspirations to improve people’s lives while avoiding the tendency to impose our own agendas and values?
AJWS offers On1Foot as a resource to the community out of our desire to encourage and enrich the ongoing conversation about Judaism and Social Justice. The statements made and views expressed in this work are solely the responsibility of their authors.