Commentary Magazine


Literary Blog

Hitchens and Hanukkah, Cont.

Sam, you are right in pointing to Hitchens’s distortions about Hanukkah. He has a tendency to present a deeply twisted view of Judaism in order to fit his overall thesis about how bad religion is for the world. Now Hanukah is to blame for the creation of Islam (and by implication the Taliban and 9/11)? Well, whatever.

But he is right about one thing in Slate. That is to point out how little Jewish Americans really know about their own holiday’s meaning. Though in Judaism it is a relatively minor holiday celebrating the reassertion of Jewish sovereignty and the freedom to practice their faith against the Greeks, in America it has become a central Jewish moment in the year, a time for gift-giving and candle-lighting, while bearing very little of its original meaning.

Hitchens is taking sides in a fight as old as Hanukkah itself. The Greeks had banned all Jewish practice, including such “irrational” habits as keeping a day of rest. Like the Greeks, Hitchens believes in reason but not in political tolerance–in the right of people to live their own truth, not his. Hitchens likes to paint both his own war and that of the Greeks as the rational children of light against “tribal Jewish backwardness” (theocracy, irrationalism, etc.), but to me the story of Hanukkah looks more like a successful struggle for religious and national independence against secularizing and universalizing tyranny. Remember, unlike the Greeks, the Jews had no ambition to convert the world by force, to impose their truth on everyone else. All they wanted was their Temple, their God, and their way of life, as irrational as it may seem to others. Can a liberal like Hitchens handle this?



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.