Hanukkah: Remembering The Good

Copyright 2011 Neal Joseph Loevinger

Torah Portion: Hanukkah

Happy Holidays to one and all! For my those readers who are
celebrating Hanukkah, we’re in for a treat this year, because only
occasionally does Hanukkah have two Shabbatot [Sabbaths] in its eight
days. Thus, this week we read a special Haftarah [prophetic reading]
instead of the usual haftarah for the Torah portion Miketz, but it’s
the special haftarah for the times when there is a second Shabbat
during Hanukkah.

This text, from the book of 1 Kings, which is also the haftarah for
the Torah portion Vayehkel, describes the crafting of the implements
and vessels for the First Temple. Since Vayekhel is all about the
building of the Mishkan, or portable sanctuary, this text connects an
early period of Biblical history with a later one. The connection with
Hanukkah is also clear: King Shlomo [Solomon] crafted and dedicated
the sacred objects of the first Temple, and the Maccabees would purify
and rededicate the sacred objects of the Second Temple.

What’s interesting to me is the specific verses from 1 Kings 7 that
the rabbis chose; these verses distinguish between the contributions
of King Hiram, of Tyre [in what we’d now call Lebanon] and those made
by his friend and ally Shlomo, king in Jerusalem:

“Hiram also made the lavers, the scrapers, and the sprinkling bowls.
So Hiram finished all the work that he had been doing for King Solomon
on the House of the Lord: the two columns, the two globes of the
capitals upon the columns; and the two pieces of network to cover the
two globes of the capitals upon the columns, the four hundred
pomegranates for the two pieces of network, two rows of pomegranates
for each network, to cover the two globes for the capitals upon the
columns . . . . .” (1 Kings 7:40-42)

The verses above are only a part of the description of Hiram’s
contributions to the Temple- for the full description see the text
link below. To me, the inclusion of the contributions of a non-Jewish
king towards the building of the sacred center of the Jewish nation is
striking on a holiday which commemorates the revolt against another
non-Jewish king, albeit a much less friendly one, Antiochus. Perhaps
bringing the story of Hiram into Hanukkah helps us remember that not
all foreign powers were hostile to Israel, and indeed, although the
Jews have certainly suffered persecution over the centuries, we’ve
also made friends, allies and partners with peoples of every culture
and nation.

Even today, when there is a real threat of anti-Semitism in Europe and
the Middle East, there are also strong ties of affection and respect
between Jewish communities and their neighbors, both secular and
religious, in many countries where our people live. The Hanukkah story
is one of courage and hope, of vision and determination, but we cannot
say that these events are paradigmatic in Jewish history. Our people
have had our ups and downs, our periods of great glory and our periods
of great struggle, times of suffering under Antiochus and the
contribution of beautiful gifts from Hiram- and to the extent that we
remember that there is goodness in the world, along with evil, we can
build up the good, and bring its light wherever it is needed.

Hag Urim Sameach [Happy Holiday of Lights] and Shabbat Shalom,

rnjl

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