Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Why do we keep asking the Bes Yosef's Question?

Judah Mac as he appears
on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling
Nicely done, True Believers! Yesterdays list of Things I Wish Orthodox Jews Would Stop Believing was tres awesome. In the fullness of time, I will compile your suggestions into an official DovBear post. For now, here's something seasonal upon which you can chew.

 I Wish Orthodox Jews Would Stop Believing....

...that the Bes Yosef's Question is a good question


On the off chance, there's a newbie in the audience who is unfamiliar with this chestnut  here's a brief summary, presented in terse, outline form:

1 - Famously, the Bes Yosef asks: If the Maccabees had sufficient oil for one day, why is Hanukkah celebrated for 8 days, and not 7? (The first day of light wasn't a miracle.)

2 - This is an excellent question... until you're given the correct answer*, which is right there in the Book of Maccabees in plain, not-so-easy-to-understand Krone Greek. 
It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Kislev. They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the Festival of Booths [Sukkot], remembering how not long before, during the Festival of Booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm [=lulavim], they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days each year. -- The New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha (Augmented Third Edition)
* I cast no aspersions on the Bes Yosef here. Its doubtful he had Greek or Latin and therefore would have been unable to read the Book of Maccabees. If you think this means I am saying that "he's dumb," I can't help you. 

3 - As you can see, the Maccabees created Hanukkah as an 8-day holiday because they were celebrating a delayed Sukkot. During the Greek occupation  Jews couldn't get to the Temple to perform the sacrifices and rituals. After driving the enemy from Jerusalem, the Maccabees invited everyone to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday they'd most recently missed: Sukkot, which in Temple Times was celebrated by the people together with Shmini Atzeres as an 8-day holiday.

Simple right? So, why doesn't the average OJ accept it? I, myself, have explained the connection between Sukkot and Hanukkah to dozens of people, and several of them have returned to me in subsequent years with new answers to the Bet Yosef's Question. Why? Retire the question. The answer has been given to you! What accounts for our inability, as a people, to let this sink in?

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