Hanukka in Hazal

Featured Articles - Home, Tradition Online | December 13, 2020

In a 2001 essay, Prof. Gerald Blidstein z”l, a longtime contributor to TRADITION, who passed away earlier this year, notes that Hazal totally suppress the place of Jewish Hellenizers in the Hanukka story. Neither the Talmud (Shabbat 21b) nor the Al ha-Nissim prayer makes reference to them even though the Book of Macabbees portrays Jewish Hellenizers as central to the story. Prof. Blidstein offers several tentative explanations for this omission including the possibility that Hazal did not want us to celebrate a civil war.

Read “Hanukka in Hazal: The Missing Players,” TRADITION 35:3 (Fall 2001).

In a subsequent exchange of letters, Prof. Aaron Schreiber claims to find several references to the Hellenizers in Hazal and locates a hint to them in Al ha-Nissim as well. Blidstein’s response challenges Schreiber’s identification of the zedim and temeim with Jewish Hellenizers, arguing that these terms refer to the Greeks. The exchange includes insightful ideas about reading texts correctly.

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