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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


The Chanukah Story According to the UN

Last Friday I was quite disappointed (to put it mildly) that the Obama administration chose not to veto an unfavorable UN resolution regarding Israel. The truth is that most of the resolution had nothing new in it, but rather, merely reiterated language from previous resolutions. Tragically, one of the few new points in the resolution calls upon all States “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967," thereby encouraging nations to undertake the boycott of goods made by Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well. Fittingly, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has named this resolution the top anti-Semitic incident of 2016.

In the spirit of that distinction, a young rabbi from Atlanta, GA named Yitzchak Tendler (who happens to be a yeshiva classmate of my eldest son Shachar and was a frequent Shabbat guest in my home) creatively redacted a summary of the battles of the Hanukkah story according to the UN resolution:

In 167 BCE, after launching the revolt in ancient Modi'in Occupied Palestinian Territory against Antiochus IV, the 5 sons of Matityahu set up base camp in the Hills of Beit El Occupied Palestinian Territory.

That same year, Judah Maccabee and his small band of men face off in their first battle against Apollonius in Ma'aleh Levona Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The next major battle, in 166 BCE, is against Seron, who lost to the Maccabees in the hills of Beit Choron Occupied Palestinian Territory.

A few months later, with a massive Syrian-Greek army headed by Lysias coming his way, Judah and his men gather in Mitzpah Occupied Palestinian Territory, in preparation for an epic battle in Emek Ayalon.

In 164 BCE, a huge battle takes place in Beit Tzur Occupied Palestinian Territory, ultimately resulting in giving the Maccabees access to Jerusalem Occupied Palestinian Territory.

They then make their way to Jerusalem and rededicate the Temple that stood in Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In 162 BCE, the next major battle takes place in Beit Zechariah Occupied Palestinian Territory, where Judah's brother Elazar was killed while attacking a war elephant.

In 161 BCE, Judah defeats a vast army lead by Nicanor in Adasa/Givon Valley Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In 160 BCE, Judah Maccabee is tragically killed during a desperate battle in Elasa/Mt. Bal Hatzor Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Eventually a Jewish State is consolidated 20 years later by the last surviving brother, Simon.

Ironically, Antiochus VII demands that Simon return to him the "illegally occupied" cities of Jaffa, Gezer and the coastal towns, which had previously been controlled by the Syrian-Greeks.

Simon defiantly responds (Maccabees 1 Chapter 15): "We have not taken strange lands, nor are we ruling over foreign territory. We have returned to our ancestral inheritance, from which we had been unjustly expelled by our enemies. And now that we have been blessed with the opportunity, we will hold onto our ancestral land."

Antiochus VII then attacks, and is repelled by Simon's army, paving the way for generations of Hasmonean rule.

Hanukkah celebrates a time in history when God delivered "many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous" (Al Hanissim Prayer). It marks a victory against tyranny and religious persecution.

It also reaffirms a stubborn historical truth which stands firm regardless of one's opinion on the best way to solve the seemingly intractable modern-day conflict: for thousands of years the Land of Israel – especially the parts referenced in last week's UN resolution – has been profoundly intertwined with Jewish destiny. No amount of Security Council resolutions can ever change that big, beautiful, historical, and inescapable fact. Happy Hanukkah!