From the Archives of Tradition

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tradition-cabinetby R. Yitzchak Blau

Hazal depict the Hanukkah story in two major locations: in a famous gemara (Shabbat 21b) and in the al ha-nissim prayer.   Neither source mentions a clash with Jewish Hellenizers or Matityahu killing a Jewish idolater, historical episodes attested to in The Book of Maccabees.   If this was a conscious omission by Hazal, what motivated it?  For some intriguing suggestions, see Professor Gerald Blidstein’s essay:  link (PDF)

In a  subsequent issue, one letter writer claimed to find clear reference to Jewish Hellenizers in the al ha-nissim prayer. Prof. Blidstein’s response is quite fascinating as it sheds light on sensitivity to language and how terms are used in different contexts: link (PDF)

About Yitzchak Blau

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau is Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Orayta and also teaches at Midreshet Lindenbaum. He is the author of Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine: The Ethics and Wisdom of the Aggada and an Associate Editor of Tradition.

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