Skip to content

A Question for the 8th Night of Hanukkah: What Does Hanukkah Have to Teach Us in Our Times

A Modern Travelers Hanukkah Menorah with an Ancient Feel


The Questions posed are in this series of blog posts are part of Rabbi Gartenberg's Hanukkah Seder. For a copy, write to him at

Question for the 8th Night:  What is the historical legacy of Hanukkah?

Dipping for the 8th Question: Dip a piece of sweet, fruity bread into a fruity extra virgin olive oil.

Effect: A very rich and fruity taste suggesting Hanukkah's rich and contemporary legacy.

Text for Discussion 

"In this time, too, many universal cultures - Marxism and Communism, triumphalist Christianity (and Islam) certain forms of liberalism and radicalism, fascism, even monolithic Americanism have demanded that Jews dissolve and become part of humankind. All these philosophies have claimed that Jews can depend on their principles and structures to provide for Jewish rights.

The Maccabee revolution made clear that a universalism that denies the rights of the particular to exist is inherently totalitarian and will end up oppressing people in the name of one humanity. Universalism must surrender its overweening demands and accept the universalism of pluralism. Only when the world admits that oneness comes out of particular existences, linked through overarching unities, will it escape the inner dynamics of conformity that lead to repression and cruelty."

Rabbi Irving Greenberg

Commentary for Discussion

Instead of "universalism", read "white supremacists".  This text, written over twenty years ago, did not foresee the dramatic culture clash between the white supremacists and minority cultures? Does the story of Hanukkah give us more insight into how to create a pluralist and tolerant culture in America and beyond?   Another provocative question is how to understand Hanukkah in Israel, the third Jewish commonwealth? How does the majority Jewish Israeli culture treat minorities and other particular cultures?