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Chanuka for our Times
By Moshe WidenMy headache started when my 8 year old came home from school and informed me he's not going back.
"Why?" I asked in slight anticipation.
"My teacher is a liar" he replied calmly, "I might as well watch television."
I must admit I had to catch a chuckle under my breath. "What did he say" I asked with growing interest.
"He told us the story of Chanukah, but all wrong!!" my son said with conviction.
"How do you know your teacher is wrong?" Here, I turned on the offensive.
"It just didn't make sense" my son replied calmly.
"Well, tell me what he said and I'll help explain it to you" I said trying hard not to be too patronizing, after all what kind of deep questions do kids come up with.
So my son began: "My teacher taught that the Greeks wanted to enforce their culture on the Jewish People. This guy Antiochus brought in the Greek armies to enforce the decrees that the Jews weren't allowed to practice their religion, and instead, they were forced to participate in the Greek sports and festivals. Then, this high Priest, Mattityahu Macabbi, and his sons rose up, and made a revolution and kicked the Greeks out of the country."
With puzzlement I answered "That sounds about right. What's the problem?"
In sweet innocence my son asked "Then why don't we call our soccer team, Antiochus Tel-Aviv instead of Macabbi Tel-Aviv.
"Ugh, well it's quite simple..." I began...... I saw my son's face looking at mine in pride and trust. The pause seemed like an hour. I wondered why the question never occurred to me before. An answer for sure I didn't have. I felt my forehead begin to get warm and beads of perspiration began to form.
"It's just because you don't understand......" I said, trying to stall for time. Then I saw that a face-saving technique was urgently needed till I could think this out.
"Oh, I forgot something very important at work" I said heading for the front door. "We'll continue this discussion when I get back."
"O.K" my son replied, turning back to the T.V.
I got in the car, drove around the block, and sat thinking for a few minutes. I had no choice but to come to the conclusion that it must be as I had thought. Simple really; its just "I" who doesn't understand. I decided to call my good friend Jake. He's a knowledgeable guy - I'm sure he'll be able to help me. Without beating around the bush, I called him on my cellular phone. I didn't want to mention to him that the question was my eight year old son's. "Jake," I said, "Where does the name Macabbi Tel Aviv and the Macabbi Games come from?"
Jake answered in ridicule "Why don't you ask your son? I'm sure he learned about Chanukah in school. Everyone's heard of the Jewish heroes, the Macabbees!."
"But Jake", I almost apologized, "Didn't they give up their lives fighting against the Greek culture of sports?" There was a long silence on the phone.
"Jake? Jake, are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. It's a funny type question. I guess, we name our teams after national heroes; but I must admit, here it's really ironical. 'Specially the Macabbian Games, a very copy of the Olympic Games. Olympia was one of the Greek gods if I recall rightly. Poor Mattityahu Macabbee, he's probably turning in his grave. What, of all things, to name after him. It's like calling the slave trade market place, Lincoln Square. You know, we really are quite estranged from our roots. If I was a cynic I'd say Antiochus really won in the end."
"Well what am I going to tell my kids, Jake!!".
"Oh, come on," he answered
me, "kids don't pick up on this stuff. They haven't the intelligence
of an adult!"
from the December 1997 Edition of the Jewish Magazine