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December 21, 1973 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1973-12-21

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Heroic Role of Maccabees and Their Impact Upon Future Generations

Moshe Pearlman, already possessing an enviable rec-
ord as an author, has added to his literary achievements
with a very notable work about the Hasmoneans and
their time. With "The Maccabees," published by Mac-
millan, he emerges as an historian and as a very bril-
liant archivist who has produced an excellent work with
a memorable message.
Much has been written about the Maccabees and the
Syrian and Seleucid forces they had met in many battles.
Pearlman's creative work is marked by thorough
research into the history of the period under his study as
it involved the Syrians, the Seleucid hierarchy and sub-
sequently the Romans; as well as the contending Jewish
forces, the Maccabeans, their opponents who included the
collaborators with the invaders.
The current work has the distinction of remarkable
analysis of the military factors and trends, the tactics
of the Maccabees which distinguished them for their skill
in developing defensive genius. He was a lieutenant-colo-
nel in the Israel army of defense and was closely allied
with the late David Ben-Gurion and other Israeli leaders,
and his definitive emphases on the military aspects stem
from intimate association with the creators of protective
skills for modern Israel. • •
In fact, at every opportunity Pearlman introduced
the modern Israeli evidences into his historical review of
the Maccabees, thus providing continuity for a story
linked with the defensive in Jewish existence.
His role as historian also has its roots in his numerous
activities in Israel and in his literary works. He was the
director of Israel, information services and later of the
Kol Yisrael radio programs, he headed the government
press division and served with Hagana and the British
military forces, and he assisted in bringing to Israel im-
migrants who were branded "Illegal" by the British. He
authored "Zealots of Masada," "Ben-Gurion Looks Back"
and "First Days of Israel" and, with Jerusalem's Mayor
Teddy Kollek, "Jerusalem: A History of Forty Centuries."
The background confirms his authoritativeness.
In "The Maccabees" we have the evidence of the
author's thorough leaning for material upon the Books
of the Maccabees, Josephus, the authoritative views of
Prof. Solomon Zeitlin, who is incontestably the outstand-
ing living authority on the period of the Second Temple,
and other historians.
Not only the battles and the enemies with whom the
Maccabees warred, but the Jewish element, the contests
for the High Priesthood, the readily-yielding Jews who
submitted to demands for submission to the wills, views
and customs of the occupying rulers—all are defined in
the roles that were assumed by the people with whom
Pearlman deals in "The Maccabees."
Thus, while the reader gains a good knowledge about
the Hasmoneans, he also is kept informed about the Hel-
lenistic tendencies and the Hellenizing that occurred at
that time and against which the Maccabees fought to
attain their aims, first of cleansing the Temple in Jeru-
salem and then to attain independence.
It begins, of course, with Mattathias, his son Judah
who was the great hero but who did not attain total
freedom for his people; it continues with Jonathan who
defied the Seleucids by making the first contact with the
Romans—who less than two centuries later themselves
conquered the Jewish state—Jonathan, who was tricked
into prisonership by Tryphon who murdered him; and
finally Simon, the last of the Maccabee brothers, who at-
tained independence or a Jewish state that survived from
134 to 104 BCE. But it set a standard for the eventual
struggle which emerged in the present state of Israel,
and Pearlman, in his concluding paragraphs in his not-
able work, offers this as a paean to the glory of Jewry's
never abandoning the struggle for independence:
"This era of independence would not be one of un-
alloyed triumph. There would be internal religious dis-
sension and a growing rift between the ruling house and

Dr. Fill Presents Detroit Gift
to UJA at National Conclave

Dr: Leon Fill, 1974 vice chairman for the Allied Jewish
Campaign-Israel Emergency Fund, transmitted a major
cash installment on behalf of the Jewish Welfare Federa-
tion at the United Jewish Appeal national conference in New
York. Avraham Harman, president of Hebrew University
and former Israeli ambassador to the United States,
watches UJA National Chairman Gerald S. Colburn accept
The Detroit check from Dr. Fill.

48—Friday, Dec. 21, 1973


some of its subjects, particularly during the despotic
reign of Alexander Jannai, who would deviate from the
traditionalist path. Independence would also come to an
end in 63 BCE when Rome's Pompey, the conquering
general of the now undisputed great power in the region,
would subdue Jerusalem after a bitter siege. (There
would be two brief flickers of sovereignty thereafter, each
lasting three years: under Hasmonean King Mattathias
Antigonus, 40-37 BCE, and under Bar-Kokhba, CE 132-
135). But short though it was, the Hasmonean period
would exercise an undying impact on the lives of the
Jews and on the course of their history ever after. The
Hasmonean family of the old priest Mattathias and his
remarkable sons created something greater than they
"In regaining freedom for the Jews of their own times,
these glorious Maccabees fashioned a mould for the pre-
servation of the Jewish identity for all time. Their strength
of spirit in appalling adversity and their prodigious deeds
against incredible odds became part of the heritage and
collective memory of the nation. The Jews in the years
to come would suffer the most horrendous cruelties, be
victims of the most hideous holocausts, but never would
they go under. The record of this most extraordinary
Maccabee struggle to safeguard their faith and their
liberty would sustain the hopes and nourish the will of
the Jewish people throughout the long, dark centuries of
their exile—and would lead to the rebirth of the State of
Israel in our own day."

The struggles for the High Priesthood, the defec-
tions of Menelaus, the collaborationists and the vengeance
eventually exacted for their submissions to paganism—
these and the many factors in the battles for adherence
to Jewish traditions are elaborately chronicled by Pearl-
man. In the process, he describes how the Hasidim suf-
fered death rather than desecrate the Sabbath by de-
fending themselves, until Mattathias inspired them to be-
come volunteers "in the cause of the law," and it was
decided that "if anyone came to fight against them on
the Sabbath, they would fight back, rather than all die
as their brothers in the caves had done." Pearlman added
on this score:
"The decision was revolutionary for its time. The

Drawing of Moshe Pearlman by Vicky,
London News Chronicle artist.

Fourth Commandment was observed by traditionalists
with scrupulous regard to the tiniest detail, and it was
naturally understood that one would not desecrate the
Sabbath by blocking up a hiding place even to save one's
life. Only some 300 years later, in the 2nd Century
CE, did the rabbis ordain that 'the Sabbath is given to
man, not man to the Sabbath,' and so the preservation
of life now takes precedence in Jewish law over observ-
ance of the Sabbath."
Photographs of Hasidim with earlocks engaged in
the battle for freedom in the 1948 War of Independence
give credence to this new principle, and the 1973 Yom
Kippur War would have provided added photographic
material to substantiate the views presented by Pearl-
Pearlman comments interestingly on the Maccabee
terminology and on the role of the Books of the Macca-
bees in the Canon. It is worth quoting the portion of the
Pearlman description in which he points out that JO --
had tremendous self-confidence, "boundless faith in
righteousness of his cause and the unshakable belief tnaL
God was with him. He was as devout as his father had
been." Then Pearlman states:
"Some of these qualities were assuredly evident when
Mattathias named him as his successor. He had said at
the time that Judah 'has been strong and brave from
boyhood,' and this must have been recognized also by
his brothers and the other families of Modi'in. He was
called Judah the Maccabee, Hebrew for 'Judah the ham-
merer', and the resistance forces he led were there-
fore known, and they continue to be known up to this
very day, as the Maccabees.
"[`The hammerer' is the generally accepted transla-
tion of `Maccabee,' deriving from the Hebrew word
makabah, which means hammer. However, in Hebrew,
the word which is pronounced Maccabee may be spelled
in two slightly different ways. One means 'the hammerer',
the other `the quencher' or 'the extinguisher', and some
scholars prefer the second meaning as descriptive of
Judah, 'who extinguished hellenism in Judea'. Another
scholar suggests that Maccabee may have been a nick-
name and simply meant that Judah was called 'the ham-
mer-head' because of the shape of his cranium. A more
ingenious recent theory is that the word stems from the
same Hebrew root of the verb yikavenu used in Isaiah
62:2 and meaning 'he shall be named [by the Lord]'.
Talmudists fond of word-play saw the Hebrew letters that
make up Maccabee as an acronym for the Hebrew of
'Exodus 15:11: 'Who is like unto thee, 0 Lord, among
the gods?' which occurs in the song sung by Moses after
the successful crossing of the Red Sea. Whatever the
original derivation of the term, it signified at the time,
and has been so held by the generations of Jews ever
since, the leader who, under divine guidance, hammered
and smote his foes and so kept Judaism alive.
`It may seem strange that the man who fought so
determinedly against hellenism should be commonly
known by the Greek form of his name, Judas Macca-
baeus. This is because the First Book of Maccabees,
originally written in Hebrew, failed to qualify for the
Old Testament canon, established at the end of the first
century AD, and therefore ceased to circulate in its He-
brew version. It was however, one of the sacred books
which had been translated into Greek for the Septuagint
and was included in the Apocrypha. The Apocryphal
texts, which centuries later were adopted by the Chris-
tian canon, have therefore come down to us not in their
original Hebrew but in their Greek version; and other
translations, including the English, followed the Greek
style of Judah's name.]"
In every respect, Pearlman's "The Maccabees" is a
great historical work. It merits studying not only during
the appropriate Hanuka period, for which this review
was selected, but as part of history studied all-year-
round. —P. S.

Bet Din Rules Father of Langers Is Jewish;
Reopening of Ilanizeria Case Hit by Goren

TEL AVIV •(JTA)—Israel's
two chief rabbis clashed over
the validity of a Petah Tikva
religious court ruling last
week upholding the conver-
sion to Judaism of Avraham
The ruling, announced last
Thursday, upset last year's
decision by Ashkenazic Chief
Rabbi Shlomo Goren that
Borokovsky was not properly
converted when he under-
went the rites in Poland
nearly a half century ago.
Rabbi Goren declared Tues-
day that the ruling had no
practical or halakhic effect.
But Sephardic Chief Rabbi
Ovadia Yosef congratulated
the Petah Tikva rabbis.
Rabbi Goren's decision that
Borokovsky was not legally a
Jew paved the way for the
marriage of Hanoch and Mir-

iam Langer to their respec- it was Rabbi Goren who per-
formed the double ceremony.
tive fiances.
Tuesday, Rabbi Goren said
The brother and sister, chil-
dren of Borokovsky's former the ruling by the Petah Tikva
wife, who had remarried Bet Din would not affect the
without obtaining a religious legitimacy of the Langer
divorce (there is no civil di- children or their marriages.
vorce in Israel) from him had Other religious sources
been declared bastards by a claimed that reaffirmation of
Petah Tikva religious court Borokovsky's status as a Jew
and thus were ineligible to means that the Langer chil-
marry, according to religious dren were born out of wed-
lock and they and their off-
spring are illegitimate. The
The Langer case simmered former Miriam Langer has
for years and created a just given birth to a child, the
groundswell of feeling against Jewish Telegraphic Agency
the Orthodox religious au- learned.
thorities until Goren, in one
of his first acts after election
Apart from the possible ef-
as chief rabbi, declared fects on the Langer family,
Borokovsky to be a Gentile, the Petah Tikva ruling re-
which made his marriage to
the Langers' mother invalid opened a long-standing squab-
under religious law. When the ble between Israel's Ashke-
Langer children finally wed, nazic and Sephardic chief

rabbis. While Rabbi r
lashed out at the Petah _ a
court, charging that it had no
halakhic authority to reopen
the case, Rabbi Yosef con-
tended that the ruling was
proper and legal. He recalled
that in 1970, the Supreme
Rabbinical Court, of which he
had been a member, ruled
that Borokovsky had been
fully converted according to
Ha•akha and was indeed a

Borokovsky, 74, settled in
Palestine 40 years ago after
undergoing conversion in Po-
land. He claimed that he led
the life of an observant Jew
and raised his children ac-
cording to Jewish religious
tenets. He consistently re-
ected Rabbi Goren's ruling
and refused to undergo a
second conversion.

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