Two Spinning Tops… PO and SHAM

I wish I could be two personalities at this season of the year… a Chanukah schizophrenic. One side of me would spin and land on PO (here). One side of me would spin and land on SHAM (there). One side of me would munch on sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts) and one side of me would devour latkes (fried potato pancakes).

I could even have two names: S’vivon and Dreidel. And two different but similar holiday gifts… d’mai Chanukah and Chanukah gelt. Both sides of us could choose our hero or our villain. It might be a Bibi or it might be a Barack. Two spinning tops in a top-sided lop-sided world.

Antiochus Ephiphanes IV had a good idea. If all the world dressed alike and spoke the very same language, we could all be friends and everyone could understand the other. No conflicts. That is, no conflicts until it came to choosing a religion to follow and a god to worship. The Jew would prefer the God with a capitol G and the pagan would naturally choose the powerful Zeus.

If each group went its own way without inflicting pain on the other, there would be peace. But when one side attempted to coerce and force the other side to worship its deity it lead to war. And so it was.

Having failed to conquer Egypt, Antiochus sent his marching bands of soldiers into little Judea. When the Judeans refused to obey his cruel laws and when he defiled their holy temple in the city of Jerusalem, the righteous ones among the Judeans rose up in a revolt against him.

The battle was long and furious. For the Jews, it was a two-sided war. One side of the battle was against the Syrian-Greek invaders and the other side was against the Hellenized Jews who preferred the Greek gymnasium to the Jewish synagogue, who preferred the athletic feat of wrestling to the spiritual task of Torah study.

What a conflict it must have been. In a single family home, one brother walked half naked to the Greek arena to send a javelin flying to a target, while the other brother walked clothed to the house of prayer to pick up a siddur and send his devotions up to heaven. Pity the poor parents in such a divided household!

On and on went the battles. Until one man, accompanied by his five sons, decided to end and to win the war. To all who were gathered about him, he shouted out “Mi Kamocha Ba Elim Adonai”, who is like Thee among the gods O God. His Hebrew cry formed the word MKBY and thus he was called Mr. Maccabee.

Turning to the crowds he cried out “Mi L’Adonai Iti”… whoever is for God, let him come with me.

To the hills they fled and from the highest of the hills they attacked the enemy below. The fighting waged furiously. Mi yemalel gvurot Yisrael, otan mi yimneh? Who could recount the heroic battles of Israel, who could number them?

And when the battles had ended and the many enemies had been defeated by the few Jews, a great celebration was held in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns.

Only I am sure that no one ate sufganiyot or potato latkes.

So while it’s fun to be a Chanukah schizophrenic, I’ve chosen the side for me. While I admire the beauties of the SHAM, the PO will always be home.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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