Rather than my usual Chanukah shpiel about why Chanukah actually is a very important holiday, I’d like to share with you a new Chanukah related text that I studies recently. If your Talmud is handy and you’d like to study along, you can turn with me now in Avodah Zarah to page 8a. If you’re using a Schottenstein, the translation of this section is on page 8a(3).
The Rabbis are discussing various pagan winter solstice celebrations, which happen to last for eight days. They discuss Calenda and Saturnalia. Then we get a real wild card of a story.
“The Rabbis taught in a Baraita: When Adam, the first man, experienced the first winter of creation and saw the duration of each successive daytime gradually decreasing, he said, ‘Woe is to me! Perhaps I have sinned. It is becoming a darkened world for me, and the world is returning to a state of astonishing emptiness; and this then is the form that death sentence decreed upon me from heaven will take.’
“So at the very end of the fall, when the days were at their shortest, Adam arose and engaged in fasting and prayer for eight days. However, once he experienced the winter solstice, and then saw the duration of each successive daytime gradually increasing, he said, ‘It is the natural course of the world for the days to lengthen and shorten in regular cycles.’
“He went and established eight festival days. The following year, he established these days preceding the winter solstice and those days following the winter solstice ad festival days.
“He established them for the sake of heaven, but the idolaters of future generations corrupted them and established them for the sake of idolatry.”
The text then launches into a humorous discussion of the number of horns that the ox that Adam sacrificed to God during his first morning on Earth because he was overjoyed that the sun had risen again.
What do you think about this in light of Chanukah? Does this say something about Chanukah? I’m seriously looking for responses to this. Please do comment. Then I’ll tell you what I think later in Chanukah.