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Thoughts on our generation’s desire for life-affirming messages of Jewish pride and heroism.

Chanukah: Maccabee or Masada

Chanukah: Maccabee or Masada

Topics: Masada, Chanukah
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario, and a frequent contributor to The Judaism Website— He has lectured extensively on a variety of Jewish topics, and his articles have appeared in many print and online publications. For more on Rabbi Gurkow and his writings, visit
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Discussion (17)
December 11, 2012
I wouldn't call standing up and fighting for your rights as "misguided". But the misguided Jews are those who remain in the exile and those in Israel who rely on the nations and are their step-and fetch it lap dogs. BTW, I didn't see a menorah ontop Masada this week, but there was a desecration on the mountain from a UN flag.
December 10, 2012
Thank you Rabbu Gurkow, you said something very meaningful to me, something that touched me very personally. Tov toda.
Galit Chantrill
Adelaide South Australia
December 10, 2012
Massada or victory?
It is not the children of those who died on Massada who returned to rebuild the land of Israel, but rather the children of those who chose, when forced to make the choice,to live as slaves rather than die by their own hands! Their patience, endurance and steadfast belief in the ways of their forefathers are what kept their hopes alive and maintained the small flame of determination to survive burning in their hearts. That is the flame which we light and re-light each night if Chanukah.
December 9, 2012
Disturbing .
The implications is that the Jews could not win at Mesada was because they did not
listen to certain Rabbim leads to blame or victory or defeat based upon Rabbim .
You talked about Rome as protector of the Jew and this point of view exclude Hashem as protector of those who flee to Him as are his servants . You leave out the Jerusalem
had many so called protectors when in fact this is called being vassal states . I really think you are the role of Rabbim ahead of Hashem and explain nothing about the Jews in relation to Hashem except to posit that the most religious and commandment abiding Jews were allowed to get in the neck by the upper classes and Hashem approved . Clearly what is the reason by Hashem approved of this slaughter ? No answer from you. You left out that Jews were being placed ahead of Army of Rome
and used as shields by the Romans so that Jews would have to kill other Jews . Who is the protector of Jews , the Romans or Hashem??????????????????????????? .
South Florida
December 28, 2011
thank you!
Lazer Gurkow,
You speak in a manner in which I not only could understand but was captivated & immersed in your presentation. Tov toda! I can't express how much your video is meaning 2 me. I shall pass it on so others can experience.
Sara aka Raggedy
northwood, north dakota
December 12, 2010
no problem
Flavius like all history writers see history form their own point of view. While you say that the Sarici were bandits/thugs, is it not them and Zealots who the story of Masada is all about, a fortress against the Roman suppression, where current IDF take their oath of allegiance ?

BTW I am not attempting to win an argument. I place the Rabbis in camp with the elite. I place the Zealots as the good guys against them, for the reasons i have given, compromise and appeasement while they get rich via this status quo.

As you adroitly point out, historical accuracy is tough to determine.
December 10, 2010
Zealots and Sarici
I hasten to note for the sake of historical accuracy (if such a concept even exists :-) that the zealots did not became Sarici, the joined with the Sarici. You see, the Sarici were essentially banditsm criminal opportunists. The zealots felt the could use the Sarici for their purposes. In the end both gained and lost our of the partnership.

As to this accuracy of Josephus, as a general ruse we view him as an accurate recorder of events, how had to adjust the truth on occasion to save his life. He lived in Rome and was subject to Roman Tyranny.
Lazer Gurkow
December 9, 2010
Thank you Rabbi Gurkow
I could not Google the Tractate. So i read a couple other sites. In brief what i read is that there were two struggles going on:

1.The lower class being taxed to death by the Romans
2.The lower class against the perceived assimilation/profiteering of the higher class and rabbis.

The lower class became Sarcii and Zealots and assassinated hundreds of upper class (Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene) Jews and opponents of their brand of religious and or political will. The Zealots and Sarcii even fought among themselves for power. The situation bottomed out at Masada. It is said that while the Sarcii were there they massacred 700 Jewish opponents at nearby Ein Gedi for supplies.

This recount comes via historian Flavius Joseph, a Roman Jew. I don't readily accept it as accurate. Even if i find the Tractate you suggest, i may have doubts. What I do know is that the period 0-100AD was a very turbulent time, ripe for conspiracy theories/mystery, each side trying to look good.

December 9, 2010
Reading up on History
Dear Anonymous,

To read up on Jewish sources with respect to the Rabbinical desire to compromise with Rome please see the Babylonian Talmud tractate Gitin and Avot D' Rebbi Natan, where you will find the efforts of the rabbis to bring about compromise recounted.
Lazer Gurkow
December 8, 2010
66 AD- 70 AD
This short period is wedged in a larger time frame say 0 - 100 AD. There were several leadership changes in Rome during this period, including Caligula and Nero. These two out of I don't know how many, forced the Jews to be look upon them as the one deity, no other. The treatment of Jews vacillated from religious tolerance to religious supression and outright antisemitic pogroms, depending on the whim of who was heading the Roman Empire. As to which Jewish group brought on the destruction of the Second Temple, it could have been the rabbis as easily as the laypeople. In the Masada story, it was only a matter of time/Roman leader before the destruction was going to take place. To control people you must end up controlling their thoughts. Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis are not going to allow a black sheep.
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