Friday, December 23, 2016

Who’s Miriam the Maccabee

courtesy of Avraham Silvers

“In fifty meters,” so intoned the Waze’s voice, “turn left on Miriam the Maccabee Street.”

“Who’s Miriam the Maccabee?” I asked the Israeli-born driver.

“Ah,” she smiled. “You never heard of Miriam the Maccabee?”


I knew about Mattiyahu and his five sons; Yehuda, Shimon, Yochanan, Elazer, and Yonatan who led the revolt against the Greeks in the days of the Second Temple and defeated their ruler, Antiochus. I’d learned about Yehudit who cut off the governor’s head and  Chana who, along with her seven sons, refused to bow down to the foreign idols and were all murdered.  But I’d never heard of any Miriam connected to the Chanukah story. Sheepishly I shook my head.

“It’s a disturbing story,” my friend told me. “I don’t remember if Miriam was Mattiyahu’s daughter or granddaughter but she was definitely part of the family. At her wedding, standing under the Chupah, she shocked everyone by beginning to undress.

“What are you doing?!?” her brothers and uncles angrily reproved her.

“You’re concerned about this?” She challenged them. “Think about what’s going to happen to me later this evening!”

For the despot who ruled the land demanded first night privilege with every single bride. Miriam’s words made their mark. Tradition teaches us that her action under the Chupah was the final breaking point that ignited the rebellion which led to our holiday of Chanukah. And yet, there are many like myself, who have never heard of her. Thankfully, someone in the Jerusalem municipality did and decided she deserved to have a street named after her. 

There is a strong custom that women do no work for the first thirty minutes after the Chanukah candles are lit. We’re taught the reason for this is that it was women who benefitted the most from the defeat of Antiochus. After hearing the story of Miriam the Maccabee I understand this practice better.

This year as I contemplate the lit menorah I’ll not only think of how the Greeks outlawed Brit Milah, Shabbat, and sanctifying the new moon. Nor will I just focus on the many miracles HaShem has and continues to make for us. No, this year I plan to also remember Miriam the Maccabee. Had she not inspired her relatives to finally revolt who knows how the course of Jewish history would have played out. Let’s not let her story be forgotten.


1 comment:

Ariela ben-Eliezer said...

a new one for me. thanks!