For all my friends at
Chanuka Hanukkah Hannukah, I'm sharing this little playlet which you can do at your congregation or any festival celebration at this season of miracles. Feel free to pass it on to others--but beware the terrible consequences for those who forget to give proper acknowledgement to the author.
As It Happened:
An Interview with Judah and Yohanan Maccabee
by Ben Volman
Three characters: Interviewer (in modern attire); Judah and Yohanan Maccabee (dressed in ancient garb and carrying broadswords)
Interviewer: I want to welcome into our studio today, straight from the Grand Opening of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Israel: Judah and Yohanan Maccabee. Welcome to As It Happened. You two are some of the great Jewish heroes, but you started out in a small village, the sons of a rabbi.
Judah: We came from a tiny spot on the map called Modi’in. That place was so small…you had to leave town to change your mind.
Yet your family resisted the great army of Antiochus Epiphanes when he controlled all of Judea.
Yohanan: The Syrians sent a few troops to Modi’in and ordered my father, Rabbi Mattathias, to sacrifice a pig. That was a big mistake. He got very angry.
Your father was a proud rabbi.
J: A great man. He didn’t go for pork. I don’t care what they say about “the other white meat.” We didn’t go to Red Lobster either.
So, he put up a fight.
Y: That’s right. They wanted us to burn our Torah scrolls and give up our faith. I’m a rabbi’s son, what was I going to do? Professional poker? But then one of the townspeople decided that he would do the dirty deed.
I understand that was the last straw for Mattathias.
J: He’d had it. My father killed the Syrian leader and that traitor.
Weren’t you thrilled at his courage?
Y: Well—to be honest, I was a bit slow warming up to the whole bravery thing. Ever seen a battle charge? It’s a bunch of guys running with scissors.
What changed your minds?
J: We knew the Syrians would be back. With a vengeance. We could fight or die. We liked option three.
What was that?
Y: Run like the dickens. Then consider other options.
Where did you go?
J: Our father led us into the hills—secret places where we gathered with men who would fight and hid out in the caves, waiting to surprise the enemy. When we started fighting, were they ever surprised! Sadly, Mattathias soon passed away and I had to become leader.
What was the strategy—your plan to defeat the enemy?
Y: You know the rules of warfare: fight man to man, face to face, may be the best warrior win? We threw those out. My motto is: Never let 'em see you coming.
You took up guerilla warfare?
J: Hey. You calling us gorillas?
No, I mean, what was the key to your courage?
Y: A big sword. Look at this beauty. We got ours from Crazy Leo’s Sword Emporium. Two for one special.
Judah, you were famous for your bravery. They called you ha’Maccabee, the Hammer.
J: When I fought, I fought hard. Like this (swings sword) and this (swings again) and this (swings again-interviewer ducks). We fought them 3 to 1; 5 to 1; I didn’t care. We attacked them when it was 10 to 1.
Wasn’t that risky?
Y: Not if they don’t know the odds or see you first.
But your people paid a great price.
J: They did. It was no joke. After we started winning, the Syrians realized that they couldn’t stop our men, so they went after innocent women and children. The king himself watched brave Hannah and her seven sons die a horrible death rather than renounce the faith of our fathers. We had to win. Especially after Antiochus sent his greatest general, Nicanor, to destroy us.
Weren’t you both afraid?
Y: Afraid? Us? Of course. But we knew we weren’t winning the battles in our own strength. We were fighting one of the toughest armies in the world—20 thousand troops. We had maybe 6 thousand men. They had war elephants and chariots. How can a skinny rabbi’s son beat back a great army? It was the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He took up our cause.
And then you entered the greatest battle of your lives.
J: That’s right, and we didn’t hold back until we had them on the run. I came at the enemy left and right—like this (swings sword) and that (swings sword) and this (swing) and that (interviewer ducks). When I saw them retreat, I called for the men to charge. General Nicanor was fleeing the battle. And then my brother Yochanan caught up to him. He sliced him up like potato wedges.
After that, you marched on Jerusalem—in the heart of winter.
Y: Three years to the very day that the Syrians spoiled our Temple, the 25th of Kislev, we re-captured the Holy Place for God. But when we entered the Temple—what a mess. You should have seen it—pig stuff was everywhere. Not a pretty sight.
Despite all that, you prepared the Temple for worship.
J: Baruch ha Shem, we threw out their vile altars and restored the Temple to its former glory. There was one problem. Once we lit the light in the holy place, we couldn’t let it go out again. We only had this much oil (takes a small canister from an inside pocket.) Would you believe it, this burned for 24 days?
I don’t believe it.
Y: How about 16 days?
I don’t believe that.
J: How about eight days?
Maybe, eight days. But it would be a miracle.
Y: Eight whole days it burned until we got more oil. Proving that it wasn’t just me—the farblondjet rabbi’s son—with my brothers and Crazy Leo holding off the Syrians. And that’s why we celebrate a Feast of Dedication for the Temple—Hannukah--every year for eight days. And our people remember this time of miracles and say: “Nes Gadol Haya Shama:” which means "a great miracle happened there." It’s just too bad about one thing.
J: We’re good at fighting. Lousy at spelling. To this day, nobody is sure how to spell Hannukah. But, I did bring the whole gang with me so that you can celebrate with us. Let’s have a party! Just remember…
… the miracles?
Y: No, don’t dance too close to Crazy Leo.