Rabbi Nota Schiller is a co-founder of and rosh yeshiva at Ohr Somayach, the "Harvard" of BT yeshivot. Rabbi Schiller was educated at Ner Israel in Baltimore, and has been a leading exponent of kiruv (missionizing) and haredism for 40 years. Yet, in a fanciful attempt to prove both the need for Jewish Otherness – separation from non-Jews – and the validity of the Oral Torah, Rabbi Schiller displays a level of ignorance that, even now, is truly shocking. In his attempt to explain what the midrash means when it says, "Write upon the horn of an ox that you have no portion in the God of Israel," Rabbi Schiller writes:
Historically, at Chanukah, the Jews warred with the Greeks, yet there is no megillah, no written work chronicling that battle. Why? Because it is a story that must be transmitted orally, for at the center of this battle was the Greeks' attempt to destroy the Oral Torah. Instead of being conquered, we persevered and created a new holiday that could only have been orchestrated through the mechanism of the Oral Torah.
The blessing we say when lighting the Chanukah lights is "…Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to light the flame of Chanukah." Where are we commanded? Which verse in the Torah mandates such? The oblique origin of this mitzvah is its very strength: Because the Torah endows our Sages with the initiative in each generation to legislate for the Jewish People, a mitzvah such as Chanukah symbolizes the power of the Oral Torah. That which the Greeks sought to extinguish is symbolized in the light that illuminates the darkness of exile.
Well, no Rabbi Schiller, there are written works from those days describing the war and the victory of Hanukka. They're known as 1 & 2 Maccabees. We did not canonize them, although we use them. Why weren't they canonized? Because, one can easily argue, the books show two things clearly; 1. The sages did not participate in the war (if they even existed) and played no role in national life and, 2. the miracle of Hanuka was the victory. There is no mention in these contemporaneous documents written by believing Jews of any miracle of lights. In fact, mention of the "miracle" does not appear anywhere until more than 100 years later.
The holiday of Hanukka was this: The Maccabees were about to take back the Temple and expected they would in time for the Succor celebrations. They were delayed and took the Temple too late for Succor. To make up for the missed Succor celebrations and to remember the victory, they instituted Hanuka. (That's why Hanukka is 8 days long – 7 days of Sukkot, 1 day of Shemini Atzeret.) That is what out Hanuka megillot say.
And there is no proof at all for Rabbi Schiller's assertion that the "Greeks" sought to destroy the Oral Torah. It is unclear whether the Oral Torah even existed at the time of the Maccabees.
Rabbi Schiller continues with his foolishness:
Each holiday that Jews approach is like a way station along the turnpike of history. The largest distance on the highway had been between Succos and Pesach, between which there was no holiday to stop off and refuel. In the darkness of exile, G-d in His wisdom provided us with two more fueling stations, Chanukah and Purim. When we celebrate Chanukah, we celebrate a holiday that reminds us that it is the wisdom and genius of the Jew, expressed and refined through the Oral Torah, that makes us Jewish.
Again, simply untrue. We had holidays then that are not celebrated now, or are "celebrated" by not saying certain prayers connected to sadness. One such holiday is Tu B'Shvat, which falls smack dab in the middle of the Succot - Pesach "gap."
Rabbi Schiller is a fool.
For DK's coverage of Schiller's idiocy, see his post.
[Hat Tip: DK.]