Imagine you lived in a country where the ability to worship G-d was being outlawed, where your language and culture was disappearing. Where Preachers were jailed or killed for preaching the Bible or Tanakh? You think I’m talking about America, now? Maybe. Because football players are made to remove Crosses from their helmets, because for a time the Navy was told to remove the little Gideon Bibles from the rooms of their guest lodges? Because courts rule a Cross or the 10 commandments can’t be displayed? Maybe. But it’s not the first time in history. Let’s take a little trip back to Ireland.
Yep, Ireland, no I don’t have the wrong “I” country. We’re stopping off in Ireland on the way. In Ireland in the late 1600-till the later part of the 1700 there were a set of laws called “The Penal Laws”. The final bits were repealed in 1920. They affected Catholics and other dissidents. They entailed things like:
- Exclusion of Catholics from most public offices (since 1607), Presbyterians were also barred from public office from 1707.
- Ban on intermarriage with Protestants.
- Presbyterian marriages were not legally recognized by the state
- Catholics barred from owing firearms or serving in the armed forces.
- Prohibition on Catholics owning a horse valued at over £5
- ‘No person of the Catholic religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within this realm’ upon pain of twenty pounds fine and three months in prison for every such offense.
And this is only part of them. But here’s a couple questions for you to mull over. WHY did they want to prohibit the Catholics from owning weapons? Who got to determine what the horse was worth?
The harsh rules gave rise to the hedgerow schools. Parents who were determined to save their children from being indoctrinated with beliefs other than what they held, and what they wanted their children to learn began to form and utilize “Hedgerow Schools”. This was forbidden because England wanted all the children to be taught the way they wanted them to be taught and what they wanted them to be taught. The Hedgerow Schools thrived. They were sometimes held in barns, homes but often in Hedgerows, with one child acting as a lookout. And they needed a lookout. If they were caught there were fines and imprisonment for all. There was a lot to lose. But the parents wanted their children to learn, the teachers wanted to teach and would travel around conducting these early forms of “home schooling” in defiance of the state mandated education.
Their language, culture and faith were under attack, and this is what they had to do to preserve it. They did it.
Now let’s go even further back in time. Achshav Annachnu b’Ysrael. NOW we are in Israel.
The women’s Bible study group is doing Daniel. Let’s go back to the time of Antiochus, he liked to be called Epiphanes, although the Jews often called him Epimanes, the mad one. While Antiochus reigned Jews were forbidden to practice their religion, own a Torah, let alone read it, or observe festivals,or even the Sabbath. The people could not even admit they were Jewish. 40,000 were killed and 40,000 sold into slavery when Jerusalem was sacked and the temple was defiled. Animals that were forbidden to Jews were sacrificed on it’s alter. Now, during this time there were observant Jews and Hellanized Jews. Meaning Jews that were fine with what Antiochus was doing. Mainly urban upper crust, they wanted to dispense with Jewish law and adopt the Greek lifestyle. As I understand it for political and economic reasons.
And into this hot mess comes The Maccabees. I adore the Maccabees! It all started when Jews were ordered to offer sacrifices to Greek idols. A rural Jew know as Mattathias Maccabee refused. Not only did he refuse, but he killed the Hellenized Jew that stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to the idol in his name. Mattathias REFUSED to allow his name to be put on the offer of a sacrifice to an idol. From there the Maccabees took flight to the Judean wilderness. After Mattathias’ death about one year later in 166 BC, his son Judah Maccabee led an army of Jewish dissidents to victory over the Seleucid dynasty in guerrilla warfare, which at first was directed against Hellenizing Jews, of whom there were many. Judah Maccabee is noted as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish History, alongside David, Gideon and Joshua! So that’s how the Maccabean Revolt began. The Maccabees retook the city of Jerusalem. Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the kohen gadol (high priest) was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. The story goes that one flask was found with only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah. A great miracle, nachon?
Which brings us to this, a Dreidel/Savivon. Remember the Hedgerow Schools of Ireland? Well, while Jews were forbidden to study their Bible/Tanakh, forbidden to pass their faith onto their children they would go up into caves and hide. They would begin to teach the children, and they themselves would study. When they heard the Greek soldiers approaching they would put their Torah away and whip out the Savivon/Dreidel and begin to play. It could be a childrens game, or a gambling game. So it would appear to to the soldiers they were merely hiding and gambling. This is what they had to do to hold on to their faith, to pass it on to their children. To retain their culture and customs, they were willing to hide in caves, risk being caught by the soldiers and pay the penalty, death. Like the Irish, they found a way, and they did it.
Which brings us to the Savivon/Dreidel itself. Let’s look at the markings on the sides of the Dreidel, first is the Nun,נ and it stand for the word Nes, which means Miracle. Then we have the letter Gimmel, ג which stands for Gadol, which means Great. Next is Hey, ה for Hayah which means Happened. Now, this is where it gets quite interesting. In Israel, the next letter if Pei, פ for Poh which means Here. In every other country the letter will be Shin, ש for the word Sham. So, putting it together you have Nes Gadol Hayah Poh, or Nes Gadol Hayah Sham. A great miracle happened here or there, depending on if you are in Israel or not. After the State of Israel was founded in 1948 the Hebrew letters were changed for dreidels used in Israel.
If you look at what lengths the Irish and Jews went to back then to ensure the survival of their culture and religion it seems pretty sad now that some voices can be shut down by screeches of “racism” or “intolerance” or “hater”, simply for wanting to discuss an issue, preach from the Bible or Tanakh doesn’t it?
I personally carry a Dreidel/Savivon in my purse. All the time. It reminds me to be vigilant and committed to doing everything I can to ensure freedom.
And since we are in the midst of Sukkot, I will point you to an excellent article on Sukkot over at The Zelman Partisans, you have subscribed haven’t you?