Right and Wrong and the Story of Hannukah

Are right and wrong subjective or objective states?  What makes an act wrong versus justified? This is one of the questions that arises from the holiday of Hannukah. The Jews were living in Greek occupied Palestine.  At first life was good for the Jews. Then after a time they were forced to worship the Greek gods and make sacrifices to them. Unwilling to do this, a group of Jews, lead by the Maccabees, revolted.

Not every Jew living at the time agreed with the Maccabees. Some were fine assimilating and did not care about adopting other religious expressions. However, the Maccabees forced their perspective on their fellow co-religionists. They went so far as to threaten death to their fellow Jews if they did not join them in their fight against the Greeks.

On the one hand, you have a group who believed that freedom of religion and expression (not terms they would have used) was more important then anything else. On the other side there were Jews who believed they should not rock the boat. They believed there were far worse things then being told how or who to worship. 

Who was right? It is hard to say. 

Unfortunately, we do not live in a world of black and white. We live in a world of choices and consequences. The story of Hanukah teaches us many things and perhaps one that is not highlighted enough is the subjective versus objective nature of right and wrong. Perhaps there are absolute rights and absolute wrongs. Most of the time, however, there are not. Most of the time the only right thing is to make a choice. That choice is right not because of some objective standard or value but is right because it is a choice. 

At the end of the day the Maccabees were fighting for the right to choose. This is a noble thing to go to war over. However, the moment they took away the right to choose from their fellow Jews they became just like their Greek oppressors. It is easy to see the wrong in others, it is much harder to see the wrong in ourselves. What is truly heroic, is to recognize that while what we were fighting for was noble, we made a mistake in how we fought and the tactics we employed.

More often than not the issues in conflicts boil down to, not what we believe, but what we do and how we do it. Our actions reflect our beliefs. Hanukah teaches us that when our actions do not match our beliefs, and we take away the right to choose, even our subjective right, can become objectively wrong.