Before the sun sets on this year’s Chanukah, one of the many neurotic holidays that remind us of all the bad things non-Jews have tried to do to us, I want to talk about one more Hazard that connects Chanukah and Ketuboth.
I think the Braita on daf 3b leaves us wondering when was this “time of danger” that caused the ancient Jews to change weddings from Wednesday to Tuesday. Not surprising several writings about Chanukah (including the Geonim specifically and other Midrashim) describe persecution along these lines – Greeks raping Jewish women in general, specific targeted rapes of brides on their wedding night. One source even explains that young couples were invited to sleep together before their wedding, so that even if a Greek would rape her, she would already have an emotional bond to her husband.
There is one story that I want to share here. For a long time leading up to the rebellion the Jews would avoid violating the decrees of the Greeks without direct conflict. If they were told women were not allowed to go to the Mikvah, they simply would not sleep with their wives. This way they didn’t violate their Judaism but they didn’t provoke the Greeks either.
Until the daughter of the Cohen Gadol, Yehudit (in one version), was supposed to get married to one of the Maccabi brothers. At this point the Greeks had a decree that the governor had the right to sleep with the bride before her wedding. Some marriages were done in secret but not all could avoid the Greeks prowling eye. But Yehudit wouldn’t stand for it. She stripped in public and shocked the Maccabis who wanted to burn her as a harlot. Then she spoke: You are embarrassed that I stripped in front of Jews, but you are willing to send me naked, powerless to the Greek governor to be raped. Her speech embarrassed the Maccabi’s so much that they decided to rebel. Instead of attempting to hold the wedding in secret, they dressed her up in her wedding clothes and paraded to the house of the governor as if they were gladly giving her over to be raped- and then they killed the governor starting the rebellion in force.