Chaim Bermant enjoyed himself when it came to compiling his Purim page in the London Jewish Chronicle. I found his writings compulsive reading, even though (or probably because) I often profoundly disagreed with him.
I could never resist his Purim page – not just because in an elaborate parody of a Talmudic debate he used me as one of his characters, quoting what “Rav Apple says” even when I had not the slightest recollection of ever saying anything of the sort, but because he was brilliant in his caricatures of the communal high and mighty. He used to like to remind the then Chief Rabbi of his Irish connections, to such an extent that he would call him Jack O’Bovits.
Now had Bermant attempted a light-hearted Chanukah page he would have had a little more difficulty, because it is Purim and not Chanukah which lends itself to parody. But he would certainly have coped. And it would have helped to remind himself of his own Scottish connection; Chaim’s father Azriel was a rabbi in Scotland after leaving Latvia and Chaim himself had an English accent that mixed the Litvak and the Scots and was sometimes not too easy to decipher.
What could Chaim have made of Judah the Maccabee?
There is no shred of doubt. He would have placed him, for at least part of his career, in the Scottish Highlands, and he would have called him Judah MacCabee. Clearly Judah would have come out of the story as the founder of the Scottish Jewish Aliyah, and he would have been the inspiration for his compatriot poet Rabbi Burns.
All of this in Chaim Bermant’s hands would have given grounds for ample chuckles around the Chanukah Menorah. Indeed some people would have laughed so much that they would have (like the Australian swagman who used the billabong as his mikvah) jumped into Loch Lomond and (though the geography is shaky) sung “Glasgie belongs to me”… in Scots Yiddish.
The whole subject is so fraught with halachic difficulty that by next week some spoilsport will have written in high dudgeon to the Jewish press and sent a she’elah to Aberdeen, which is Scots for Av Beth Din.
The latter personage will need time out to consider the matter and, with the Queen Mother’s permission, check the tzitzit on his sporran and retire to her island to Mull it over. Of course the Queen herself will take a benign interest in the problem exercising her Jewish subjects and offer the facilities of Balmoral, which is an ancient contraction of Baal Moral, Master of What is Right.
Poor Judah Maccabee. He’d rather fight the Syrian Greeks any time than face the December rigours of Edinburgh, which really means “What a Din, what a Broch!”