The Story of Hanukkah
December 18, 2022, is the first day of the eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hannukah (or Chanukah). At C+R, where we value all facets of multiculturalism, we find this a great time to share a bit of historical information about a well-known festival.
The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C.E. The events that inspired the holiday took place during a turbulent time in Jewish history.
Around 200 B.C. Judea (Israel) was under the control of a Seleucid king. He was Antiochus lll of Syria. The king allowed the Jews living under his control at the time to continue practicing their religion. His son, however, Antiochus lV, was not as agreeable. According to ancient sources, Antiochus outlawed the Jewish religion. Not only prohibiting its practice, but he ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers attacked Jerusalem, massacred thousands of Jews, and desecrated the holy Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus. He also sacrificed pigs within the sacred courts. An abomination to the Jewish people.
A large-scale rebellion broke out led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons. His son, Judah, also known as Judah Maccabee or “the Hammer,” drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem. This was accomplished using what we know today as guerilla warfare tactics.
Judah and his followers’ next initiative was to reclaim the Temple, cleanse it, and rebuild its altar. Part of this rededication included lighting a gold candelabrum, called a menorah – the seven branches representing knowledge and creation. According to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s authoritative and central texts, Judah Maccabee and the other Jewish participants who worked to rededicate the Second Temple witnessed what they deemed supposed to be a great miracle.
There was only said to be enough oil to keep the menorah burning for a single day. However, the flames remained lit for eight nights.
This wondrous miracle inspired the Jewish leaders to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival. Today it is the celebrated Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah.