Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday which marks the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem following the recapture from the Greeks in the second century BC. Hanukkah is celebrated around the world bringing together Jews from all walks of life in a joyous celebration that lasts for eight days. But how does the annual Jewish festival of Hanukkah connect to Greek rule in Judah?
The connection between Hanukkah and the Greeks goes back centuries and is rooted in the days of the Maccabees who fought against the Greeks. In the second century BC, Jewish people in the Land of Judah, now known as Israel, were ruled by the Seleucid Empire, which was a Greek monarchy. In the year 167 BC, the Seleucids attempted to wipe out Judaism by prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion and desecrating the Temple in Jerusalem.
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The Maccabean Revolt
In response, the Jewish people rose up in revolt against the Seleucids, led by Mattathias and his five sons – the Maccabees. Two of the sons, Judah and Jonathan, proved to be great military leaders and, after a series of victories, the Seleucids were eventually driven out of the Land of Judah. The Temple in Jerusalem was eventually recaptured in 164 BC and, following its rededication, the Maccabees declared the eight-day festival of Hanukkah.
The Story Behind Hanukkah
But the story behind the festival of Hanukkah goes beyond a simple military victory. According to legend, although the Jewish people had fought hard to reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem, they only found enough oil to light the menorah – the seven-branched candelabrum – for one day. Somehow, the miracle of the oil burning for eight days occurred and it is this miracle that is celebrated during the eight days of Hanukkah today.
Although the Maccabees – and later generations of Jews – succeeded in driving out the Greeks, the oppression inflicted by the Seleucids was far from over. The Greco-Roman rulers continued to discriminate against the Jews and attempted – at times, unsuccessfully – to convert them to Greek thought and way of life.
A Meaningful Holiday
Although Jews today celebrate Hanukkah as an eight-day festival of joy and remembrance, its underlying message of freedom from oppression has far-reaching relevance and has come to symbolize the Jewish people’s resilience in the face of adversity. It is a meaningful holiday that celebrates the Jewish identity and links us to our past, present and future.
In summary, Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees and their successful attempt to reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem from Greek rule. It also symbolizes the freedom from oppression and celebrates the resilience of the Jewish people. Through this special holiday, we remember our history and come together to reaffirm the Jewish identity in an ever-changing world.
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Last update 2023-11-22. Price and product availability may change.