Hannukah, an eight-day Jewish holiday, is celebrated as a commemoration of the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century B.C. The holiday celebrates the story of the Maccabees, a family of Jewish warriors who led the rebel army fighting the Greek-Syrians. This holiday is mentioned in the books of the Maccabees, which are part of the apocryphal books of the bible.
Hanukkah is mentioned in the two books of the Maccabees. The First Book of Maccabees, sometimes called the First Book of the Maccabees, describes the events leading up to the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is written mainly in narrative form, with some supplemental material. In this book, you will find the passage that describes the first Hanukkah, chapter 4 verses 36 to 59.
The Second Book of Maccabees tells the story of the subsequent Maccabean wars and the aftermath of the rededication of the Temple, written largely in letter form, with supplemental narrative material. In this book, the passages that describe the first Hanukkah, and the subsequent related events, are found in the chapters 5:1-4, 14:16, 16 and 18.
Both books of Maccabees also recount the events that led up to the rededication of the Temple and the subsequent success of the Maccabean wars, all of which are linked to the holiday of Hanukkah. For example, chapter 4 of the First Book of Maccabees tells the story of Judas Maccabeus sacrificing for purification on the altar of the Temple. This act of sacrifice and dedication to God is seen as the origin of the holiday of Hanukkah. Additionally, both books mention a “miracle of oil”, which occurred during the rededication of the Temple. In the event, when the Maccabees rededicated the altar and menorah, they only found enough oil enough to last for one night. Yet miraculously, the oil lasted eight nights, which accounts for the eight days that Hanukkah is celebrated.
Holidays are always important when considering religious and cultural identities. This is especially true for Hanukkah. The books of the Maccabees are part of the legacy associated with this holiday, as they recount the true events that led up to the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. These books also contain the first written accounts of the miracle of the oil, which is now a mainstay of the Hanukkah tradition. Thus, looking for Hanukkah in the Maccabees is a great way to explore the history of this holiday and to gain a deeper understanding of its significance in Judaism.
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