The Jewish Festival of Hannukah begins at sundown tonight. Happy Hannukah to those of you who celebrate, and may this season bring you and your loved ones health, happiness, peace and prosperity.
Hannukah is a celebration of the Jewish victory over the Assyrian Greeks. The Greeks persecuted the Jews, the Jews resisted, and we are still here today to talk about it.
Before his death, Mattityahu called his sons together and urged them to continue to fight in defense of G-d’s Torah. He asked them to follow the counsel of their brother Shimon the Wise. In waging warfare, he said, their leader should be Judah the Strong. Judah was called "Maccabee," a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, "Who is like You, O G-d."
Antiochus sent his General Apolonius to wipe out Yehuda and his followers, the Maccabees. Though greater in number and equipment than their adversaries, the Syrians were defeated by the Maccabees. Antiochus sent out another expedition which also was defeated. He realized that only by sending a powerful army could he hope to defeat Judah and his brave fighting men.
An army consisting of more than 40,000 men swept the land under the leadership of two commanders, Nicanor and Gorgiash. When Judah and his brothers heard of that, they exclaimed: "Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple!" The people assembled in Mitzpah, where Samuel, the prophet of old, had offered prayers to G-d. After a series of battles the war was won.
And there is also the story of Miracle of the Hannukah... and why it is the Festival of Lights.
Hannukah Miracle (139 BCE)
On the 25th of Kislev in the year 3622 from creation, the Maccabees liberated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, after defeating the vastly more numerous and powerful armies of the Syrian-Greek king Antiochus IV, who had tried to forcefully uproot the beliefs and practices of Judaism from the people of Israel. The victorious Jews repaired, cleansed and rededicated the Temple to the service of G-d. But all the Temple's oil had been defiled by the pagan invaders; when the Jews sought to light the Temple's menorah (candelabra), they found only one small cruse of ritually pure olive oil. Miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new, pure oil could be obtained. In commemoration, the Sages instituted the 8-day festival of Chanukah, on which lights are kindled nightly to recall and publicize the miracle.
The eight-day festival of Hannukah begins tonight. In commemoration of the miracle of the oil we light the Hannukah lights -- oil lamps or candles -- each evening for eight days, increasing the number of lights each evening.
Tonight, the first night of Hannukah, we kindle one light.
So.. have some latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil) with sour cream or apple sauce, play a game of dreidel, and enjoy!
Enjoy this one too! (I love this one from Tom Lehrer!)