Published by DonDavidson on

Hanakkah—or Chanukah, as it’s sometimes spelled—begins this year on December 18th and runs through December 26th. The word means “dedication” in Hebrew.

The story of Hanakkah begins in 175 B.C. with the accession of Antiochus IV to the throne of the Seleucid kingdom, one of the three kingdoms into which the empire of Alexander the Great was divided after his death in 323 B.C.  Antiochus IV was determined to eradicate the Jewish religion and replace it with Greek culture and religion. Some of his reported abuses included: looting the Jewish Temple; outlawing circumcision, Jewish sacrifices, and observance of the Sabbath; erecting an altar to Zeus in the Temple; and ordering the Jews to sacrifice pigs (the Old Testament decreed that pigs were “unclean,”[1] and therefore not to be eaten or used for sacrifices).

These sacrilegious actions prompted a Jewish revolt, led by Mattathias and his five sons—the Hasmoneans. The most famous of these sons was Judas the Maccabee,[2] who died in one of the many battles against the Greeks. The revolt was ultimately successful in recapturing Judea and Jerusalem from the Greeks in 164 B.C. Hanakkah celebrates this victory.

The Talmud says that upon reentering the Temple, the Jews found only one vial of olive oil which the Greeks had not defiled, and that vial contained only enough oil to light the Temple lamps for one day. But that oil miraculously lit the lamps for eight days, until the Jews were able to manufacture more. For this reason, Hanakkah is celebrated for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.

Candles are lit on each night of Hanakkah, usually using a Menorah. The Menorah has nine candle holders, one for each of the eight days of Hanakkah, and a ninth that is set off from the other eight—usually centered and higher than the others—and which is lit on each of the eight days.

[1]. See Leviticus 11:7.

[2]. Or Judas Maccabaeus. “Maccabaeus” is the Greek word for “hammer.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *