Hanukkah – The Festival of Lights Nov 28th. – Dec. 4th. 2001.
Hanukkah is one of the best holidays celebrating freedom of religion, freedom from oppression. It is the story of a few brave men that confronted the army of a tyrant and won!
Even though this event happened around 200 BCE in Jerusalem, you will not find it in the Hebrew Bible, nor the Old Testament. The story is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees. These books are part of the Apocrypha collection of books excluded from the Hebrew Bible.
Nevertheless, Jewish people all over the world celebrate Hanukkah, Festival of Lights!
And the story goes like this:
After Alexander the Great conquered many of the countries of the Middle East, Egypt, Jerusalem included, he allowed the conquered people to continue their lives as usual preserving their beliefs and culture, paying taxes, however, the official language of business was Greek. It was during this period that Jewish celebrations included the Hora dance of the Greeks.
Everything was running smoothly, in spite of some Jewish people feeling their culture was becoming too Hellenistic. And then, The Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who initially had granted exemptions and privileges to the Jews, issued a decree against the practice of Judaism in 167 B.C.E and when people rebelled, there was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. Many of his soldiers trashed the temple and pigs were sacrificed at the altar, which resulted in the successful revolt of the priest Mattathias and his five sons—the Maccabees. There is a theory that one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, refers to this struggle.
Judas one of the sons of Mattathias became the leader on his father’s death and proved to be a military genius, overthrowing four Seleucid armies in quick succession and restoring the Temple of Jerusalem. This deed is celebrated in the Jewish festival of lights, Ḥanukka, which means “Dedication” in Hebrew. After Judas death two years later, his younger brothers took over the fight, finally securing the independence of Judaea.
After the Temple was purified, there was enough oil to burn for one day, and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, allowing the priest to prepare enough new oil for the Menorah!