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ASK U. - The Kollel Institute
ASK U. - The Kollel Institute
Around the Year: Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret
Chanukah
Jewish Date: Kislev 25 - Tevet 2
Secular date range: Mid to late December
The Story
Chanukah Timeline
Event
Seleucid Syrian/Greeks conquer Israel
Greek decrees against Judaism; Desecration of Temple
Matisyahu begins revolt in Modi’in
Matisyahu dies; Judah Maccabee leads War against Greeks
Temple recaptured; Miracle of oil occurs
Jewish war against the Greeks continues
Hasmonean dynasty
Rome enters Israel with Pompeii
Date
199 BCE
168 BCE
167 BCE
166 BCE
165 BCE
165-140 BCE
140-36 BCE
63 BCE
A. Hellenizers
1. When the king assented and Jason came to office (of the high priest), he at once shifted
his countrymen over to the Greek way of life...he destroyed the lawful ways of living and
introduced new customs contrary to the law. For with zeal he founded a gymnasium right under
the Temple, and he induced the noblest of the young men to wear the Greek hat. There was
such an extreme of Hellenization and increase in the adoption of foreign ways because of the
surpassing wickedness of Jason, who was unG-dly and no high priest, that the priests were no
longer intent upon their service at the altar. Despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices,
they hastened to take part in the unlawful proceedings in the wrestling arena after the call to the
discus, disdaining the honors prized by their fathers and putting the highest value upon Greek
forms of prestige.
2 Maccabees 4:10-15
2. And there came out of them a wicked root Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes, son of Antiochus
the king, who had been an hostage at Rome, and he reigned in the hundred and thirty and seventh
year of the kingdom of the Greeks. In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who
persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about
us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow. So this device pleased them
well. Then certain of the people were so forward about it, that they went to the king, who gave
them licence to do after the ordinances of the heathen: Whereupon they built a place of exercise
at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen: And made themselves uncircumcised, and
forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief.
1 Book of Maccabees 1:10-15 (Non-Biblical Apocrypha)
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3. But this Joshua, who was the brother of Onias, was deprived of the high priesthood by the
king, who was angry with him, and gave it to his younger brother...This Joshua changed his
name to Jason...Now as the former high priest, Joshua raised a sedition against Menelaus...the
multitude were divided between them both...Menelaus and the sons of Tobias were distressed,
and went to Antiochus, and informed him that they wished to leave the laws of their people,
and the Jewish way of living, and to follow the king’s laws, and the Grecian way of living.
They desired his permission to build a Gymnasium in Jerusalem. And when he had given them
permission, they also hid their circumcision, so that even when they were naked they might
appear to be Greeks. Accordingly, they left all of the customs that belonged to their own people,
and imitated the practices of the other nations.
Josephus - Antiquities 12:5:1
B. Decrees
1. During the times of the second Temple, when the Greeks ruled Israel, they instituted decrees
on Israel and attempted to destroy their religion. They did not allow the Jews to study Torah or
perform the mitzvot. They their money and their daughters, and they entered the Temple where
they violated it and defiled the purity of it. There were great hardships for the Jews because
of this and the pressure was immense until the G-d of their fathers had pity on them and saved
them. The Hasmonean priests became strong, killed them [the Greeks], and saved the Jews from
them. They appointed a king from among the priests and the kingship returned to the Jews for
more than two hundred years until the second Temple was destroyed. The date on which the
jews overpowered their enemies was the twenty-fifth of Kislev. They entered the Temple and
could not find pure oil except for one jar in which there was only enough to light for one day.
They lit the lights from that oil for eight days until they could arrange to crush more olives and
get more pure oil. As a result of this the Rabbis of that time decreed that these eight days (which
begin on the eve of 25 Kislev) should be days of rejoicing and praise and to light during the
evening lights at the doorways of each home on each one of the eight nights in order to publicize
the miracle. These eight days are called ‘Chanukah’....
Maimonides laws of Chanukah 3:1-3
2. Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, And
every one should leave his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the
king. Many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned
the sabbath. For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Juda
that they should follow the strange laws of the land, And forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice,
and drink offerings, in the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days:
And pollute the sanctuary and holy people: Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols,
and sacrifice swine’s flesh, and unclean beasts: That they should also leave their children
uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation:
To the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances. And whoever would not do
according to the commandment of the king, he said, he should die. In the selfsame manner wrote
he to his whole kingdom, and appointed overseers over all the people, commanding the cities
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of Judah to sacrifice, city by city. Then many of the people were gathered unto them, everyone
that forsook the law; and so they committed evils in the land; And drove the Israelites into secret
places, wherever they could flee for safety... And whoever was found with any the book of the
testament, or if any committed to the law, the king’s commandment was, that they should put
him to death. Thus did they by their authority unto the Israelites every month, to as many as were
found in the cities. Now the five and twentieth day of the month they did sacrifice upon the idol
altar, which was upon the altar of G-d. At which time according to the commandment they put
to death certain women, that had caused their children to be circumcised. And they hanged the
infants about their necks, and rifled their houses, and slew them that had circumcised them.
1 Maccabees 1:41 (Apocrypha)
3. Now it came to pass, after two years, in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth
day of that month which is by us called Chasleu, and by the Macedonians Apelleus, in the
hundred and fifty-third olympiad, that the king came up to Jerusalem, and, pretending peace,
he got possession of the city by treachery; at which time he spared not so much as those that
admitted him into it, on account of the riches that lay in the temple; but, led by his covetous
inclination, (for he saw there was in it a great deal of gold, and many ornaments that had been
dedicated to it of very great value,) and in order to plunder its wealth, he ventured to break the
league he had made. So he left the temple bare, and took away the golden candlesticks, and the
golden altar [of incense], and table [of shew-bread], and the altar [of burnt-offering]; and did
not abstain from even the veils, which were made of fine linen and scarlet. He also emptied it
of its secret treasures, and left nothing at all remaining; and by this means cast the Jews into
great lamentation, for he forbade them to offer those daily sacrifices which they used to offer to
G-d, according to the law. And when he had pillaged the whole city, some of the inhabitants he
slew, and some he carried captive, together with their wives and children, so that the multitude
of those captives that were taken alive amounted to about ten thousand. He also burnt down the
finest buildings; and when he had overthrown the city walls, he built a citadel in the lower part
of the city, for the place was high, and overlooked the temple; on which account he fortified it
with high walls and towers, and put into it a garrison of Macedonians. However, in that citadel
dwelt the impious and wicked part of the [Jewish] multitude, from whom it proved that the
citizens suffered many and sore calamities. And when the king had built an idol altar upon Gd’s altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the law, nor the
Jewish religious worship in that country. He also compelled them to forsake the worship which
they paid their own G-d, and to adore those whom he took to be G-ds; and made them build
temples, and raise idol altars in every city and village, and offer swine upon them every day. He
also commanded them not to circumcise their sons, and threatened to punish any that should be
found to have transgressed his injunction. He also appointed overseers, who should compel them
to do what he commanded. And indeed many Jews there were who complied with the king’s
commands, either voluntarily, or out of fear of the penalty that was denounced. But the best men,
and those of the noblest souls, did not regard him, but did pay a greater respect to the customs of
their country than concern as to the punishment which he threatened to the disobedient; on which
account they every day underwent great miseries and bitter torments; for they were whipped with
rods, and their bodies were torn to pieces, and were crucified, while they were still alive, and
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breathed. They also strangled those women and their sons whom they had circumcised, as the
king had appointed, hanging their sons about their necks as they were upon the crosses. And if
there were any sacred book of the law found, it was destroyed, and those with whom they were
found miserably perished also.
Josephus Antiquities book XII 5:4
C. Miracles
1. What is [the reason of] Hanukkah? Our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev the days
of Hanukkah begin, which are eight days on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one jar of oil
which had the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient for one day’s lighting only;
yet a miracle occured and they lit [the lamp] with that oil for eight days. The following year these
[days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel and thanksgiving.
Talmud Shabbos 21b
2. In the days of Mattisyahu, son of Yochanan Kohein Gadol, the Chashmonai, and his sons,
when the evil Greek kingdom rose against Your nation Israel to make them forget Your Torah
and to remove them from the laws of Your will. And You, in Your abundant mercy, stood for
them in their time of oppression, You fought their fight, You judged their case, and You avenged
their revenge. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the numerous into the hands
of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the evil into the hands of the righteous, and
the wicked into the hands of the students of Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for
Yourself in Your world, and You did a great salvation and redemption for Your nation, Israel, as
[clear as] this very day. After this Your children came to the Holy of Holies of Your House, and
they cleaned Your Temple, purified Your Holy Place, and lit candles in the courtyards of Your
holiness. And they established these eight days to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.
‘Al Hanissim’ Prayer
Rituals:
1. One lights one light on the first night and then adds one light each night until there are eight on
the last night
Code of Jewish Law 671:2
2. The rabbis taught: The mitzvah of Chanukah is a candle for each man and his household. A
higher level is to light a candle for each member of the household. Better yet is to, according to
Bais Shammai, light eight candles on the first day and one less each day. Bais Hillel says to light
one on the first day and add an additional one each subsequent day.
Talmud Shabbos 21b
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Customs:
1. Latkes/Doughnuts
2. Dreidel
3. Dairy
4. Some say that it is proper to eat dairy foods on Chanukah to remember the miracle which
occured with Judith who fed the enemy dairy.
Code of Jewish Law 670:2 -Ramo Commentary
5. When evening came, his slaves quickly withdrew. Bagoas closed the tent from outside and
shut out the attendants from his master’s presence. They went to bed, for they all were weary
because the banquet had lasted so long. But Judith was left alone in the tent, with Holofernes
stretched out on his bed, for he was dead drunk. Now Judith had told her maid to stand outside
the bedchamber and to wait for her to come out, as she did on the other days; for she said she
would be going out for her prayers. She had said the same thing to Bagoas. So everyone went
out, and no one, either small or great, was left in the bedchamber. Then Judith, standing beside
his bed, said in her heart, “O L-rd G-d of all might, look in this hour on the work of my hands
for the exaltation of Jerusalem. Now indeed is the time to help your heritage and to carry out my
design to destroy the enemies who have risen up against us.” She went up to the bedpost near
Holofernes’ head, and took down his sword that hung there. She came close to his bed, took hold
of the hair of his head, and said, “Give me strength today, O L-rd G-d of Israel!” Then she struck
his neck twice with all her might, and cut off his head. Next she rolled his body off the bed and
pulled down the canopy from the posts. Soon afterward she went out and gave Holofernes’ head
to her maid, who placed it in her food bag.
Book of Judith 13:1-10 (Apocrypha)
6. When the king saw her beauty he was immediately stunned with love and he said to her ‘eat
your bread with joy and your wine with a good heart for you have found favor in my eyes’....So
she sat and ate and she opened the flask of milk and drank and she also gave to the king. The
king rejoiced greatly with her and he drank more wine than he had ever drunk in his life. After
this, all of the kings servants left and the assistant of the king closed the door of the chamber
where Judith and the king were. Judith was left alone with the king who was sleeping on his bed
as if dead....Judith stood before the bed and prayed to G-d, weeping....When she concluded her
prayers she went to the head of the bed and took out Holofernes own sword which was in the
stand. She then took the sword and took hold of his hair and said ‘Strengthen me, Oh G-d’ she
then struck twice on his neck and cut off his head.
Otzar Midrashim Yehudis 11 & 12
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Themes:
“No other two races have set such a mark upon the world. Each of them from angles so different
have left us with the inheritance of its genius and wisdom. No two cities have counted more with
mankind than Athens and Jerusalem. Personally, I have always been on the side of both.”
Sir Winston Churchill
A. Internal vs. External
1. And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard; And he drank of the wine, and
became drunk; and he lay uncovered inside his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the
nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. And Shem and Japheth took a garment,
and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their
father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah
awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. And he said, Cursed be
Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers. And he said, Blessed be the L-rd G-d of
Shem; and Canaan shall be his slave. G-d shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall live in the tents of
Shem; and Canaan shall be his slave.
Genesis 9:20-27
2. And Shem and Yefet took...: It does not say “they took” but “he took” (‘Vayikach’) This is to
teach that Shem was more zealous than Yefet to perform the good deed. Therefore his children
merited the commandment of Tzitzit. Yefet also merited that his descendants would be given a
burial (in the wars of Gog and Magog - See Ezekiel 39:11)
Rashi Genesis 9:23
3. The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Yavan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and
Tiras.
Genesis 10:2
B. Science and Spirituality
1. And the Earth was formless and void with darkness over the face of the deep. “Darkness”
refers (allegorically) to the Greek oppression.
Midrash Rabbah Genesis 2:4
2. A good deed is like a candle and the Torah is light
Proverbs 6:26
3. R. Assi said: Why was Esther compared to the dawn? To tell you that just as the dawn is the
end of the whole night, so is the story of Esther the end of all the miracles. But there is Hanukkah? — We refer only to those which were meant to be written down.
Talmud Yoma 29a
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C. Celebrating Spirituality
1. We kindle these lights [to commemorate] the saving acts, miracles and wonders which
You have performed for our forefathers, in those days at this time, through Your holy priests.
Throughout the eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to
make use of them, but only to look at them, in order to offer thanks and praise to Your great
Name for Your miracles, for Your wonders and for Your salvations.
Hanerot Halalu - Prayer for Chanukah lighting
2. The Rabbis did not establish Chanukah as a holiday of feasting rather it is dedicated to praise
and thanks to G-d. The reasons seems to be that on Purim the decree was to destroy and wipe
out the physical exsistence (bodies) of the Jews which negates joy and feasting. They didn’t
care about their souls since even had they converted out of Judaism they still would not have
been spared. Thus when G-d saved them they established that we celebrate it with feasting
and joy. However, when it comes to Antiochus, he did not decree that they be killed, rather he
decreed oppression and hardship in order to cause them to abandon Judaism....therefore they only
established it as a time of praise and thanks. This is meant to express that we are thankful that
in spite of the fact that they tried to prevent us from following Judaism...with His help their plan
failed...thus we are thankful and praise Him that He intervened divinely and did not abandon us
to fall away from His service.
Code of Jewish Law 670:2 Mishna Berurah 6
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