When is Hanukkah (07.05.2018)
Observed in Countries with Jewish populations, espacially Israel, United States, and Canada
Observed on Twenty-fifth of Kislev, the ninth month of the Jewish calendar, to the second of Tevet, the 10th month of the Jewish calendar
Observed by Jews
Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” is celebrated for eight days, usually beginning around mid to late December. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the observance recalls the Jews’ struggle for religious freedom and celebrates their triumph against the Hellenistic Syrians in 165 B.C.E. (The observance has more than 10 spellings in English, three more than the seven candles of the ancient menorah.) On the festival’s first night, one light of a ninebranched hanukiah (“candlestick”) is lit. Each night after that, another light is lit until the eighth and final night, when all of them are lit. The gradual addition of lights reminds the Jews of the miracle’s magnitude and growth. The candles are placed in the hanukiah from right to left, but are lit from left to right. The main candle is called the shamash, or “servant,” and is used to light the rest of the candles.
There are recitations of blessings every night prior to the lighting of the candles: as they burn the eight lights of the hanukiah, Jews all over the world narrate stories about the triumph of their ancestors over depravity, the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as the miracle of one day’s supply of oil that burned for eight days.
For unexplained reasons, the real story of the festival and the rebellion never became a part of the Torah. Rather, it was scripted in four works, in Greek and Hebrew, called The Books of the Maccabees.
These works survived after Christians translated them. The Mishnah, where everything related to religious life was documented, has only a few mentions of the festival and its story.
Hanukkah found renewed import in the years that led to the establishment of the modern state of Israel. Post-Holocaust Jews became aware of the profound questions raised by Hanukkah: identity, oppression, religious autonomy and expression, and the fight for independence. Although in a religious context Hanukkah remains a minor Jewish holiday, it has turned into a holiday of historical significance, for the repetition of the miracle narratives both confirm and strengthen a persecuted people.
Origins and History
After Alexander the Great’s death (356–23 B.C.E.), his kingdom was divided among his generals Seleucus (358/54–281), Antigonus (382–01 B.C.E.), and Ptolemy (367–283 B.C.E.). Seleucus reigned over Babylonia, Syria, and Persia; Antigonus over Macedonia and Greece; and Ptolemy ruled Israel and Egypt. Like his legendary predecessor, Ptolemy championed Hellenism (Greek nationalism). The empire Ptolemy established ruled Israel for nearly a century. Under his reign a great number of Jews began to take up features of Greek culture, and they became known as Hellenists. For these Jews, Greek culture symbolized the future and the quickest way to be successful in Greek society.
The Seleucid Empire that ruled Syria seized control of Israel from the Ptolemies in 199 B.C.E.
During this period the practice of Judaism went through a torturous phase. The observance of the Sabbath, the learning of Torah, and circumcisions were prohibited, and the Holy Temple housed images of Greek gods and other artifacts of Greek culture.
In 168 B.C.E., the Holy Temple of the Jews was seized and offered to the Greek god Zeus. While some Jews feared the Greek soldiers and avoided angering them, many had had enough and decided to fight back. The struggle began in Modiin, near Jerusalem. One Greek officer, along with his soldiers, gathered the villagers and ordered them to bow down before an idol and eat pig’s flesh-both activities forbidden by Jewish law. When Mattathias, a high priest, was ordered to participate in the proceedings, he refused, but another villager offered to do it in his place. An outraged Mattathias took out his sword and killed both the villager and the officer. His sons and the rest of the villagers then assaulted and slaughtered the soldiers. Mattathias’ s family hid in the nearby mountains after this incident, where they were joined by many other Jews who were ready to oppose the Greeks. Mattathias died about a year after the rebellion began, but, before he died, he declared his courageous son Judah Maccabee as the leader of the growing Jewish army. After about three years of struggle, the Jews overcame the much stronger and better armed Greek forces.
When Judah Maccabee and his forces entered the Holy Temple, they were dismayed by the sight of missing and broken items. They cleaned and revamped the Temple and, when finished, decided to rededicate it. They sought to light the menorah for the celebrations. After searching thoroughly for oil, they found a flask containing only enough oil to last a day. Extraordinarily, the oil sustained itself for eight days, allowing the Maccabees enough time to procure new oil.
Hanukkah achieved new significance with the rise of Zionism. Israel’s pioneers had to defend themselves against attacks, and they started to connect with the old Jewish warriors who had fought for their freedom in the same place. Hanukkah, with its encouraging depiction of the Jewish fighter, touched the early Zionists, who were fighting for their own liberty and freedom.
Over the last two or three decades, many evangelical Christians have reexamined the roots of their religion and have progressively become conscious of, and accepted, a number of celebrations and feasts of Judaism. This inclination is particularly apparent among messianic believers, although it is not restricted to them. Many Christians observe the lighting of the Hanukkah hanukiah and other Hanukkah rituals. Apart from this, some claim a correlation between the miracle of the Temple’s light and Jesus’ birth. They maintain that Hanukkah (celebrated on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev), not December 25, is the correct date to observe Jesus’ birth. Some combine the two celebrations (Hanukkah and Christmas), whereas others treat them as unrelated holidays. In recent years, a fusion of Christmas and Hanukkah called Chrismukkah has evolved.