Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A History of Hanukkah

December 4th of this year marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah, a Hebrew term meaning "dedication", commemorates another time in Jewish history when the Jews resisted outside powers who were attempting to crush the Jewish people. About 2100 years ago, King Antiochus IV of Syria, a Greek leader, prohibited Jewish customs and required Jews to worship Greek gods. The Jews revolted and eventually defeated the Greek Army over a three year period despite being outnumbered. The Jews won their freedom under the leadership of the Maccabees, a Jewish national liberation movement.

Following their victory, the Maccabees and their allies visited the Holy Temple, only to find it severely damaged. Eventually, they cleaned and restored the temple, and, upon completion, decided that it should be rededicated and celebrated.
As part of the celebration, they relit the Menorah (candelabra) that was damaged and repaired after the fighting. Unable to find a supply of oil, their only source came in a small flask. It was determined that there was enough oil to keep the candle lit for just one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days instead of just one.
To honor the eight-day miracle, Jews to this day celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a candle in a Menorah for each of the eight nights.

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