Sunday, December 6, 2015
I say it every year. I love those Maccabee Brothers. When enough was enough was enough, they rose up and their DNA said, no way, no how, no more. That very same DNA rose up again, in the Warsaw Ghetto, and as the Maccabee Brothers before them, they struck a blow to their enemies. The family of Mattathias became known as the Maccabees, from the Hebrew word for "hammer," because they were said to strike hammer blows against their enemies. So good, so so good.
This story of the Mircale of the Oil, goes waaaaaaayyyyyy back:
The death of Alexander the Great of Greece in 323 BCE led to the breakup of the Greek empire as three of his generals fought for supremacy and divided the Middle East among themselves. Ptolemy secured control of Egypt and the Land of Israel. Seleucus grabbed Syria and Asia Minor, and Antigonus took Greece.The Land of Israel was sandwiched between Egypt and Syria and, for the next 125 years, Seleucids and Ptolemies battled for this prize. The former finally won in 198 B.C. when Antiochus III defeated the Egyptians and incorporated Judea into his empire. Initially, he continued to allow the Jews autonomy, but after a stinging defeat at the hands of the Romans he began a program of Hellenization that threatened to force the Jews to abandon their monotheism for the Greeks' paganism. Antiochus backed down in the face of Jewish opposition to his effort to introduce idols in their temples, but his son, Antiochus IV, who inherited the throne in 176 B.C. resumed his father's original policy without excepting the Jews. A brief Jewish rebellion only hardened his views and led him to outlaw central tenets of Judaism such as the Sabbath and circumcision, and defile the holy Temple by erecting an altar to the god Zeus, allowing the sacrifice of pigs, and opening the shrine to non-Jews.
Though many Jews had been seduced by the virtues of Hellenism, the extreme measures adopted by Antiochus helped unite the people. When a Greek official tried to force a priest named Mattathias to make a sacrifice to a pagan god, the Jew murdered the man. Predictably, Antiochus began reprisals, but in 167 BCE the Jews rose up behind Mattathias and his five sons and fought for their liberation.
Like other rulers before him, Antiochus underestimated the will and strength of his Jewish adversaries and sent a small force to put down the rebellion. When that was annihilated, he led a more powerful army into battle only to be defeated. In 164 BCE, Jerusalem was recaptured by the Maccabees and the Temple purified, an event that gave birth to the holiday of Chanukah. The miracle, according to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the rededication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory.
''Mattathias answered in a loud voice,
I don't care if every Gentile in this empire has obeyed the king and yielded to the command to abandon the religion of his ancestors. My children, my relatives, and I will continue to keep the covenant that God made with our ancestors. With God's help we will never abandon his Law or disobey his commands. We will not obey the king's decree, and we will not change our way of worship in the least.''
1 Maccabees 2:19-22
'You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows.'
Happy Chanukah 5776!!!