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01280--Write a short note on Chanukah (Dedication).


Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday that is mentioned in neither the TaNaKH nor the Mishnah!  There are two books recording the deeds of the Maccabees in the Apocrypha. The Maccabean Revolt against the Syrian Greeks, or Seleucids, was from 168 B.C.E.–165 B.C.E.  The Hasmonean family, from Modi’in, eventually claimed both religious and political leadership.  The family was of a priestly class but not a high-priestly class. Thus, the Hasmoneans should not  have claimed the office of high priest. Because they were not of Davidic descent, they should not have claimed political leadership. The Gemara, written about 500 years after the Maccabean Revolt, introduces the story about the cruse of oil lasting for eight days (b. Shabbat 21a).

The holiday was extremely popular and could not be suppressed, though it seems the Rabbis tried.  It’s an eight-day holiday because it is patterned after the dedication of the First Temple, which coincided with the holidays of Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret (I Kings 8 and II Macc. 10).The motif of oil, bread, and fish miraculously multiplying is common in both Jewish and Christian Scriptures (II Kings 4:14, 42 and Matt. 14:16–21).  On a literary level, the Maccabees represent the purity of living a lifestyle dedicated to God and God’s will in the midst of the impurity of Hellenistic sexual and religious practices.

The popularity of the day can be traced to cross-cultural influences.  The eighth day of Chanukah, when nine lights are lit in the Chanukiah, is the darkest day of the year because it always falls on the new moon following the winter solstice.  In America, the tradition of gift giving for Christmas influenced Jews to emphasize the previously muted aspect of gift giving on Chanukah. In Israel, Chanukah became an important traditional holiday to celebrate the valor of the Israelites in their struggle to survive the evil designs of their neighbors.


[Courtesy : Professor Shai Cherry]

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