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I’ve given this piece only a cursory editing and committed the sin of mixing American and British spelling (changing my mind several times as to which I prefer and several times appreciating the “colour” added to “color” by the additional vowel). –jso

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For the previous two years Yehudah Maccabi and his army had been in the bush. The agrarian cycles had been neglected but not by choice. To celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem, Yehudah had a vote taken, over whether to implement a Second Sukkot.

The vote favoured Yehudah’s idea and so the holiday was born.

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Chanukkah 2013 begins at sundown, Wednesday November 27th on the Western Calendar.

If I were to ask Jews what this holiday commemorates perhaps 99%, including frum, would tell me about how a single day’s supply of holy oil miraculously lasted 8 days, just enough time to obtain more.

Ninety-nine percent of Jews would be wrong.

The story about oil only entered Judiasm 700 years after the holiday began and is an invention of collaborationists and kapos who who sought to extinguish Jewish ethno-nationalism.

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Judea of the mid-2nd Century BCE was being torn apart by external, as well as internal forces.

Internally, the Saduccees and the Pharisees were jockeying for dogmatic superiority, as well as for the High Priesthood. In addition, Apikoros, Jews who favored the Hellenisation of Judaism, were at odds with traditionalists who viewed any overt foreign influence as poisonous.

Externally, Judea was situated between two opposing orbits, the Greco-Egyptians and the Greco-Syrians. After Alexander the Great died, his empire was split among his successors and two top generals. Later, these would split further so that by g167/166 BCE, the Ptolemaic Dynasty controlled Egypt, and the Seleucid Dynasty controlled Syria.

The Saduccees, under the Tobiad Faction, had managed to come out on top, with the help of Seleucid Emperor Antiochus III. The relationship worked well as Antiochus III believed in a high level of autonomy so that the Saducees could imagine at least, that Judaea was still nominally independent.  However, in 175 BCE, Antiochus III was succeeded by a son who took the title Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Where his father had exercised restraint and a modicum of respect, Antiochus IV was greedy and lustful for power, aiming to annex Judaea and destroy the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Greco-Egypt.

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By 167/166 BCE Judea had been under the boot of Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes for more than a year. In those 14 months the leader of Greco-Syria had outlawed HaBrit (Jewish Ritual Male Circumcision), forbade the propagation of Torah and had just profaned the Second Temple in Jerusalem by looting its treasury, defiling its ritual objects, and (re-) dedicating the Temple to Zeus, the chief deity in the Greek Pantheon.

Following this travesty, Antiochus IV deployed deputations to each population centre where altars were built and every head of household was made to participate in the sacrifice of pigs to Zeus.

In the village of Modi’in one such deputation was slaughtered after an elderly Priest, Matityahu, killed a villager who had capitulated and was about to become an Apostate. Matityahu and his five adult sons led most of the village into the bush to avoid retribution and became yet another group fighting the foreign Occupiers in a war of national liberation.

In 166/165 BCE Matityahu died, and was replaced by his son Yehudah, who was given the nickname “Maccabi,” meaning “Hammer,” in recognition of his military prowess in guerilla warfare. In 165/166 BCE Yehudah led a large, consolidated force in the capture of the Jewish Political, Cultural and Spiritual Capital, Jerusalem, and set about ritually purifying the Second Temple.

Up to this point, there is no divergence from the authentic, historical narrative. All Observant Jews agree on the preceding. It is what happens next that separates fact from fantasy, a sacrifice of truth and heritage in favor of myth and assimilationist fantasy.

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As Yehudah Maccabi led his force into Jerusalem they made their way to the Second Temple. Before their great victory against the pre-eminent regional superpower, Greco-Syria, they had to cleanse the seat of Judaism. The Second Temple had been rendered ritually unclean in some of the worst ways imaginable.

Rebuilding the altar, finding the Second Temple bereft of ritual items, including Menorot (Menorahs), the Jews improvised…and here is the divergence… to perhaps 99% of Jews- including the most knowledgable Frum- the Jews needed the sacred olive oil used to fuel Menorot. Searching through the stockrooms they eventually found a tiny container with only enough oil to fuel the Menorot for a single day, but at least it had the Kosher seal of the last ritually pure High Priest. Using that single day supply, the Priests set about manufacturing the sacred olive oil, a process that took 8 days. The single day supply miraculously lasted all 8 days, ensuring that the Menorot would stay burning until they could once again be fueled with the new supply of sacred oil.

This is said to be both the reason for the lighting of the 8 lights, as well as the length of the holiday being 8 days long.

In reality, none of this has anything at all to do with Chanukkah.

The photo is Hasmonean Era, roughly 140 BCE, and was recently discovered in an excavated trench adjacent to the Temple Mount. It is believed to have been carved to remind the amateur artist of the Menorot in the Second Temple, but later discarded in the drainage ditch.

The photo is Hasmonean Era, roughly 140 BCE, and was recently discovered in an excavated trench adjacent to the Temple Mount. It is believed to have been carved to remind the amateur artist of the Menorot in the Second Temple, but later discarded in the drainage ditch.

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Having liberated Jerusalem, the guerrilla army of Jewish warrior Yehudah Maccabi led the ritual cleansing of the Second Temple which for two years had served as a Greek Temple serving Zeus, the chief deity in the Greek Pantheon.

The most important holiday in Judaism at that time- apart from the High Holidays- was Sukkot.

Judea was an Agrarian Society and Sukkot, a harvest festival included the all important “Teffilat Geshem ” a prayer for Winter Rains which are so crucial to the Judean Environment and the agricultural calendar.

For the previous two years Yehudah Maccabi and his army had been in the bush. The agrarian cycles had been neglected but not by choice. To celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem, Yehudah had a vote taken, over whether to implement a Second Sukkot.

The vote favoured Yehudah’s idea and so the holiday was born.

In 120 BCE Judaeans were celebrating the dynasty born with Yehudah Maccabi, that of the Hasmoneans.

Two works from approximately that year, known today as Maccabis I, and Maccabis II offer us great insight into that part of Jewish History. In Maccabis II (10:1-8), it tells us that Sukkot, as I just discussed, was the inspiration for this festival. Originally, the Lulav (Myrtle Branches) and Etrog (large, lemon like citrus fruit) played a central role, just as in Sukkot itself.

Maccabis II (1:18) tells how letters were sent to Alexandria, in Egypt, then the most important centre in the Diaspora. The letters, one of which is attributed to Yehudah himself, instruct the Diaspora to commemorate the Second Sukkot.

Alexandria, home to a carbon copy of the Second Temple, situated in a semi-autonomous territory ceded to the Jews, was held in great esteem all over the Diaspora and the Alexandrian Temple’s adoption of Second Sukkot is probably the single most decisive factor in the holiday’s longetivity. Of the multitude of Post-Biblical Holidays that have been created over the course of 2,300 years, Channukah has stood alone against the test of time.

The Jewish traitor Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities Volume XII, confirms what I have stated. He tells us that the holiday was known as the “Festival of Lights,” and again he doesnt mention oil in any way, shape or form.

Contemporary to Josephus,”Megillat HaTa’anit” (Scroll of the Days of Fasting being Prohibited), does tell us that the label “Channukah,” meaning “Dedication”, must have been known to at least some Jews, as it is mentioned within the scroll’s text.

Detail, Temple Menorah Paraded by Romans, Arch of Titus, Via Sacra, Rome, 82 CE.

Detail, Temple Menorah Paraded by Romans, Arch of Titus, Via Sacra, Rome, 82 CE.

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The first mention of oil miraculously burning for 8 days isnt found until the codification of Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) in the 5th Century CE/AD. Tractate Shabbat, Folio 21b tells how upon searching the Second Temple for sacred olive oil to fuel the Menorot (Menorahs), a one day supply was found and was used, as the Priests began the manufacturing process to press and refine more olive oil. It took the Priests 8 days and miraculously, the one day supply continued to fuel the Menorot until then.

To understand why this myth was included in the Talmud, one needs to understand the utter devastation in Judea. First, in 70 CE/AD, the Romans finally managed to quell the Jewish Insurgency, re-capturing Jerusalem and sacking the Second Temple.

During the Romans’ long siege of the Judean capital, a leading rabbi broke ranks and decided to become a collaborator with Rome. Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai saw no future in holding out against Rome and planned to escape alive. Were he to have made his plans widely known Zakkai would have been executed as the kapo he was. Instead, he relied upon his disciples to smuggle him outside the city walls where he planned to appeal to Vespasian, then a Roman General leading the siege, to try and save himself and his disciples’ lives.

On the chosen day Ben Zakkai shed his clothing and was wrapped in a tallit (prayer shawl) and burial shroud. His disciples, dressed as laborers, acted as if they were carrying a corpse to be buried outside Jerusalem’s walls.

According to Jewish Tradition, once free of the city, Ben Zakkai made his way to Vespasian’s camp and sought an audience with the General. Vespasian obliged and was taken aback when Ben Zakkai asked the Roman officer for permission to establish a Jewish religious center far from the field of battle, vowing to teach acceptance of the Roman yoke and obedience to the dictates of the Roman Governor. Vespasian asked why he should oblige such an offer now that the long and bloody war was winding down. Ben Zakkai replied that it was only befitting of a man who would soon be made Emperor of Rome.

Vespasian thought Ben Zakkai daft but decided to humor him. He told Ben Zakkai that if and when he was made Emperor, he would allow Ben Zakkai to found an academy. Within a year Vespasian ascended to become Emperor and true to his word, he allowed Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai to open an academy in Yavne’, and later, to reconstitute the Sanhedrin, Judaism’s highest legislative body. In obliging Ben Zakkai, Emperor Vespasian exacted only one pledge, that all ethno-nationalist dogma be excised from Judaism.

Still, try as the Jewish Establishment might, it could not erase the Jewish desire for sovereignty, nor the Jewish revulsion against Rome. By the early 2nd Century CE, less than 60 years after Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s shameful collaboration, a new movement emerged that once again sought to vanquish Rome and to liberate Judea. Under the leadership of Shimon Bar Kosiba, whose nickname was “Bar Kochba,” Judea was briefly liberated and for a year and a half basked once again in a proud and independent Jewish State.

Rome, under then-General Hadrian retaliated fiercely and by 133 CE/AD had boxed Bar Kochba into his stronghold at Betar, southwest of Jerusalem.

By 135 CE, the city had fallen and the Roman Army committed mass genocide against all inhabitants.

Hadrian then had Jerusalem once again declared offlimits to Jews and converted it into an entirely pagan city, Aelia Capitolina. It was then that Judea, Samaria and Israel became “Palestine,” and the Jewish Establishment became firmly convinced that ethno-nationalism would be the utter ruin of Judaism and the Jewish People.

Ethno-nationalist movements would arise periodically, and sovereignty would even be achieved again in the 7th Century CE/AD (Sassanian Jewish Commonwealth, 614 to 628 CE/AD), but the establishment never again cooperated until Israeli Independence in 1948.

Of the two Talmuds, Bavli (Babylonian), was the one more opposed to Jewish sovereignty- or, more succinctly, sovereignty prior to the Messianic Advent at which point Jews believed Ha Moshiach — The Messiah — would reestablish the Jewish Nation.

Bavli repeats the Jewish Proverb, “Deenah d’Malchutah Deenah,” an Aramaic statement that holds, “The law of the Government is the law,” an old Jewish saying which has been co-opted by Christianity and rendered as, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

In Talmud Yerushalami (Jerusalem Talmud, sometimes misidentified as the “Palestinian Talmud”), Tractate Rosh HaShanah, Folio 18b tells how the Jewish Establishment decreed that a fast take place on 25 Kislev, the date upon which Chanukkah begins.

Notably, Rav Yehoshua Ben Channaniah visited the town on that date and had a haircut; likewise, Rav Eliezer Beb Hyrcanus visited and on that same date and bathed: bathing and cutting one’s hair on a decreed holiday was then heretical behavior — consequently, both sages demanded that the citizenry repent for having violated Halacha, or Jewish Law.

Although the Talmud does not say so, it has been deduced that the leaders of Lydda were in fear of the Roman Occupiers might misconstrue Second Sukkah as political militancy, and therefore the Roman Occupation would get so much worse.

Kosher Bread Stamp, dated to 300 BCE, discovered in Jerusalem.

Kosher Bread Stamp, dated to 300 BCE, discovered in Jerusalem.

About the Author

Major Rachamim Ra’anan Slonim Dwek, IDF, ret., hails from a family that lost 18 members in the Hebron Pogrom of 1929 and from which the survivors were ethnically cleansed three days later.  He lives today in Sussiya in the hills south of Hebron. 

Related Reference

Roman Jews and the Arch of Titus | Robert Kahn’s Blog

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The rebels never surrendered, but died from famine and thirst. Among the dead bodies, the legionaries recognized that of Simon, the son of Kosiba. When they brought his head to the emperor Hadrian, he said: ‘If his God had not slain him, who could have overcome him?’

Wars between the Jews and Romans “Wars between the Jews and Romans: Simon ben Kosiba (130-136 CE)”.

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