In the year 3515 (245 years before the Common Era), the Greeks insist that the Torah be translated into their language.
A period of religious persecution begins in 3616 under the reign of Antiochus Epipanes. The Jewish people are greatly pressured to abandon the Torah and adopt the Greek way of life. As a part of a campaign to impose their culture, Greece declares the Torah commandments of the Sabbath, New Moon, and Circumcision to be illegal. They seize control of the Temple, sacrifice pigs on the alter, and make ritual defilement.
This is a period of test and stress and it ends when a small group of Jews rise up in open rebellion against the mightiest empire of their day to end the religious/cultural tyranny. They are led by the Hasmonians, the family of the Temple's High Priest. G-d grants them success.
During the restoration of the Temple, the Jewish people experience a miracle whereby a small flask of olive oil is found and is ritually pure, despite the efforts of the Greeks to defile everything in sight. Although the quantity is sufficient to burn in the Menorah's lamps for only one day, it lasts for eight days, giving just enough time to purify a new supply.
The attempted Greek enlightenment is thwarted. The light of the Torah and its way of life is saved. The miracle of eight days occurs during the winter, when the nights are longest and darkness reigns.
The Jewish people choose to commemorate this salvation by focusing upon the miracle of the Menorah rather than upon their military victory.
Chanukah is the final religious holiday to be established. It demonstrates the power and endurance of the Torah. With its sister holiday Purim, they testify to the commitment of G-d to maintain the Jewish people both physically (Purim) and spiritually (Chanukah). Together they will provide great hope and strength to the Jewish people who will live the remaining years of their pre-Messianic history under dominating foreign cultures, sometimes accommodating and sometimes hostile.
Subsequent to the victory of Chanukah, the heroic Hasmonians become kings over Israel. Shortly afterwards, the Roman Empire begins its eastward expansion toward Judea.
The family has a tragic history. The sons of the High Priest all experience violent or non-peaceful deaths. Power struggles tear the family and the nation apart. Rome is called in to take sides. Eventually Herod, their Edomite servant, leads an uprising and wipes out the family.
To help us understand the perplexing events, the Oral Torah reminds us of the words of our patriarch Jacob, spoken on his death bed. "The Scepter shall not be removed from Judah." (Gen. 49:10). The Hasmonians are from the tribe of Levi, to whom the office and honors of priesthood are reserved. Royalty is designated for the descendants of Judah ,not Levi.
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