Retrieved from IsraeliPM
We at SPIB want to wish our Jewish friends and readers Hanukkah Sameach as the first day of Hanukkah begins tonight. May your eight days of Hanukkah be very blessed as you remember the great miracle of the oil provided during the rededication of the Second Temple.
For our readers who may not be familiar with the history of Chanukkah, here is a brief summary:
The story of Chanukkah begins in the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks, in much the same way that Jews in America today blend into the secular American society.
More than a century later, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV was in control of the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs (a non-kosher animal) on the altar. Two groups opposed Antiochus: a basically nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee, and a religious traditionalist group known as the Chasidim, the forerunners of the Pharisees (no direct connection to the modern movement known as Chasidism). They joined forces in a revolt against both the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Seleucid Greek government. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.
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: Jews do not glorify war.
Photo retrieved from PM Netanyahu’s Facebook post.
Lea Speyer at Breaking Israel News reported on the candle lighting:
Celebrating the first night Hanukkah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathered with soldiers of the IDF to light the first candle of the menorah and kick off the holiday.
Attended by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and soldiers from the Lotar (counter-terrorism and hostage rescue) and Oketz (canine special forces) units of the IDF, the prime minister paralleled Israel’s fight for existence in modern times with the miracle of Hanukkah.
“I am proud to be here and light the first Hanukkah candle with you in the birthplace of the Maccabees,” he said. “We then stood, the few against the many, and we won. We set light against the darkness and we were victorious.”
“I am here because my grandfather, Rabbi Natan Milkovsky Netanyahu, as a young person, studied in a yeshiva in Lithuania and one day he worked in a railway station with his younger brother Yehuda. He saw a group of anti-Semitic hooligans. They identified them as Jews, the yeshiva students, and they fell upon them. They ran toward them with clubs, shouting ‘Death to the Jews.””
“My grandfather told his younger brother Yehuda, ‘Run, I will stop them.’ He understood that he was going to sacrifice himself to save his younger brother. He was savagely beaten until he was almost dead. Sprawled in the mud and the snow, he told himself, ‘What a disgrace that the descendants of the Maccabees lay sprawled here in blood and dirt.’ Before he lost consciousness he vowed, ‘If I live, I will take my family and go to the Land of Israel in order to renew Jewish independence there and the Maccabees will rise again.’”
Netanyahu praised the IDF, which he called “the most moral army in the world,” for defending the Jewish state against extremism. The prime minster thanked Israel’s modern “Maccabees [who] have arisen again to defend the Jewish people” from “darkness.”