The Maccabees: A Story of Faith and Courage
For thousands of years now, we have been celebrating Hanukkah. We decorate our house with Jewish symbols like dreidel, the menorah and the Star of David. We make our Hanukkah shopping list, wrap our gifts and give tzedakah. We greet people a “Happy Hanukkah,” light our menorah, say blessings and enjoy the festive Hanukkah dinner with family and friends. Yet, not all of us are completely aware of the essence of celebrating Hanukkah. Why are we celebrating Hanukkah? Who are the Maccabees?
The Maccabees or Maqabim were a Jewish rebel army who fought for the Jews’ freedom from the Greeks and against Hellenism. The Jewish revolt was the world’s first religious war. This happened in the second century BCE when the Greek-Syrian leader Antiochus forced Jews to embrace Hellenism. Antiochus outlawed many Jewish traditions which include the study of the Torah.
A few courageous Jews led by Mattathias and his five sons revolted against Antiochus and killed the Greek oppressors. Later on, the Jewish army was led by Judah also known as Maccabee (the Hammer). The small army fought the much bigger Greek troops but the Maccabees were victorious in their fight for freedom. The Jewish army reclaimed Jerusalem and rebuilt the Holy Temple. They re-dedicated it on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. As they were to light the menorah, they only found a small jar of oil which can be used for a day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. Since then, Jews around the world have celebrated Hanukkah for eight days in remembrance of this miracle.
Hanukkah symbolizes our passion and dedication to the Jewish religion. It symbolizes the Jews’ love and faithfulness to God and Judaism. Let us celebrate Hanukkah meaningfully and be thankful to the courage of the Maccabees.
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