“The struggles and triumphs chronicled by the Jewish calendar are always more than a struggle for physical survival.
Yet the battle waged by the Hasmoneans against the Greeks was the most spiritual battle in Jewish history.”
I gathered information from two articles which are listed at the end of my post so if you’re interested in reading more – you can check them out.
Two miracles that happened to the Jewish people in ancient times are the base for the holiday of Hanukkah.
1) There’s the battle of the Hashmonean family, led by Judah the Maccabee, against the Greek-Syrian king, Antiochus who wanted to force the Jews to worship Greek pagan gods and then,
2) there is the oil miracle that happened after the Maccabees won the battle and entered G’d’s Holy Temple: They wanted to light the Holy menorah but couldn’t find pure oil to light it because all the oil was defiled, contaminated, by the Greeks.
Finally, they found a single cruse of pure oil that was sealed with the seal of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), enough to light the menorah for a single day.
A miracle occurred, and they lit the menorah with this oil for eight days.
Indeed, military miracles preceded and made possible the lighting of the menorah in the Temple, but the miracle which defines the essence of Hanukah is the miracle of the oil, or, rather: light !
The Hasmonean family (led by Judah the Maccabee) fought not for any material or political end, but for the very soul of Judaism, for the purity of Torah as the divine word and its commandments as the divine will.
Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow teaches that:
“Hanukkah is the moment when light is born from darkness, hope from despair… The Maccabean revolt came at the darkest moment of Jewish history–when not only was a foreign king imposing idolatry, but large members of Jews were choosing to obey.
The miracle at the Temple came at a moment of spiritual darkness–when even military victory had proven useless because the Temple could not be rededicated in the absence of the sacred oil.
At the moment of utter darkness in Modi’in, Mattathias (the father of the Hashmonean family) struck the spark of rebellion–and fanned it into flame. At the moment of utter darkness at the Temple when it would have been rational to wait for more oil to be pressed and consecrated, the Jews ignored all reasonable reasons, and lit the little oil they had.
There is always a conflict between apathy and hope, between a blind surrendering to darkness and an acting to light up new pathways.
Sometimes the arena will be in outward action, sometimes in inward meditation. But always the question is whether to recognize the darkness–and transcend it.
The necessity of recognizing the moment of darkness is what we learn from seeing Hanukkah in its context of the sun and moon. There is no use pretending that the sun is always bright; there is no use pretending that the moon is always full. It is only by recognizing the season of darkness that we know it is time to light the candles, to sow a seed of light that can sprout and spring forth later in the year.
Seen this way, Hanukkah can become a time for expressions of the need to experience despair and turn toward hope. Seen this way, Hanukkah can become a resource to help us experience our moments of darkness whenever they occur throughout the year–and strike new sparks.”