It all began when Antiochus IV ordered Jews—under penalty of death—to abandon their religion. He appointed Hellenists as High Priest in Jerusalem, plundered the Temple treasury to pay his debts, and built a fortified Greek polis in Jerusalem. Faced with a choice of apostasy or rebellion, the Jews chose to rebel. The revolt achieved rapid success, led by the charismatic and brilliant Maccabee clan. At the end of the year 164 BCE the first Chanukah was celebrated and the Temple in Jerusalem purified.

“What is Chanukah?” asks the Talmud. “…Eight days…during which eulogies are not made and fasting is not permitted.” The Greeks had defiled all of the Temple oil. Only one jar was left, sufficient to burn for one day. But a miracle occurred. The oil burned for eight days! Jewish sages declared these eight days for rejoicing and lighting of Chanukah lights at the entrance to each Jewish home to publicize the miracle.

To remember the oil of the original miracle, oil is used until today for lighting menorahs and cooking special holiday foods. Although the military victory over Greece was itself miraculous and celebrated, Jewish autonomy was short-lived. The Romans expelled or killed most of the Jewish nation by the year 70 AD, leaving only a small population. However Chanukah, celebrating freedom of religious belief and practice, remains a vibrant holiday more than 20 centuries after the fall of Greece. Chanukah is truly joyous because it symbolizes the entire struggle for spiritual freedom, the light which pierced the darkness of tyranny and persecution.

As Jews and our friends light the Chanukah menorah this year, we pray for the light of tolerance, religious freedom, and peace to spread across the world.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah

76 Comments

  • The Gemara used the term Mai Chanuka, only by Chanuka, not in any other holiday. Now why is this?

  • Steve, great question. The Talmud doesn’t ask “What is Purim”, for example. In fact, there’s a whole tractate, Megillah, dedicated to Purim. Whereas Chanukah gets its mentions only in the Gemara.

    The Sdei Chemed asked the same question. The book Ta’amei Haminhagim answers in the name of the Chatam Sofer that Rabbi Yehuda Hannassi, the compiler of the Mishnayot, was a descendant of the house of David. The miracles of Chanukah were performed at the hands of the Chashmonaim, who were Kohanim. Their following generations appointed themselves as kings in Israel, something that was not their right. The Ramban ellaborates on the Chashmonaim’s sin and their resulting downfall for it.

    (Based on Techelet Mordechai, by Rav Moti Alon, Parshat Vayeshev)

  • Shy Guy I find that answer difficult because I would think that if R Yehuda Hanasi really had opposition it would have been stated explicitely in the Mishna or talmud and it is not mentioned at all. In addition it is Rabbi Yehuda Hanasis Mishna that delares that the full Hallel (Praise) is recited on Chanuka – all 8 days. Something that is not done for Purim or even pesach. Although the Ramban does say what he says others such as the Rambam have only spoken in glowing terms about it.

    The simple reason for it asking “What is Hanukkah” is “Why is it called Hanukah ie rededication of the Temple, which commemorates the wars that we won but the way we celebrate it is by lighting candles. What are the candles all about?

    And they answer by explaining the relashionship between the candles and the war.

    Rabbi Yonah,
    Why would you state:
    “As Jews and our friends light the Chanukah menorah this year, we pray for the light of tolerance, religious freedom, and peace to spread across the world.”

    -and not “we pray for the the end of apostasy” ??

    after all did you not just explain what it was all about
    -“Faced with a choice of apostasy or rebellion, the Jews chose to rebel.”

    Sometimes I just don’t understand.

  • Joe, the Halacha of full Hallel for 8 days is brought down, not in the Mishnah but in the Gemarah, Masechet Erachin 10A.

    As to the connection between the war and the oil, Rav Elon goes into that in detail, too. I highly recommend picking up a set of Techelet Mordechai. You just have to find a method to condense 30 to 50 pages each week into a 2 minute d’var Tprah at the Shabbos table. 🙂

    As to your question to Rabbi Yonah, I had the same question but I didn’t want to play the Grinch. Thanks for that!

  • Shy,
    Fair enough.
    It is the Tosephta (written by Tanaim) in succah that brings it down Succah 3:2
    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/b/f/f26.htm

    In addition laws pertaining to hanuka are mentioned in a number of Mishnas
    Bikurim 1:6
    Bava kama 6:8
    Rosh Hashana 1:4
    and in numerous other Tosephtoth.

  • Shy guy,
    Regarding Rabbi Yonah I understand where he is coming from – after all he has to cater to the people who frequent this blog.

  • Most of the people who are on this blog do not have a strong Torah education which is not their fault. If Rabbi Yonah started going in depth into Gemara it would go over people’s heads. The majority of people on here are Reform or Conservativniks that think being gay is acceptable and that reform and conservative conversions are halachic.

  • Jon C. Just getting the facts and eduction out there! people can do as they chose to with them.

  • Shlomo,

    I resent you not giving me the Apikoris colors I have so worked hard to earn. I assure you I can’t stand the Reform or Conservative Movements. The only difference is I hate the charedim too, so doesn’t that make me even more Jewish than you? As a Middle Eastern faith, isn’t it all about who tolerates the least deviation? So don’t I win? So how dare you doubt my Judaism, biytach.

    Btw – Are you related to the Dark Light Jerusalem Weinbachs? Tell the truth, are you a scion of the Rosh Yeshiva of Dark Light?

  • Btw, Shlomo — being gay is acceptable. What you do with that is the question. And don’t tell me that is just outside of Orthodoxy. See Rabbi Feldman’s explanation. And on the other hand, I know plenty of Reform and Conservative Jews who have no problem with being gay, but still would never seek to justify some of the politics of JVoices.com.

  • DK said:

    Btw, Shlomo — being gay is acceptable. What you do with that is the question. And don’t tell me that is just outside of Orthodoxy. See Rabbi Feldman’s explanation.

    The text of Rabbi Feldman’s letter can be found here.

    Rabbi Feldman does not say that homosexuality is acceptable. The term he uses to describe homosexuality is “shortcoming”.

    What Rabbi Feldman does say is acceptable is a homosexual who battles his inclimation. This is true of anyone who does teshuva.

    Saying “being gay is acceptable” is as ludicrous as saying “being homocidal is acceptable.” Nonsense. Both are abominable and you won’t find Rabbi Feldman arguing with that.

  • JoeSchmo, what the Chatam Sofer meant was that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi did not see fit to dedicate a tractate – or even a whole Perek or 2 of Mishnayot to Chanuka, for the reason given.

    Rabbi Yehuda himself celebrated Chanuka no less than everyone else. Also, Tosephtot can be from any Tanna, not jst Rabbi Yehuda. I was specifically referring to the Mishnaic compilation.

  • Well, what does this statement mean?

    “Judaism looks negatively at homosexual activity, but not at the homosexual nature. “

  • DK said:

    Well, what does this statement mean?

    Judaism looks negatively at homosexual activity, but not at the homosexual nature.

    Very simple. Like any inclination to do wrong, the question is how you overcome it, to follow Hashem’s ways. What Rabbi Feldman is obviously saying is that just because someone has a negative inclanation, that alone does not say anything about the person. Rabbi Feldman is not saying that the Torah endorses people fantasizing about homosexual acts as long as you don’t carry them out. Rabbi Feldman never says go out there and be proud of your homosexuality.

    As for the whole topic of pure thought, that’s a bookful to discuss on its own. These concepts are elementary to Rabbi Feldman, as they are to pretty much everyone I know in observant circles who are minimally learned.

  • I just want to point out that someone in this thread equated being gay with being a murderer.

    Wow.

  • I just want to point out that someone may have score low on their reading comprehension tests.

  • Shame on all of you for acting like a bunch of Episcopalians. What do you think this is, an office park in Fells Church?

  • Tom, I’m not familiar with the particulars of Episcopalian acting nor with the mentioned office park. Can you translate that into Jewspeak?

  • “Saying “being gay is acceptable” is as ludicrous as saying “being homocidal is acceptable.” Nonsense. Both are abominable…”

    Seemed pretty straightforward to me.

  • The concept of “being” we are discussing here is referring to someone with certain tendencies or urges who does not follow through in carrying them out.

    My point was to highlight Torah prohibitions that are both highly abominable, not necessarily equivalent.

    But if it makes you feel better to think otherwise, you just go right ahead.

  • Shy Guy, I’d send you a link if I had the tech ability, but the Episcopalians in the US are finally, really imploding over the gay issue, with parishes in No. VA seceding from the US church and affiliating with conservative Anglican leadership in Nigeria.

  • Isn’t the rabbi making the simple point that there’s no intrinsic moral content to the mere fact of one’s sexual orientation? If I’m heterosexual, that may or may not mean I’ll chase skirts or commit adultery or have too much spiked eggnog and grope secretaries; there’s nothing along those lines to be inferred from it. What we do is up to us, whether we’re gay, straight, right-handed, tempermental, placid, etc. etc. That’s where the moral content kicks in.

    Seems like basic Judeo-Christian teaching to me (the Catholic pov is along these lines.)

  • Another question I have is that we say the blessings on the Menorah or the lightings, we say that You G-d has commanded us to do so, yet this event of Chanuka is not recorded in the Torah.

  • Well as I said before, the majority of people on this message board have not been fortunate enough to see what Judaism really is and what the Torah is all about. One gentleman is stating that homosexuality isnt bad when it’s one of the two ABOMINATIONS.

  • It is more an issue of human dignity. That and you cannot argue that the way these people are viewed is much more different than it was in the past.

    Whereas in the past, they hid their preferences on a total level, today, they are open as to this. There is no discrimination allowed for example by law.

    It is far easier to just take the extreme NO position on these matters. This is fine if it works for you.

    The point is that we allow all kinds of sinners to have full rights and access in our SHules.

    Religious institutions for example knowingly take major contributions from men who had their business open on Shabbos and even on Yom Kippur. This is not challenged or even mentioned.

    So why is this other issue so challenged for an individual’s personal dignity?

  • Steve,

    It’s the fact that in America, sad to say, most Jews have no idea what Authentic Judaism really is. There’s corruption in all sects of Judaism and in Reform and Conservative I’m sure.

    However that doesnt change what Judaism really is and supposed to be.

    I really hope everyone on here sees the light that R’ Yonah sheds!

  • shlomo, your message gets old after a while, i mean seriously you just recycle the same thing post after post. pretty much everyone understands that you are really the only jew on earth. were cool with that seriously…..

  • Steve,

    You are correct, Chanuka and the lights are Rabbinic. Nvertheless we were told to follow ordinances of the Sanhedrin – the great court at least from times when authority was centralized and all Israel followed. This is before our dispersion when the central courts and authority dissipated, G-d have mercy on us and renew our days to as they once were.

    We are told this in Deuteronomy:
    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et0517.htm
    “17,11 According to the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do; thou shalt not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.”
    -that is the reason we make that blessing on rabbinic laws as well as on scriptual laws.

    Regarding “The point is that we allow all kinds of sinners to have full rights and access in our Shules”- you have a point… and Im sure many of them would take money from the mafia and other assorted killers and bankrobbers. Should they? Maybe not. And I bet many would take money from anyone so long as its not publicized. Should they? Maybe not.

  • Jon C you’re the only one with the problem. Netanyah got the halachic conversion, you chose not to. If you want to become a Jew you get the conversion on Jewish Law. I don’t know at all what’s holding you back! But I’m curious, why did you not opt for the Halachic Conversion?

  • hahah it’s not bs at all TM… I really wish you had the experience to learn some Torah.

  • LOL again and the middle, his Hebrew was off, my translation was perfect 😉 Nice try though.

  • How didn’t it stick? Where does it say in the Torah that Jon C can’t convert with a non-Orthodox rabbi? Please point to the verse.

  • Lol the middle. his Non-Orthodox Rabbi doesnt qualify to be in a Beit Din. The C and R movements have been misleading to their people for a long time. At least Conservative Rabbi Epstein admitting that his movement is not halchachic and needs to stop misleading it’s members. I respect Epstein, he came clean before he died. Also Ruth accepted all the Commandments and didnt pick and choose. Conservative and Reform do picking and choosing. Ruth accepting the G-d of Israel and that he told Moses the Torah word for word. R and C are completely different religions. Rabbi Yo’ will agree with me on this.

    I really do hope that Jon C does get the conversion. I would love to welcome him into the Nation of Israel more than anyone! Netanya got her halachic conversion, I don’t understand why people just do do the halachic conversion.

  • LOL The Middle you still dont understand. your Conservative religion is competely different than Judaism.

    You’re free to practice it but I think they do a disservice to people telling them they are 100% halachic conversions when they’re not. the Conservative religion is entirely different.

  • TM,

    thanks man, thanks for getting my back. Shlomo i guess I am the only person i need to prove my jewishness to. i’ll marry a jewish woman, we’ll have a jewish baby which will be kosher(i’ll trace her back to moses if i have to just to make sure there weren’t any non-halachic conversion btw) and we’ll both be happy. and you’ll still be shooting out the same line how your hebrew is perfect, no one is as righteous as you are, and you’re the super jew.

    concerning the halachic conversion. maybe i will do it someday, but no its not the number one priority in my life right now. and quite frankly i don’t wanna commit to a set a commandments which i know i can’t adhere to, that i know none of us can adhere to. i go day by day right now trying to be the best person I can be, follow as many of the 613 mitzvot I can, tikkun olam and all that jazz…. just like i said in my previous posts my love for God, my love for Judaism, and my love for Israel only depends on me, it doesn’t depend on some out of date rabbi busting my balls for a 3 years trying to get me to live a life which i know my nor any of us for that matter can live up to.

  • TM, what have you proved with your links to the Book of Ruth?

    Jon C., it’s not just Shlomo and it’s not just me. You are what you are but that isn’t Jewish.

  • Shy Guy, honestly your opinion means jack shit to me. sorry you don’t think i am jewish but i am not gonna sweat it. my dad is jewish(halachically) thats all i need to make aliyah(if the urge every hits me) and the rest is just gravy. then maybe i’ll get some haredi to brainwash me in Jerusalem… good times. i mean what good is it honestly gonna do for me? why do i need to prove myself to a group of people i have little respect for? so they can say i am jewish? big whoop…..

  • Aww, the Middle, don’t be mean to Shlomo because he doesn’t understand Hebrew. I couldn’t have asked him for a more fitting response to my comment. I mean, it brightened my day, and for Shlomo to make anyone happy, even unintentionally, is doubtless a rare thing indeed.

  • TheMiddle, what did you prove? absolutely nothing. Ruth accepted the G-d of Israel, and that G-d gave Moses the Torah word for word.

    Jon C – I don’t think any less of you at all. I think it’s great that you are passionate about Judaism, love Israel etc, so get the conversion and convert halachically. Heck, even Borat’s wife did!

  • TM,

    that website rocks, that will come in handy. i like your hyperlink format, shyguy is probably just jealous

  • The Middle,

    Yes Ruth accepted the G-d of Israel, that G-d told Moses word for word the Torah, that the Oral law is real. That still isn’t a Reform or Conservative conversion. Conservative does not believe in the revelation at Sinai.

  • Shlomo, can you reference where Ruth accepted that “G-d told Moses word for word the Torah, that the Oral law is real” and then where we see this isn’t a Reform or Conservative conversion? I’ve given you the verses, so it should be no problem.

  • The Middle. LOL, go look at what a conversion really is. It’s someone who has to make up for not being at Sinai. So they need to “reenact” the Sinai Experience. Moses came down with the tablets and the Oral Law.

    Conservative and Reform does not accept the Oral Law.

    LOL what more do you want TM?

    you’re a bright guy. You won your Tanach contest afterall!

  • Ah yes, either come with the name calling or blocking my posts!

    At least Shy Guy will continue this I’m sure!

  • Shlomo, you answered quite sufficiently. Nothing needs to be added.

    TM, lo am ha’aretz chassid. I’ll refer it to myself but you’re a bright guy……………

  • shlomo, i was doing some research turns out your great great great great grandmother conversion was not halachic, sorry dude but your out……

  • Shy Guy, in this conversation, thus far the only person quoting the Torah directly is yours truly. I realize this stings a little, but there it is.

    Oh, and Shlomo, you troll, your comments are blocked, when they are blocked, by an automatic filter. Since we are not here 24/7 to monitor the filter, sometimes it takes a little time for the comment to be found and released to the main page. I think this site is extremely open to most comments, including those of people who keep repeating that 14 out of every 16 Jews in the world aren’t Jewish. So quit bitchin’. Thanks.

  • That’s very exciting but you haven’t proved anything.

    Or did Ruth apply to the JTS for her conversion? And that would be in verse……?

  • Nope, she didn’t apply to the JTS, to a Conservative rabbi, to an Orthodox rabbi or do anything of the sort, right? In fact, all she did was accept Naomi’s destination, abode, people and God.

    Now, if you look at the rest of the story, you will see that nowhere do we learn how observant Naomi might be. She might be a cheeseburger-lovin’ McDonalds fan for all we know.

    Boaz gets Ruth for a wife because he buys her and not because she is a devout Moabite who took on the Jewish faith. By buying her and taking her for a wife, he transforms her fully into a daughter of Israel.

    Now that’s the Torah. It seems to me that proves something. Care to tell us how the rabbis took this story and have transformed conversion into what it is now?

  • Well, TM, you learn the Written Torah in your newfangled way while we’ll just keep learning both the Written and Oral Torah as it’s been handed down through our forefathers for generations.

  • Well Shy Guy, you can say what you like but at the end of the day you didn’t even attempt to contest what I brought you from the Torah. Are you a sheep who doesn’t know why he believes what he does or is it such profound disrespect for the plain Torah that you can’t muster a basic argument other than to say over and over to some guy on the Internet who is quoting verses, “Hey Middle, you are wrong?”

  • The Torah does not discuss directly Ruth conversion ceremony. In fact, there’s an opinion that she and her sister already converted prior to marrying Machlon and Kilyon.

    You didn’t bring anything that shows otherwise. Lack of mention is not proof of anything.

    The whole process of conversion is based on Halacha le’Moshe Mi’Sinai. Like the color of Tefilin straps, you won’t find an explicte verse to tell you what you want to hear.

    I’d rather be a sheep than a lemming.
    Yes I would
    If I could
    I surely would
    Hmmmmmm……

  • Shlomo,
    Why are you pushing for someone to convert?
    A person does not have to be Jewish to be a good person.

    Shlomo do you really think Borat’s wofe’s conversion is good? Isnt Borat not religious? What type of conversion can his wife’s be – if she was serious how can she marry an irreligious person?

    I don’t know or care if it was an orthodox rabbi who did it – if it was a joke then it is worthless.

    Therefore don’t push anyone to convert because all you are doing is making invalid conversions. Better not to convert and be a good gentile than to ‘convert’ and be a fake.

  • Joe, Are you confused?

    I never pushed him. I just let him know the truth behind everything.

    Borat keeps Kosher and Shabbat. He went to the top Orthodox Day School in London. He’s pretty religious.

    And yes, his wife studied under Rav Sacks of london for 3 years. She got a proper conversion.

    get the picture Joey?

  • Sasha Baron Cohen will eat out at non-kosher restaurants. He’s been known to work on fri-sat if he must, he makes some exceptions.

    Doesn’t sound like he’s keeping to the Torah as handed down from Sinai.

    He filmed himself wrestling naked with another man. Does that fall within your boundaries, Shlomo, since you seem to be to accepting of all things gay? Would the truth you keep talking about be comfortable with that?

  • IT should be interested to see if his wife poses naked. Remember, Borat is the Jew. He was was a Goy.

    If she starts whoring out , I’d assume Rav Sacks would make a ruling on invaldiing it or something.

  • Balaam I heard that too.

    Can you provide a link or some reference to the non-kosher retaurants and work on fri-sat?

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