• Rabbi Ariel Tal

Sovereignty & Channukah: The Significance of the Hasmonean Dynasty

The Chanukah story is famous in Jewish communities all around the world. The narrative usually is that the Greeks led by Antiochus fought the Jews in Israel and defiled the Temple, which led to the miraculous revolt from the Hasmonean Family, led by Judah Maccabbee and as a result the Temple was inaugurated again, and a dynasty that lasted for close to 100 years was created. The highlight of the Chanukah story is centred around the Menorah and the miracle of having the oil lasting 8 days instead of 1. That’s the story that many children learn. I want to take a deeper look into the story, and explore how this historic holiday defined Jewish history with its unprecedented historical events that have a ripple effect felt until this very day.

Maimonides (Rambam) opens his laws of Chanukah with historical context to this Rabbinic Holiday.

In the Second Temple period [167 BCE] the Greek kings decreed evil decrees on Israel: they abolished their religion, prevented them from studying Torah and doing mitzvot, stretched out their hands to take their money and their daughters, entered the inner sanctum of the Temple, violated its restrictions and defiled its purities. Israel was terribly distressed because of them and the Greeks oppressed them very greatly. Then the God of our ancestors felt mercy