The story of Hanukkah took place during the time of the Second Temple when the Greek regime of Antiochus sought to pull Jews away from their religion and heritage. Matityahu led the Jewish army in trying to drive out the enemy, after three years the Maccabees were, against all odds, able to succeed in driving out the foreigners from their land. When the Jews re-entered the Holy Temple they found it in shambles and idols were scattered everywhere. When it came time to re-light and re-dedicate the holy Menorah, they searched the entire Temple, but found only one jar of pure oil bearing the seal of the Cohen Gadol. An amazing miracle happened as that small jar of oil burned for eight days until a new supply of oil could be brought.
Antiochus wanted to assimilate and the Jews into Greek culture. The Greeks had no intention of murdering the Jews physically; it was a spiritual and ideological campaign of annihilation. This is why we celebrate spiritually through praying and lighting the menorah.
The Three Decrees Let us take a closer look at what the Greeks were aiming to do...
The Greek culture was one that extolled physical beauty and physical might. A selfaggrandized diet of sport.
The three letters of Yavan – yud, vav and nun – look like singular thin lines that have no framework or depth to contain anything, representing a totally external approach to look at the world; physical pleasure disconnected from anything deeper.
The Jewish religion is centered around the concept of spirituality; and that physical beauty can be expressed and reflected by adjoining spiritual beauty. Lasting beauty is one which is connected to truth, depth, wisdom and profundity; For example Shabbat is a day focused on the spiritual world; as the Sages say it is like the World to Come. Yet on Shabbat we beautify ourselves, our tables and our family lives as well. The Greeks outlawed the observance of the spiritual day of Shabbat because it represented the inner soul of the physical world.
Rosh Hodesh, sanctifying the New Moon each month, was also outlawed because it represented the inner holiness of the faculty of time. Brit Millah was banned because it represented the inner holiness of the body. It is no irony that Hanukkah contains within it a Shabbat, a Rosh Hodesh and contains the same number of days as a Brit Milah.
Every Hebrew word has a deep meaning. On the hand there are a total of 14 joints which is the gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew word “Yad” which means “hand.” When two hands come together there is a unity, and the combination of putting “hand in hand” (yad yad) forms the Hebrew word “yedid,” which means close friends. When two hands come together there is a total of 28 joints. The number 28 written in Hebrew is kaf chet, spelling the Hebrew word “koach” which means “strength.”
The reason for the destruction of the temple was due to Jews fighting against each other. The rededication of the temple on Hanukkah saw the Jews repair their spiritual breeches and reunite around the temple. When the Jewish people unite they are the strongest, like two hands coming together.
A Joyous Hanukah to all!
Rabbi Isaac Farhi