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Home > Holidays > Chanukah's Guide to Chanukah

The Story
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Chanukah: The Story

Chanukah recalls the Jewish people's age-old struggle for religious freedom. The holiday's story is simple: one day's supply of oil miraculously burned for eight days while the Jews put their lives and temple back together after a victorious military battle.

The story of Chanukah began in 336 B.C.E. when Alexander the Great invaded and conquered the Persian Empire that included modern day Israel. As rulers progressed, more and more persecution against the Jews was instituted. Finally, an older Jewish priest, Matityahu, fled to Modin, a town in the Judean hills and gathered a small army. His son, Judah the Maccabee ("Hammer"), became the leader of this small guerrilla outfit. Against all odds and after repeated battles, they were victorious against the Syrian army.

When the Maccabees and their troops returned to Jerusalem, they found the Holy Temple in ruins. The entire town focused all their efforts on restoring the temple. On the 25th day of Kislev, it came time to rededicate the temple and re-light the menorah, the temple candelabra. Only one small jar of oil, enough for one day's burning, was found intact in the temple. It would have taken eight days to get more oil, but rather than wait, the high priest decided to light the menorah for the one day and worry about the other days later.

But the menorah oil kept burning, staying lit the next day, and the day after, and the day after…for the eight days it took to get a new supply of oil.

To recall and honor this miracle, Jews around the world have celebrated Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, ever since.

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