Chanukah comes early this year! Well, you know, actually it doesn’t! It comes EXACTLY when it always does — on 25 Kislev on the Hebrew Calendar. What we mean, of course, is that Chanukah corresponds to an earlier date on the Western calendar this year than most years.
Chanukah is the joyful eight-day celebration of the Jewish people that commemorates the victory of the warriors of the Maccabees over the tyrannical Seleucid Greeks in 165 BCE. The leader of the Greeks had forbidden the following of Torah and had desecrated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It took three years, but a small band of guerrilla soldiers under the leadership of Judah Maccabee took back Jerusalem and the Temple. They cleansed the Holy Temple and rededicated it to the worship of HaShem.
The feast is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. But that is hardly a surprise since the events remembered took place after the Hebrew Scriptures had been put together. We find the details of what occurred in the non-canonical Books of the Maccabees and recorded in the Talmud. It is in Talmud that we find the most well known story — the story of the sacred oil.
It is said that when the Jewish fighters regained the temple and cleared out the filth they relit the ner timid (the eternal flame) that burned in the Temple. They only had purified and consecrated oil for one day however. HaShem provided a miracle that allowed that flame to burn for eight days, until more purified oil could be obtained — even though there was only enough oil for one day!
It is on account of this miracle of the oil that the Jewish community celebrates by the lighting of a special Chanukah menorah, called a chanukiyah (hanukkiyah) and eating foods cooked in oil. So let’s get ready to celebrate Chanukah with our Jewish Community!