The Jewish Eye
The Story Of Chanukah Part 2: From Alexander To Antiochus - Lots Of Politics, Terrible Oppression
Alexander the Great died at the prime of his life, and his kingdom was divided among four kings, who promptly began vying each other for power. Eretz Yisrael was caught in the middle of the struggle between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kings, and was eventually conquered by the Ptolemaic kingdom. It was during the reign of Ptolemy II that seventy chachamim were forced to translate the Torah into Greek.
In 199 B.C.E., Antiochus III the Great, a Seleucid, conquered the Ptolemaists and began ruling over Eretz Yisrael. Eretz Yisrael was now part of the Seleucid kingdom, which ruled Syria. After his death, his son Seleucus IV succeeded him, and during his reign, the struggle between the Hellenist and the Torah faithful Jews was heightened. This struggle reached its final height during the reign of his son, Antiochus IV.
When Shimon Hatzaddik died, his student Antigonas succeeded him as head of the Sanhedrin. Two of Antigonas’ students, Zadok and Boesus, began a new branch of “Yiddishkeit” which denied the validity of the Torah Shel Baal Peh, emunas chachamim and the existence of Olam Haba. These Jews became known as the Tzidukim and the Torah faithful Jews were called Pharisees. The Tzidukim were natural allies of the Hellenists.
When Antiochus IV became king, the Hellenists offered him bribes for the position of Kohen Gadol. The position of Kohen Gadol became a political position, often given to the most corrupt individual. The Hellenists built a gymnasium near the Beis Hamikdash; a site of immorality and even avodah zara. Hellenist leaders, after bribing Antiochus IV for power, oppressed their fellow Jews, and even murdered them in their struggle for power. When murmurs of rebellion were heard among the Torah Jews in Yerushalayim, a full civil war erupted, which prompted Antiochus to step in to ascertain his power over the Jews. Antiochus attacked Yerushalayim and forty thousand Jews were killed, and another forty thousand were taken captive. Antiochus then entered the Beis Hamikdash and looted the keilim, the mizbeach, the Menorah, the shulchan for the lechem hapanim, and the paroches.
Antiochus did not satisfy himself with physically ravaging Bnei Yisrael, and he began a campaign of spiritual oppression as well. He forbade the Jews to continue offering their korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash, and forced them to sacrifice pigs instead. Antiochus banned the observance of Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, the Yamim Tovim, kashrus, bris mila, taharas hamishpacha, and limud Torah. Pagan gods were set up in the Beis Hamikdash.
Antiochus brutally enforced his new laws. Sifrei Torah were burned at the stake and chachamim were murdered. Jews are forced to eat pork and worship Greek gods. Babies discovered with a bris mila were murdered along with their mothers in a brutal fashion. It is during this time that Chana and her seven sons submitted themselves to torturous deaths rather than desecrate Hashem’s name.
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