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The Story Of Chanukah Part 3: They Won The "Real" War But The Battles Continued

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The Story Of Chanukah Part 3: They Won The "Real" War But The Battles Continued
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Revach L'Neshama

During these horrible days of persecution, Matisyahu Hachashmanoi left Yerushalayim, which was now controlled by the Yavanim and Hellenists, and settled in Modiin, a town outside Yerushalayim. The town did not prove to be a haven however; the long arm of Antiochus reached even there. The king’s soldiers appeared and ordered the Jews to offer a pig to the Greek gods. Matisyahu refused to comply, but a Hellenist Jew prepared to follow the soldiers’ orders. Matisyahu became enraged with fury for Hashem’s honor and killed the Jews and the soldiers. He called out his famous battle cry of “Mi LeHashem Eilai!” and he, his five sons, and followers escaped to the hills of Midbar Yehudah. There, they dwelled in caves and formed an army led by Matisyahu’s oldest son, Yehudah. Yehudah was dubbed Macabee, which means hammer, and also stands for, ‘Mi chamocha bealim Hashem.” The Maccabim were a small guerilla army (12,000 or less men) courageously prepared to engage the Syrian-Greek army (40,000 men) in battle. The Syrian-Greek army not only vastly outnumbered the Maccabim, but was also equipped with professional arms and elephants, the tanks of yesteryear.

The Maccabim began attacking towns which were controlled by the Yavanim, and the king’s army reciprocated. The Maccabim, under the leadership of Yehudah, successfully fought off the king’s large army time after time, killing thousands of soldiers during the battles. These battles took place over a period of more than two decades, before a final peace treaty was signed with the Greeks, and the Jews were completely independent. However, the Chanukah Nes and the rededication of the Beis Hamikdash occurred three years into the fighting, after a particularly fierce battle in which the Maccabim ravaged the enemy army. The Yavanim later regrouped themselves and continued the war. The Chanukah nes was a celebration of a victory of ruchniyus; it did not indicate a military victory which occurred over two decades later.

The Maccabim were able to return to Yerushalayim after three years of fighting. They marched directly to Har Habayis where a dismal sight met their eyes. The Beis Hamikdash lay in ruins, desolate and neglected. They sadly tore their clothing and mourned the desecration of the Beis Hamikdash. The Kohanim then cleaned the Bais Hamikdash and removed the idols. They forged new keilim, including a mizbeach to offer korbanos the next morning. They brought ketores that very afternoon. They constructed a temporary menorah out of iron skewers and plated it with zinc. They looked for oil to light the menorah, but all the oil they found in the Beis Hamikdash had been contaminated. They continued searching and they eventually found a small flask containing enough oil for one night, with the unbroken seal of the Kohen Gadol. The seal in itself was miraculous since it was not standard practice that the flasks were sealed, and the Kohen Gadol was not usually involved in the production of the oil. The Kohanim lit the menorah using this flask of oil and the oil burned miraculously for eight days, after which fresh oil had been produced and brought to the Beis Hamikdash. The next day, the twenty fifth of Kislev, the Korban Tamid was brought. Bnei Yisrael celebrated the rededication of the Beis Hamikdash for eight days amidst great joy and song. The next year, the Sanhedrin realized that the spiritual implication of the Chanukah nes was eternal, and they declared that Chanukah should be celebrated for eight days every year.

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