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The Story Of Chanukah Part 4 - Deathbed Confessions, But The Battles Rage On
The Beis Hamikdash once again served as a meeting place for the Jews and their Creator, but the battle for independence was far from over. The nations living around Eretz Yisrael were intimidated by the news of the Jews’ victory and began attacking the Jews living in their lands. Yehudah came to his brothers’ aid by waging war against these nations including Edom, Amon, Gilad, Acco, Tzor, and Tzidon.
Antiochus, who had been occupied with other political losses, was informed about the loss of Greek power over the Jews as well. He became depressed and fell ill with a ghastly disease. Before he died, he confided in his advisors that he regretted persecuting the Jews and looting the Bais Hamikdash. He felt that the sins he had committed against the Jews were the reason for his downfall. He died and was succeeded by his young son Antiochus V.
In Yerushalayim, the Jews were not yet at peace. The Acra fortress near the Beis Hamikdash was occupied by Syrian -Greek soldiers and Hellenist Jews, who constantly tried to attack the Jews and bring the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash to a halt. Two years after the Chanukah miracle, Yehudah and his army attacked the Acra. Antiochus V was informed and he sent a huge number of soldiers, horses and elephants to aid his soldiers.
A fierce battle ensued in which Yehudah’s brother, Elazer, was crushed to death by an elephant. The Syrian-Greek army enforced a siege on Yerushalayim, and within a short period of time (it was a Shemitta year) famine began to affect the city. However, the Jews in Yerushalayim were saved from hunger by internal Greek politics. While Antiochus V was away from his throne, an imposter attempted to take over as king. The king and his advisors lifted the siege in order to return to Antioch and eliminate the imposter. They quickly arranged a truce and left Yerushalayim.
Shortly later, the brother of Antiochus IV, who had been held hostage in Rome until then, escaped and reappeared in Syria. He garnered power, established himself as leader, and had Antiochus V executed. The truce between Yehudah and Antiochus was now no longer valid. The Hellenists seized the opportunity created by the transition of power to forge an alliance with the new leader and conspire with him against Yehudah. The Hellenist attacked the Jews in Yerushalayim and had many of them executed. They began persecuting the Torah Jews with even more vehemence than the Syrians. Yehudah was forced to wage war once again, and under impossible conditions of the few against the many, the Jew were again victorious. A few months later, the Greeks and the Hellenists attacked again, and Yehudah was killed in battle. His brother Yonason became the new leader. After several more battles, a peace treaty was finally signed between Syria and the Jews in Yerushalayim.
Yonason led Eretz Yisrael over the next several years, and was able to gain further power and prestige for the Jewish people fueled by political turmoil and change among the Syrians. The expanded borders and power of Judea was too tempting for one official, Triphon, who was the real power behind the throne of Antiochus VI, who was then too young to rule. He hoped to take over Judea and went to battle against Yonason . When Triphon realized he could not win over the Jewish army, he tricked Yonason into coming to him to sign a peace treaty and then took him as hostage and had him executed.
The last surviving brother, Shimon then led a successful battle against Triphon, and Eretz Yisrael finally won its hard-earned independence. The Acra fortress was finally defeated as well. Shimon was recognized as Kohen Gadol and Nasi of Yisrael.
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