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Halacha For - Monday ,  - December 22, 2014

The Victory of the Hashmonaim

A historical account of the Chanukah miracle is recorded in Megillat Antiochus quoted by the Siddur Bet Oved (page 165) and Sefer Hashmonaim (Chapter 13), as follows:

“Antiochus Eupator, king of Greece, was an oppressor of the Jewish nation. He told his nation, ‘Behold, the Jews in Jerusalem have a religion different than any other and they do not abide by our laws. Let us wage war against them and discontinue their Mitzvah observance of Shabbat, Milah, and Rosh Chodesh.’

King Antiochus led a large military force of the Greek Empire including one-hundred twenty thousand soldiers as well as hundreds of thousands of additional soldiers from countries now known as Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bulgaria. They were as vast as the sand of the sea and many of them seasoned warriors riding on large elephants and converged on Israel to wage war with the Jews.

Yehuda the Maccabee and Yochanan be Matityahu heard about this and called upon the Jewish nation to fast and pray to Hashem that He save them, for the way it seemed naturally, the Heavenly decree that they would lose the war had already been sealed. The entire nation stood in fasting and prayer before Hashem for three days after which they were instructed to prepare for battle. It was truly a terrifying situation, for it was truly impossible for a handful of valiant men to suppress one of the largest and strongest military forces on the face of the earth.

Nevertheless, Hashem performed a true miracle and infused the Hashmonaim with a mighty spirit and they were able to vanquish their enemies. At the very beginning of the battle, the Jews succeeded in killing approximately four thousand men which caused great panic and confusion to ensue within the Greek camp. As a result, another seven-hundred thousand soldiers fell, most of them from friendly fire, for they were killing each other as a result of the panic. The remaining Greek soldiers fled for their lives back to their camp and the Hashmonai family returned to Jerusalem amid victorious trumpet blasts where they entered the Bet Hamikdash and lit the holy candles. This is how Hashem saved the Jewish nation who wished only to perform his Mitzvot from their enemies and those who seek to destroy them.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains that the reason for the Hashmonaim’s victory was their involvement in the holy Torah. As a result of their extraordinary Torah study, a miracle was performed for them and they were victorious over their enemies in a supernatural manner.

There is a perplexing passage in the Midrash regarding Chanukah: “The verse states, ‘The jasmines have given forth fragrance and on our doorsteps are all manner of precious fruits.’ ‘The jasmines have given forth fragrance’ refers to Reuven ‘and on our doorsteps are all manner of precious fruits’ refers to the Chanukah candles.” What seeming connection is there between Reuven’s jasmines and the Chanukah candles?

 Maran Rabbeinu zt”l explains that based on what the Torah writes, Yissachar, son of Leah, was born as a result of Reuven’s jasmines (for Rachel took some of Reuven’s jasmines and in return, she allowed Leah, Reuven’s mother, to lay with Yaakov from which Yissachar was born). It is well-known that Yissachar epitomized Torah knowledge and understanding, for two-hundred heads of the Sanhedrin emerged from the tribe of Yissachar. Thus, the merit of Yissachar’s Torah protected our forefathers and allowed them to overcome their enemies and as a result, the verse “And on our doorsteps are all matters of precious fruit” referring to the Chanukah candles was fulfilled and these lights Heavenly light thereby illuminates the street for all passerby to see. The candle of the Mitzvah and the light of the Torah are thus eternally connected.        

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