Sunday, December 5, 2010

Biblical origins of Hanukah

The wars of the Maccabbees remembered in Hanukah occur during the days second temple. How is it then, that the date of Hanukah is already referred to in the prophecies of Haggai?

Haggai Chapter 2: 
10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,…
15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD…
18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid, consider it.
20 And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,
21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;
22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.
23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.

Ninth month = Kislev. The prophecy is clearly the day of the beginning of the building of the second temple, or the day before as is learned from verse 15 "15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD:" and verse 18 "18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid, consider it.". 

This surprising connection to Hanukah was first made by Harav Emdin in the book מור וקציעה (סימן תר"ע translated below. Harav Emdin suggests that it is because of the founding of the temple that the word Hanukah comes from, and that the miracle of the Oil happened because of the significance of that day. (I apologize for the rough translation):

For the meaning of the name Hanukkah, I have discovered a new thing, with the help of God, that it is so named on the founding of the temple that was at that same time at the days of Haggai the prophet. As it is written in his prophecy that on the 24th of the ninth (that is Kislev), it was founded and on the next day it was Holies in sacrifice ...
And from here a great support to the practice of people to make meals and make merriment. And the Achronim were in difficulty to explain all of these customs. And with this I answer the question of the Beit Yosef, that the first day should not have been counted. And I say that they made the first day, in remembrance of the temple which they lit (the menorah- B.T) at the begining of the second temple. More, perhaps the credit of that day where they founded the second temple by lighting the menorah, was why they had a miracle on that same date and found the Kad...
בטעם שם חנוכה, נראה לי דבר חדש, בע"ה, שנקרא כן, על שם חינוך ההיכל, שהיה בזמן הזה בימי חגי הנביא. ככתוב בנבואתו שבעשרים וארבעה לתשיעי שהוא כסלו, הוסד ולמחרתו חנכוהו בהקרבה (אעפ"י שלא נבנה הבית עדיין כדאיתא במדרש, וכעניין שאמרו מקריבין אעפ"י שאין בית) ובהדלקה מבערב שאין מחנכין המנורה אלא בין הערביים כמו ששנינו במנחות. ועל שם חנוכת הבית נקראים ימי נס הנרות שאירע באותו פרק חנוכה. ויש מכאן סעד גדול למה שנהגו לעשות סעודות ולהרבות קצת שמחה. והאחרונים ז"ל נדחקו בכל זה. ועם זה אני מיישב גם כן קושיית הבית יוסף, שהיה ראוי לבל יהיה ראשון מן השמונה ימים מן המניין. ואומר אני שעשו זיכרון ליום ראשון, לכבוד ההיכל שהדליקו בו תחילה בבית שני. ועוד, אולי זכות זה היום לפי שחינכוהו להיכל בו תחילה על-ידי הדלקת מנורה, עמד להם שנעשה להם בו הנס, שמצאו הפך. וכיוצא בזה מציינין הרבה במדרשות, שהיום גורם להיעשות בו נס. וכדברי הרמב"ן ז"ל, במקומות הרבה מפירוש התורה, שזהו שארז"ל מעשה אבות סימן לבנים. שכל נסים העתידים צריכים לנחלה לפועל דמיון, ונרמז הכול במקרא, שבכל דבר נס נעשה דוגמתו תחילה. א"כ זה היום הוא עיקר הנס בכללו וסיבתו, וזה נכון מאוד אף שלא שיערוהו הקדמונים".
We can speculate that some festival commemorating the foundation of the second temple existed before the Hasmonean dynasty. A further hint that this date already had a religious significance can be found in Maccabees I chapter 1 verse 59:

54 Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side;
...
59 Now the five and twentieth day of the month they did sacrifice upon the idol altar, which was upon the altar of God. 

The Greeks chose the date of the 25th of Kislev to start the pagan sacrifices on the alter. Why that date? could it be because it already had a religious significance?

2 comments:

stjust said...

excellent shiurim on this very interesting topic by r' menachem liebtag of the tanach study centre.

http://www.tanach.org/#shiur11

Benjamin of Tudela said...

Thanks I did not know of his shiur. Its not surprising that we both followed a similar path..we've both changed a very famous Rav Yoel Ben Nun article (Who is also a "gush" rabbi like Rav Libtag). Rav Yoel though goes much much further then either I or Rav Libtag went.