We all know about the miracle of the single cruse of oil that miraculously lasted eight days. What most of do not know is that the whole story is a fairy tale made up generations after the Hanukkah story took place. It never happened and no contemporaneous source makes any claim that such a miracle took place.
We're just about to begin day three of the eight day Hanukkah celebration – a holiday virtually all of us celebrate for the wrong reasons.
We all know about the miracle of the single cruse of oil that miraculously lasted eight days.
What most of do not know is that the whole story is a fairy tale made up generations after the Hanukkah story took place. It never happened and no contemporaneous source makes any claim that such a miracle took place.
Instead, the fairy tale became party of the rabbis' justification for celebrating a holiday that, a) did not feature them in any way and, b) featured a family that became well-known Hellenists (and therefore enemies of Rabbinic Judaism).
Understand Hanukkah for what it actually is and for what actually took place:
1. Rural mountain people from small villages objected to what they saw as the new ways of the city people who were cozying up to the Land of Israel's Syrian-Greek occupiers.
2. The city people generally cared little for the rural mountain people.
3. Some city people were Hellenists. Many others were not.
4. Into this seething mix and for reasons that no one really knows, the Syrian-Greeks suddenly imposed a series of draconian laws and regulations that limited the free practice of Judaism as we now understand it. (One can speculate that the rural mountain people sparked this crackdown by their behavior, but this is not by any means a historical certainty.)
5. The rural mountain people under the leadership of the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) launched a rebellion and, eventually, drove the Syrian-Greeks out of Jerusalem and out of the Jew's Holy Temple.
6. But the Hasmoneans' liberation of the Temple took place weeks after they thought it would, missing what they hoped – and had promised – would be the liberation of the Temple in time for the 8 day Sukkot holiday.
7. When they finally liberated the Temple weeks after Sukkot, they held an 8 day Sukkot makeup-Temple liberation celebration.
8. When the next year rolled around and the people celebrated the first anniversary of the liberation of the Temple, they celebrated for 8 days, mimicking the first celebration.
9. As long as the Hasmoneans ruled, the people celebrated the liberation of the Temple with an annual 8 day holiday which became known as the Festival of Light.
10. As Rabbinic Judaism grew from a small sect to a major player, it had to deal with this extra-biblical holiday that celebrated a military victory by people who were not part of the Rabbinic sect – a victory in which the proto-rabbis (the probably mythological rabbis who supposedly existed in the 150 or so years preceding, roughly, 50 BCE) played no known role.
11. There were no open miracles. Lots of Jews – including a large chunk of the Maccabee family – died during that war.
12. After the Hasmoneans lost power and the Roman's took control of the Land of Israel, the rabbis began to take control of the celebration of the Hasmonean victory, gradually adding to it the story of the 'miracle' of the cruse of oil, and eventually made the holiday their own – in part by keeping contemporaneous writings by Hasmonean supporters out of what would become the Biblical canon.
13. As people were further and further in time from the actual Hanukkah events and the writings of the people involved were lost to Jews, the stories the rabbis taught replaced actual memory and fact, and Hanukkah as we now know it was born.