Updated: Dec 26, 2019
The whole story of Hanukkah is about the fight for light – the true light. And when even season-wise the world is at its darkest and coldest due to the absence of light, that is when the miracle of light happened. But as we know the manifestation of the physical is only the result of the spiritual. In the case of Hanukkah, the very survival of the soul was at stake.
Greek in Hebrew
The translation for Greek in Hebrew is Yavan. The Hebrew word Yavan means murky, a murkiness which results from walking in shallow waters. There is a lot to cover regarding this but the most important can be encapsulated in the story of King Talmai (Ptolemy), one of the four kings that rose into power after Alexander the Great, who forced the translation of the Torah into Greek. This resulted into diluting the multi-dimensional universe of Torah embedded within the holy Hebrew letters to a one-dimensional Greek account of the Bible. The moment the Torah was diluted and diminished into a superficial, skin-deep translation; it was more susceptible to corrupted interpretations. This produced fertile ground for what was to happen next.
The Greeks slowly started to pull the noose tighter around the Jewish soul, meticulously and steadily trying to wean the Jewish people off their beliefs. For the Greeks it was all about a state of mind, a philosophy. They wanted to disconnect head from heart, by focusing on the material and physical beauty and indulge in the joys and pleasures it brought.
But when they saw that these enticements were unsuccessful, they decided to gut out the Jewish faith at its source. After prohibiting the core connections of Shabbat, circumcision and the sanctification of the new months, they went for the big one – the Temple. They ultimately defiled the holiest of places by sacrificing a pig to Zeus on the altar and bringing its blood into the Holy of Holies.
What is not that well known in the Hanukkah battle is the story of the “Acra”, a massive structure that was built in the middle of the ancient city. It is a known fact that fortifications are built along the borders or peripheral walls of a city to keep the enemy out. So why would one of ancient times most feared and wicked warlords build a massive stronghold in the middle of the city?
Perhaps he didn’t build it to keep unwanted guests out. Maybe he was trying to separate someone from something. Whoever that someone was, he must have been a frightening opponent, because the wicked dictator built quite a daunting structure.
You can almost hear the "Acra" in the more well-known word Acropolis, which was the upper fortified area of a Greek city. The discovery of the massive fortification places the Acra south of the Temple Mount, in the centre of the City of David – Ancient Jerusalem, spreading its colossal self over the width of the whole southern hill, placing it in the neck between the city and Temple Mount - severing the ancient city from Temple Mount. The ancient Greek stronghold was built by Antiochus the Wicked, also known as Antiochus IV Epiphanes – Greek for “god made manifest”.
“...and when he had overthrown the city walls, he built a citadel [Greek: Acra] in the lower part of the city, for the place was high, and overlooked the temple; on which account he fortified it with high walls and towers, and put into it a garrison of Macedonians.”
— Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 12:252–253
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Sight and vision play a significant role in Judaism. King David wrote:
"I have set the L-RD always before me"
As part of the Shema we are constantly reminded,
“and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray”
The Bible also says that Abraham called the name of the place where the Binding of Isaac took place, the very place where the Temple would later be built, "Hashem Yireh". The verse goes on:
'In the mount where the L-rd is seen"
The Acra was built by Antiochus IV in order to control Jerusalem and monitor activity in the Temple. But it simultaneously accomplished something far worse. Severing the city from Temple mount caused the inhabitants to lose focus on that which was most important, G-d’s House – like the famous saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. The Acra hosted Antiochus’ loyal followers amongst the Jews, the Hellenists.
“And they built the City of David with a great and strong wall, and with strong towers, and made it a fortress [Greek: Acra] for them: And they placed there a sinful nation, wicked men, and they fortified themselves therein.”
— 1 Maccabees 1:35–38
Other writings describe the Acra as a thorn in the flesh of the Jewish inhabitants of the City of David, as Jews who joined the wicked ruler as Hellenists, mocked their fellow "narrow-minded" Jews for "suffering" from their outdated religious traditions.
The etymology of the Greek word “Helen” is connected to illumination or a torch to rally towards. The Jews who welcomed the fresh “open-minded” Greek approach saw themselves as the “enlightened ones”.
The problem was that this was absolute darkness posing as light. Science and philosophy, together with the focus on deifying the flesh, severed the soul from its source. Science and philosophy can only serve and prove the Torah, but never surpass it. The moment you separate and elevate these above Torah, you lose your footing in this world, subsequently throwing the channel of blessing in your life out of alignment.
This tainted misalignment has immobilized the world till today.
Their Fight Then - Your Fight Now
With the active practice of G-d’s eternal covenant being denied and thus the very survival of the Jewish soul hanging by a thread, together with the Temple defiled and severed from the city, the Maccabees, took up arms and liberated the Temple. Remember that the Maccabees were priests, not soldiers. They were men of peace, like their father Aharon, serving in the Temple on Temple Mount, a place commanded to be void of aggression in any shape or form. Still they understood that peace itself is a force and reclaiming it, sometimes requires a zealous battle.
The Ancient Jerusalem bears witness to these battles. Pottery and arrowheads from the Hasmonean revolt found during the excavations, attested to the fierce battles that took place around the Acra and Temple Mount area.
Sometimes when you have to fight for your soul, the fight is physical. Sometimes when you have to fight for your physical life, the fight is spiritual.
After an intense and fierce battle to liberate the Temple, the place where heaven and earth “kisses” according to our Jewish sages – they were rewarded with one small flask of pure oil to light the Menorah. The flask would last them a mere day.
What about the other seven days that it would take to render new pure oil? Did G-d not consider the very laws He laid down?
Just Light It
G-d knows the rules. He made them. He also knows where you are at. Your absolute surrender and final (oil) press of pure faith will allow Him to help you not only finish the seven (days), but to carry you beyond the physical (represented by seven) and transform you to enter the eighth (the next level, the next phase of your life’s journey).
What seems as an unfair miscalculation from His side, might be the very catalyst to catapult you to a higher spiritual level.
Do not allow the enemy to lure you away into the mundane until you become completely despondent. Don’t get caught in the murky waters of philosophies and sciences devoid and disconnected from Torah. Don’t get stuck in skin-deep rootless religious narratives, and never lose sight of G-d’s House – the nucleus of His governance in this world.
Fight for the light. Fight with the Light. Be the light.
We have eight days of Divine Light coming our way. Eight days to draw down miracles. Eight candles to light.
Just light them.
And let one of your requests be for the complete restoration of Zion, the Ancient Biblical Jerusalem. That she will ultimately become a Praise to the Earth. And soon we will celebrate Hanukkah (Hebrew for Dedication) in a whole new light that will shine forth from Zion.
And so, the Maccabees came and freed the Temple from the despicable Grecian practices, ultimately overthrowing the Greeks and rededicated it for holy service. The END! Not quite.
The Acra still stood, defiantly eclipsing Temple Mount. And the Hellenist inhabitants still carried on with their disgraceful ways for another 20 years. Shimon, the Maccabee finally got the upper hand over the wicked stronghold after a long besiegement. It took him another three years to raze the Acra to the ground.
There is a lesson here to be learned: subduing the enemy is not enough. The war is only won once the enemy’s stronghold is dismantled. This part might not be as fierce or intense as the initial confrontation, but it usually takes more time and dedication to accomplish. And perhaps this is where the true test lies, because only then can you reach the original foundations of integrity, restore them and inhabit them with Light.
Listen to our Podcast on Hanukkah below: