As Ben Shapiro explains in a new video, the story of Hanukkah is not about candles or latkes or dreidels. It is, in fact, about a civil war.
In 198 BCE, Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire took control of the Jewish homeland of Israel, at the time known as Judea.
Antiochus III promised that the Jews wouldn’t have to hand over control of their religious observance to the Greeks and they wouldn’t be forcibly Hellenized (forced to adopt Greek religion or culture). Nonetheless, many Jews decided to imbibe Greek religion.
When Antiochus III died in 187 BC, his son Antiochus IV took over. Unlike his father, he tossed out the Jewish high priest, Onias, who was opposed to Hellenization, and replaced him with Jason, a loyalist to the Greek Empire.
Jason had bribed the king in order to get him to make that move. Jason then wrote a law removing Judaism as the religion of the city.
That was just the beginning.
Antiochus IV then tossed Jason overboard in favor of Menelaus as high priest. Menelaus proceeded to murder Onias, and allowed his brother to steal holy items from the temple. When the Jews arrested Menalaus’ brother, Antiochus IV intervened and set him free in return for more bribes from Menalaus, who then continued promoting Hellenization.
Antiochus IV went to Egypt to fight a war. Rumors reached the Holy Land that he had been killed, so Jason, the previous high priest, tried to lead a revolt, but Antiochus IV returned from war and put it down by force. He then decided to prohibit the Jews from praying in the Temple, keeping Sabbath, performing circumcisions, or studying the Bible.
That is when the Maccabees fought back. Led by Mattisyahu and his son Yehuda (Matthias and Judah), a revolt succeeded in liberating the land and establishing the Hasmonean dynasty, the second kingship after the Davidic line.
Jewish tradition says that when Temple services were reinstituted, there was not enough oil for the menorah, but one day’s worth of oil lasted eight.
Hence the eight days of Hanukkah.
So, what should we learn? First, that when secularism attempts to destroy religion, it must be fought.
Second, sometimes the violation of rights necessitates fighting even our own brethren. Politics matter.
Watch the video below: