Tuesday, Kislev 24, 5772 / December 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011, Jews all over the world will welcome the holiday of Hanukkah with the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle.

Q. The heroes of Hanukkah are the Macabees. What does "Macabee" stand for? 

A. Macabee is an acronym for the four words, "Mi Kamocha Ba'elim Ado-nei" - "Who is like You among the heavenly powers O' God".   This was on their banner while waging war against their enemies. 

Q.   What were the names of the Macabees?

A.   Matisyahu, who was head of the priestly Chashmonai family, was the leader of the Macabees. Together with his five sons, Yochanan, Shimon, Yehudah, Elazar and Yonatan, they led the revolt against the occupying forces of the Greek-Syrian armies.

Q.   What happened to Matisyahu's five sons?

A.   Sadly, none of Matisyahu's children died a natural death. Yehudah and Eleazar were killed in battle. Yochanan was murdered. Yonatan was tricked into attending a meeting with the Syrians and then murdered. Shimon was killed by his own son-in-law, the governor of Jericho, to please the Syrians. 
          In all, the Chashmonaim led Israel for approximately 100 years. Herod then killed every member of the House of the Chashmonaim so that he could claim the throne of Judea. Our sages say that the Macabees were wrong to become the rulers of Israel. It should have been given back to the House of David to whom it rightfully belonged.

Q.   Were there any women involved in the miracle of Hanukkah?

A.   Yes. A woman named Yehudit played an important part in the story of Hanukkah. Yehudit's story describes the heroism and determination of a woman fighting for her nation's freedom.

          Yehudit was an exceptionally beautiful woman. She asked to be introduced to the Syrian General Helifornos, who was impressed with her beauty and wisdom. At their meeting, she offered him very salty aged cheese and strong wine which she brought with her. The salty cheese made him very thirsty and he drank much wine which put him into a deep sleep. With a silent prayer on her lips asking God for strength, she beheaded him with his own sword. Thus, Yehudit contributed greatly to the victories of the Macabees. To commemorate her heroism many women refrain from working while the Hanukkah candles remain lit.