A Brief History of Hanukkah

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By David Levy

586px-Hanukkah_menorah,_Russia,_1890,_brass,_National_Museum_of_American_Jewish_HistoryCurious to learn more about where this holiday comes from? Check out these links:

  • The History Channel has a brief summary of the events of the Hanukkah story, with videos.
  • MyJewishLearning.com has a slightly more detailed version of the history, with a focus on where and when different parts of the story were recorded.
  • Ever wonder how Hanukkah became so prominent in the United States? Slate has the answer.
  • A few years ago, scholar Shaye Cohen wrote a provocative op-ed in the Forward suggesting that while the events of the Hanukkah story haven’t changed, our interpretation might.
  • You might know that Hanukkah doesn’t appear in the Bible, but there are several apocryphal books—books considered for but not ultimately included in the Bible—that tell the story. Read them here:
  • Another historical source we have for the Hanukkah story is the writings of Flavius Josephus, a Jew who defected to the side of Rome during the first century, around the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. As to be expected of someone of his stature, there’s a Flavius Josephus Home Page where you can learn all about him and read his writings for free. The bits about Hanukkah appear in Antiquities of the Jews (books 12 and 13).

David Levy is the marketing director of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. From 2010 to 2013, he was editor of JewishBoston.com.

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