Project Genesis

The Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath)


Torah Source for Chanukah

Question: When did the celebration of Chanukkah begin? Is it in the Torah? If so, what portion of the Torah is the story located?

Answer: The celebration of Chanukah occurred too late chronologically to be included in the canon of the Bible. Therefore, the story of Chanukah cannot be found in any portion of the Torah or in any Book of the Bible as a whole.

The actual miracle of the jar of oil which lasted 8 days occurred in the year 165 B.C.E when the Hasmoneans were able to reclaim the Temple from the Seleucids (Greeks). The celebration of Chanukah began in the next year (164 B.C.E) when the Rabbis proclaimed a Holiday to commemorate the obvious divine intervention.

Interestingly, the actual battle between the Hasmoneans and the Seleucids continued for another 25 years until the year 140 B.C.E when the Hasmoneans declared victory and installed themselves as rulers of Israel.

While there is certainly no direct mention of the Chanukah Holiday in the Torah, Nachmanides notes that it is alluded to at the beginning of the Torah Portion of B’ha’lotcha which is found in the Book of Numbers. G-d commands Aaron the High Priest to light the Menorah of the Temple each and every day and that Aaron and his the descendants, the Priests are put in charge of the Menorah. Nachmanides notes that the fact that the Menorah was put in the charge of the Priests hints to the Chanukah story as the Hasmoneans, the heroes of the Chanukah story and the miracle of the Menorah, were all descendants of Aaron.

Be well,
Rabbi Yoel Spotts

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