Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hanukkah: A Brief Introduction

The superficial story of the Judaic “feast” of Hanukkah (the festival of dedication or lights) is easily summarized. “This eight-day festival begins on the evening of the 24th of Kislev (November/December) and recalls the rededication of the temple in the year 164 B.C., after the sanctuary had been saved from the dangers of desecration and from being taken over by pagans.[1] Each day one more candle is lit on an eight-branched candelabrum called a menorah.[2] A ninth candle, called the shamash (servant), is used to light the others.”

Despite its ostensible antiquity, historically Hanukkah had only minor significance. One Rabbi Sherman Kirschner admits: “Hanukkah is a minor holiday in history. Ancient rabbis gave it little credence. The Talmud, or oral law, makes little mention of it. It is somewhat sad that Hanukkah tends to fall around Christmas, a major holiday for Christians. Many Jews have tried to equalize the importance of Hanukkah and Christmas. There is no way we could ever equate Hanukkah’s minor significance to Christmas’ deep religiosity.”[3]

Another Jewish source elaborates on this point. “It is remarkable that while the Talmud contains an entire tractate devoted to [the Jewish holiday of] Purim, [‘lots’], Hanukkah is not even mentioned in the [Jewish legal treatises comprising the] Mishnah,[4] …The Talmudic discussion begins with the question ma’ee chanukah (‘What is Hanukkah?’), as if the answer were not very well known.”[5]

“Seventy rabbis were discussing various Jewish festivals. They touched on the Sabbath, the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah [the New Year] and Yom Kippur [‘Day of Atonement’], Passover and Sukkot [‘Feast of Tabernacles’], a harvest celebration. When their talk ended, one of the rabbis asked, ‘What about Hanukkah?’ The sixty-nine other religious scholars responded, ‘What is Hanukkah?’”[6]

“The early authorities sensed that the Hasmonean[7] victories had already lost their luster by the Mishnaic period. … It is apparent that the Hasmonean dynasty had lost its glory by the time of the Mishnah, for the last of the Hasmoneans were guilty of the very things their forebears fought against; as a result, Hanukkah was well-nigh forgotten…”.[8]

Hanukkah has essentially been exaggerated, apologetically, in order to offset Jewish envy around Christmastime and, polemically, in order to dilute Christian cultural elements.

“‘Hanukkah is not really important,’ said Rabbi [Celso] Cukierkorn [of Hattiesburg Congregation B’nai Israel]. ‘It’s a festival that became important in America because it coincides with Christmas.’ The gift-giving and decorating widely thought of as central to Hanukkah… are American creations designed to make Jewish children feel included during Christmas, the most important Christian holiday,[9] Cukierkorn said.”[10]

“…Hanukkah falls in winter, usually in December, and its proximity to Christmas gives it a visibility in American culture and a consequence in American Jewish life that are far out of proportion to its minor significance in Jewish religion.”[11]

Additionally, in the opinion of one scholarly skeptic, Hanukkah’s sub rosa significance, communicated esoterically through the image of the menorah, is as a testimony to “the supreme position which the Holy Judaic People occupy in God’s eyes. …The secret of Hanukkah was disclosed by Rabbi Levi Isaac ben Meir of Berdichev (known as ‘the Kedushat Levi’ after his eponymous treatise), an important eighteenth century halachic [legal] authority, who revealed the fact that lighting the Hanukkah menorah does not commemorate the victory of the Biblical Maccabees.

(Michael Hoffman's Judaism Discovered)

“The arcane traditional doctrine of Chazal (‘the [rabbinic] sages of blessed memory’) concerning Hanukkah is that it actually signifies God’s ‘delight in the Jewish people’ themselves, and their vainglorious celebrations. God provided eight days of oil not as a means of facilitating a victory or of guaranteeing the successful completion of a sacred duty, but rather as a sign (halacha osah mitzvah), of His continuing adoration of the Judaic people, which all the rest of us are supposed to emulate, as we in fact do, whenever we allow a menorah to be erected where a nativity scene is banned.”[12]

Further reading:

On Saturn and the Jews, see “Lord of Time“;

On the rainbow and “Star of David” symbolism, see “Water of Fire: On Rainbows and Hexagrams“;

See also “The name ‘Lincoln’ and Judaism“; and

‘Rightwing, Conservative Christian Interests’ Versus ‘Jewish Interests’.”


[1] See 1 Maccabees 4:51-59 and 2 Maccabees 10:1-8.

[2] One “Magick”-enthusiast effused: “Several years ago I discovered that an old Hanukkah Menorah, the nine-branched candelabrum used for the celebration of the Jewish Festival of Lights, makes a great moon-centered item. It has nine branches, the number most often associated with the moon, and a Star of David, the six-pointed star which, although it today symbolizes the Jewish religion, is probably the very oldest symbol of the creator in existence,” Edain McCoy, Magick & Rituals of the Moon, St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2001, p. 28; archived online at <>.

For more on the Jewish/moon connexions, see Matthew J. Bell and Jim Brandon, “Star Trek In Tenebris,” Bell Curve [weblog], Jun. 5, 2013, <>.

Cf. Michael Hoffman, Judaism Discovered, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Independent History & Research, 2008, esp. pp. 237-241, 256ff.

“[Guillaume] Postel [1510-1581], a French mystic, translated into Latin the [Kabbalistic treatises] Zohar and Sefer Yetzirah before they were publicly printed in Hebrew. His translations included mystical annotations of his own theosophic philosophy as applied to kabbalah. His publications also include a Latin commentary (1548) on the mystical symbolism of the menorah, and eventually a Hebrew edition.” Mark Stavish, “Kabbalah and the Hermetic Tradition,” Hermetic [dot] com, <>.

Note that the primary menorah is depicted as seven-branched. This symbolic seven is related to the seven days of creation, the seven planets of alchemy, the seven “lower Sephiroth” of the Kabbalistic “Tree of Life” and the seven “spheres.” Ellen Frankel, Betsy Platkin Teutsch, eds., The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, Lanham, Md.: Jason Aronson; Rowman & Littlefield, 1992, p. 106; archived online at <>.

“The Talmud states that it is forbidden to use a seven-branched menorah outside of the Temple, which is why the modern-day chanukiah [sic] is slightly different.” “The Menorah: Seven Branches or Nine?” United With Israel, Nov. 23, 2015, <>.

“Similar to the seven-branched Temple menorah, but different in origin and function, is the nine-branched Hanukkah menorah, ‘hanukkiah.’ Eight of the branches, originally containing olive oil but now more typically holding candles, represent the miracle that took place at the time of Judah Maccabee, when the only undefiled oil found in the desecrated Temple, a one-day supply, lasted a full eight days. A ninth light, called the shammash (helper), is used to light the other candles, since Jewish law forbids making practical use of the Hanukkah candles,” Frankel, Betsy Platkin Teutsch, eds., loc. cit.

[3] Sherman P. Kirschner, “Hanukkah and Christmas Not Equal,” Baltimore Sun, Dec. 26, 1997, <>.

[4] “In fact, the festival is mentioned several times in the Mishnah. …Taanit 2:10[,] …Moed Katan 3:9[,] …Bava Kama 6:6[, and] Megillah 3-4… Perhaps what Klein means to say is that there is no tractate devoted specifically to Hannukah, and only passing mention of its distinctive Mitzvot – Joshua Heller, ed.,” infra.

[5] Isaac Klein, “The Minor Festivals: Hanukkah,” Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, ch. 16, reproduced online by the Joshua Heller, ed., Jewish Theological Seminary, <>.

[6] Rachel Leifer, “Rabbi – Hanukkah Significance Is Minor,” Hattiesburg American [Hattiesburg, Miss.], Dec. 28, 2005; reproduced online at, <>.

[7]Hasmonean” refers to “the Jewish dynasty established by the Maccabees,” Angus Stevenson, ed., Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd ed., Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press; Clarendon, 2010 , p. 803; archived online at <>.

When, circa 2nd-1st c. B.C., Maccabee family wrested Judea from the Seleucid Empire, they began Hasmonean rule. One of the socio-cultural byproducts of this shift was the decline in Hellenistic Judaism. Hellenism (circa 4th-2nd c. B.C.) had a marked tendency towards religious eclecticism – mixing Greek ideas with Jewish ones. This was apparently repudiated by a group known as the Hasidæans, about which little is known. This party must, however, be carefully distinguished from the later “Hasidim.” Modern “Hasidic Jews” trace themselves back to Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer “Ba’al Shem Tov” (“lord of the good name”), and engage in theurgy (e.g., magical “curses” such as the pulsa denura, “whip of fire”), pagan rites (such as the kiddush ha-levanah, “sanctification of the moon”) and even sexual ceremonies (like Kabbalistic “uniting the Shekinah”). For more on this, including this group’s overtly phallic hermeneutic in which whereby the Rabbinic “sage” or Zaddik is able to “pull” the meaning of texts (whether aggadic, “Jewish stories,” or Biblical) into an erect and fully manifest state – unlike the flaccid and obscured state with which gentiles and Karaites are left, see Hoffman, Judaism Discovered, loc. cit.

Our contemporary "pious ones" are the heirs, through a belt of transmission that includes Merkevah, to the very same pagan, psycho-dramatic rites and symbology with which the Hellenists flirted. And, the Greeks, of course, merely inherited much of the substance of their myrionymous gods and goddesses from Babylon - and Egypt before it.

[8] Klein, loc. cit.; citing Abraham Kahana, Sifrut Hahistoriyah Hayisra’elit, 2 vols., Jerusalem: 1968-1969.

[9] This is factually incorrect. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) gets it right: “Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important Christian festival, and the one celebrated with the greatest joy.” (“Easter,” Religions, British Broadcasting Corporation, Jul. 5, 2011, <>.)

[10] Leifer, loc. cit.

[11] William Scott Green, “Religion and Society in America,” Jacob Neusner, ed., World Religions in America: An Introduction, 4th ed., Westminster; John Knox Press, 2009, p. 414; archived online at <>.

[12] Michael A. Hoffman, “The Hanukkah Hoax,” Revisionist Review [weblog], Dec. 6, 2007, <>.

Cf. Hoffman, Judaism Discovered, op. cit., 2008, p. 916.

1 comment:

  1. Hannukah: Pale Reminder Of Israelite Glory

    Yes, I get it about Hannukah: it's mere pretext of these satanists called Jews to up-stage the stupid Christian goyim--that's the main purpose. But Hannukah is no great thing for the Jews themselves.

    For of course, Hannukah itself doesn't mean too darn much in way of glory as it merely commemorates a bunch of Jew chieftans and bosses who were able to haggle and finagle a kind of fiefdom in btwn Egypt and Syria and w. help of Romans.

    And this Hasmonean "dynasty" was itself mere shaky interlude before the disaster of the first cent. AD and then disastrous Bar Kochba rebellion which removed the Jews definitively fm Palestine for centuries--nearly two millennia, in pt. of fact.

    So the Jews on the one hand want to up-hold the Holyday, "Hannukah," but they don't want the Christians or gentiles to look too closely at it as it's so lacking in grandeur, actually just a shadowy reminder of the old, fading Judean presence in Palestine.