From the Apocrypha: 1 Maccabes 1:41-49
Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people,And every one should leave his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king. Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the Sabbath. For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Juda that they should follow the strange laws of the land and forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days and pollute the sanctuary and holy people: Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine's flesh, and unclean beasts :That they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation: To the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances.
From the Apocrypha: 2 Maccabes 10:1-6
Now Maccabeus and his company, the Lord guiding them, recovered the temple and the city: But the altars which the heathen had built in the open street, and also the chapels, they pulled down.And having cleansed the temple they made another altar, and striking stones they took fire out of them, and offered a sacrifice after two years, and set forth incense, and lights, and shewbread. When that was done, they fell flat down, and besought the Lord that they might come no more into such troubles; but if they sinned any more against him, that he himself would chasten them with mercy, and that they might not be delivered unto the blasphemous and barbarous nations.Now upon the same day that the strangers profaned the temple, on the very same day it was cleansed again, even the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which is Kislev.And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of Succot
Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b
What is the reason for Chanukah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth day of Kislev the eight days of Chanukah begin, during which lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient [oil] for one day's lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit the lamp therewith for eight days. The following year these days were declared a Festival with the recitation of Hallel (hymns of praise) and thanksgiving."
Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b
"Our Rabbis taught: The precept of Chanukah demands - one light for a man and his household, the zealous - kindle a light for each member of the household, and the extremely zealous - the school of Shammai maintains: On the first night eight lights are lit and thereafter they are gradually reduced, but the school of Hillel maintain: On the first day one is lit and thereafter they are progressively increased.., the reason of Beit Shammai is that it shall correspond to the days to come and that of Beit Hillel is that it shall correspond to the days that are gone...
Maimonides the Laws of Chanukkah, ch. 3 Halachah 3
"It is because of this that the Sages of that generation ruled that these eight days, beginning on the twenty fifth of Kislev, should be days of joy and praise, and candles are lit each evening in the doorway of the home, in order to show and reveal the miracle"
Al Ha-Nissim (recited in the Amidah and Birkat Ha-Mazon Prayers)
"[We thank you] for the miracles and for the salvation and for the mighty deeds and for the victories and for the battles which you performed for our forefathers in those days at this time. In the days of Mattityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean, and his sons - when the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against your people Israel to make them forget your Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of your will - you in your great mercy stood up for them in the time of their distress. You took up their grievance, judged their claim, and avenged their wrong. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of your Torah. For Yourself, You made a great and holy name in Your world, and for Your people Israel You worked a great victory and salvation as this very day. Thereafter, Your children came to the Holy of Holies of Your House, cleansed your Temple, purified the site of Your holiness and kindled lights in the courtyards of Your sanctuary; and they established these eight days of Chanukah to express thanks and praise to Your great name."
From the text recited during the lighting of the Chanukah candles
These lights we light because of the miracles, the wonders, the salvations, and the battles which you performed for our forefathers in those days at this season through your holy priests. During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but only to observe them, in order to express thanks and praise to your great name for your miracles, your wonders and your salvations."
Maoz Tzur, sung after lighting the Chanukah candles. It describes events in Jewish history including the Exodus, destruction of the First Temple, Purim and Chanukah
Rabbi David ben Avudraham, 14th century commentary on the Siddur
"Why do we light candles [on Chanukah]? Because during the time of the Second Temple, the Greeks decreed laws against the Jews forbidding the learning of Torah and observing of Mitzvot. They, furthermore entered the Temple and desecrated it and the oils that were there. Finally, the Creator, may He be blessed, had pity on [the Jews] and the Hasmoneans overpowered and defeated [the Greeks] on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. Therefore, this holiday is called Chanukah, meaning "Chanu" - they rested, on "kah"- the 25th, of Kislev. (the numerical value of the letter "caf' and "Heh" spelling "kah" is 25)"
The 3 quotes below are taken from "The Art of Jewish Living: Chanukkah" by Dr Ron Wolfson
I grew up in Chicago in a not very Jewish neighborhood. I remember feeling that if I sang ‘Silent Night” that I was absolutely giving up my Jewish identity. I felt it was a major sin arid I felt like I betrayed the Jewish people.
It’s so tough to see all the hoopla around Christmas and not want to be part of it. I remember wanting Christmas as a child, even though I knew it wasn’t rnine and I couldn’t have it. My mother distanced us from Christmas to make it easier on us. Now that I am doing the same, I can appreciate how helpful it is.
We have some close friends who live a block away. They are Christian and we go to their house usually every Christmas and I help them decorate their Christmas tree and we have a party with them. We recognize that it is just a way of helping them celebrate. I dori’t think there is ariything wrong with helping them sing Christmas carols or trimming their tree..., they come to our house on Chanukah and they bring us Hanukkah presents. They come to our seders and to our sukkah, too.
Gidon Elad in "The Chanukah Kit"
The miracle of Chanukah is the ability of the Jewish people to survive as a people and to preserve age old customs arid traditions which are constantly challenged by “new” and more “modern” ways of living.
Natan Sharansky, The Jerusalem Post 30th December 1993
Arkady was the only Jew I ever shared a cell with in the gulag. We celebrated Chanukah together in Christopol prison in 1980, lighting pieces of wax paper we had stashed away fro months and hoping they would last long eonugh for us to say the prayers over them.
US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, from his ruling in the case of County of Allegheny v. ACLU (1989)
The tradition of giving Chanukah gelt [money] has taken on greater importance because of the temporal proximity of Chanukah to Christmas. Indeed, some have suggested that the proximity to Christmas accounts for the social prominence of Chanukah in this country. Whatever the reason, Chanukah is observed by ... Jews to an extent greater extent than its religious importance would indicate: In the hierarchy of holidays, Chanukah rates very low in its religious significance. The socially hightened status of Chanukah reflects its cultural or secular dimension.
The Shalom Hartman Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies: Rabbinic Responses to History as mirrored in Chanukah and Purim
The major question which we must ponder on Chanukah is whether the Jewish people can develop a profound personal identity that will enable it to meet the outside world without feeling threatened or intimidated. The choice need not be ghettoization or assimilation.
Can we absorb from others without being smothered? Can we appreciate and assimilate that which derives from “foreign” sources while at the same time feel firmly anchored to our particular frame of reference?
Chanukah is a time to reflect on such questions. How we answer them will influence our priorities, the types of families and institutions we build and the character of the leaders we train.
Also on the WUJS site:
Chanukah Sources: Historical, traditional, and contemporary.
Chanukah Recipes: Yum!
How to light the Chanukah Menorah
This year's dates for Chanukah can be found in our WUJS Year Mapper.