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What Is Chanukah?

December 13, 2010

SHABBAT SERMON – DECEMBER 4, 2010
RABBI MITCHELL WOHLBERG

What Was Chanukah … What Is Chanukah?

It has got to be the strangest of all the questions asked in the Talmud. It is a question that has to do with Chanukah. And the truth is, people are still arguing over the correct answer; an argument that threatens to tear Israel apart.

The Talmud asks: “Mai Chanukah? What is Chanukah?” What do you mean, “What is
Chanukah?” Everyone knows what Chanukah is! Until the 6th century even Christians were celebrating the great Maccabeean victory. The Talmud doesn’t ask: What is Purim? … or what is any other festival? And our problem with the question is compounded by the fact that in regard to Purim – our other rabbinic festival – there is an entire tractate of the Talmud dedicated to explaining it. When it comes to Chanukah the whole holiday is explained in one paragraph. And to make matters even worse, the whole Maccabeean victory isn’t even mentioned in the answer. READ MORE

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