Jerusalem invites Alexandria to celebrate Hanukah
IN the year 165 B.C.E., on the 25th Kislev, after the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the Syrian army, the Jews gathered in the delivered Jerusalem to celebrate for eight days the rededication of the Temple which had been defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes, the feast of Hanukah, with lighting of lamps, with sacrifices, processions, music and songs. The feast was instituted as an annual celebration for all Israel and for all time, to commemorate the event. The Maccabees attributed to the new festival also a revivalist power which might contribute to the Messianic redemption.
Two letters prefixed to the Second Book of the Maccabees tell of two attempts made by Jerusalem to bring about the participation of the Jews of Alexandria in the feast. There is a sharp difference of opinion among scholars about the authenticity of these letters. But many authorities and strong arguments justify the inclusion of these rare documents in the history of Jewish letter-writing. Among those who assert their genuineness, H. Graetz regards the Greek wording as a translation from Hebrew originals, while modern critics maintain that the originals were written in Greek or Aramaic.
The letter addressed, according to 2 Macc. I. 10-36; II. 1-18, by Judas Maccabeus and the whole people of Jerusalem to Aristobulus, the Jewish philosopher and poet, who stood high in favour of King Ptolemy Philometer, is believed to have been sent to Alexandria either on the occasion of the first Hanukah or before its first repetition. Strangely enough, the recent victory is mentioned only in brief words, while various legends about the preservation of the sacred fire and the news about the restored Jerusalem library are told in detail. The authors of the epistle were apparently more concerned to assert in this way their assumption that Jerusalem had become again the centre of the whole Jewish world, than to glorify the military achievements.