Baby Jesus and the Maccabees: A Hanukkah + Christmas Tale
by Bob Schwartz
When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary by touching them. When the Maccabees overcame them and emerged victorious, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. There was sufficient oil to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days.
Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.
“Who are you?” the Maccabees asked.
“I’m Simeon, this is Mary and Joseph, and this baby in my arms is Jesus.”
“What do you think you’re doing in the Temple?”
“It’s a very long story. Manger, shepherds, angels, magi, on and on. The Spirit guided me here, because this child is the Messiah, who will one day perform many miracles.”
“Well, we just had a miracle here. One day of oil has been burning for eight days. That wasn’t him, was it?”
“No, I don’t think he’s performing miracles yet. But soon, I believe.”
“Okay, go ahead and present him to the Lord, as it is prescribed. You’re all welcome to stay a while if you like. You know, we will be celebrating the miracle of the oil for many years to come.”
“Thanks. And I think we will be celebrating this baby for many years too. Happy Hanukkah.”
“Merry Christmas to you.”
מַאי חֲנוּכָּה? דְּתָנוּ רַבָּנַן: בְּכ״ה בְּכִסְלֵיו יוֹמֵי דַחֲנוּכָּה תְּמָנְיָא אִינּוּן דְּלָא לְמִסְפַּד בְּהוֹן וּדְלָא לְהִתְעַנּוֹת בְּהוֹן. שֶׁכְּשֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ יְווֹנִים לַהֵיכָל טִמְּאוּ כׇּל הַשְּׁמָנִים שֶׁבַּהֵיכָל. וּכְשֶׁגָּבְרָה מַלְכוּת בֵּית חַשְׁמוֹנַאי וְנִצְּחוּם, בָּדְקוּ וְלֹא מָצְאוּ אֶלָּא פַּךְ אֶחָד שֶׁל שֶׁמֶן שֶׁהָיָה מוּנָּח בְּחוֹתָמוֹ שֶׁל כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל, וְלֹא הָיָה בּוֹ אֶלָּא לְהַדְלִיק יוֹם אֶחָד. נַעֲשָׂה בּוֹ נֵס וְהִדְלִיקוּ מִמֶּנּוּ שְׁמוֹנָה יָמִים. לְשָׁנָה אַחֶרֶת קְבָעוּם וַעֲשָׂאוּם יָמִים טוֹבִים בְּהַלֵּל וְהוֹדָאָה.
The Gemara asks: What is Hanukkah, and why are lights kindled on Hanukkah? The Gemara answers: The Sages taught in Megillat Ta’anit: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the days of Hanukkah are eight. One may not eulogize on them and one may not fast on them. What is the reason? When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary by touching them. And when the Hasmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. And there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days. The next year the Sages instituted those days and made them holidays with recitation of hallel and special thanksgiving in prayer and blessings.
Talmud, Shabbat 21b
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;d this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeong took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”