Just a short post today, wrapping up our Hanukkah blogging for the year. I thought it would be nice to show one more connection between Hanukkah, the dedication of the Temple and Sukkot.
When Solomon dedicated the altar of the First Temple, it appears he did so for the seven days leading up to Sukkot. (2 Chronicles 8-10.) Perhaps, this was the reason the Jews who defeated the Hellenists chose to celebrate Sukkot upon reclaiming the Temple. Those Jews might have dedicated the altar for eight days (instead of seven) because they blended Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret together to form one, continuous eight-day event.
During my undergraduate years at the University of California, San Diego, I once asked the rabbi at the university’s Hillel about the connection between Hanukkah and Sukkot. She explained that prior to the Maccabean Revolt, the Temple had been in possession of the Hellenists for some time and that the Jews were unable to celebrate many holidays in the Temple. She added that one explanation as to why the Jews celebrated Sukkot (as opposed to other holidays) relates to the significance of Sukkot, an agricultural holiday, to ancient Israel, an agricultural society.
As a final note on Hanukkah, check out the Tanach’s description of Solomon’s dedication of the altar and the reference to that dedication that appears in the Second Book of the Maccabees.
Solomon’s Dedication of the Temple’s Altar:
“As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the Temple. . . At that time Solomon held the feast for seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly . . . . And on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly, for they had kept the dedication of the altar seven days and the feast seven days. On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he [i.e., Solomon] sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the Lord had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people.” (2 Chronicles 7:1, 7:8-10 [English Standard Version].)
[Editor’s Note: 8:17 a.m. (pacific): Another account of Solomon’s dedication of the Temple and its proximity to Sukkot appears in 1 Kings 8:65. In the book of Kings, it appears that the celebration was 14 days in total, seven for the dedication of the altar and seven for Sukkot.]
Maccabean Reference to Solomon:
“And as when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the sacrifices: even so prayed Solomon also, and the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offerings.” (2 Mac 2:10 [Published by J.M. Dent & Co.].)
[As I did in the previous post, I note that Karaites do not hold the Books of the Maccabees to be holy.]