10 Facts About Yehudah the Maccabee
One of the greatest warriors in Jewish history
1. Yehudah the Maccabee was born in Modi’in, in the Judean Hill region in the year 161 B.C.E. He was the third of Matityahu the Hashmonai’s five sons; this was during the time of the second Temple.
2. At that time, Antiochus IV wanted to forcefully impose the Greek culture onto the people of Israel. He prohibited them from studying Torah, observing the Sabbath and performing circumcisions.
3. Matityahu the Hashmonai decided to rebel. But a year later, before his death, he passed the leadership to his son Yehudah. The symbol of their rebellion was:
Mi Kamocha Ba’elim Hashem (Who is like You among the mighty, O God? LOOKUP); the acronym for which is "Maccabee".
4. Under Yehudah’s leadership, the Maccabees fought the Greeks by using ambush tactics. In one of those ambushes, the Maccabees launched a surprise attack on Apollonius's army and destroyed it.
5. Following the attack, Antiochus sent general Sirion, whose army was twice the size of Apollonius's army. This posed as a threat to the Maccabees.
6. Yehudah lifted the spirit of the Maccabees and encouraged them by saying:” They place their faith in their numbers in order to destroy us…but we will defend ourselves and fight for our lives and our Torah. Therefore, do not fear and do not be intimidated by them, for G-d will destroy them before our very eyes.”
7. The Maccabees surprised Sirion’s army too, and ambushed the Greeks in a passageway near Beit Horon where they won the battle. General Sirion was killed by Yehudah.
8. In the battle of Emmaus in Latrun, the Maccabees fought against the mighty army of Gorgias. The Maccabees simulated an escape and surprised Gorgias at his military base, where they became frightened by his mighty army.
9. Yehudah turned to the Maccabees, and said the following words of encouragement to them: “Remember our ancestors who were saved by G-d on the Red Sea when Pharaoh was chasing them with his riders and their chariots. Let us rise up and call out to Hashem our G-d and let us ask Him to extend His mercy and compassion towards us and remember the covenant that He made with our forefathers and May He destroy this entire army that’s standing here before us.”
10. The Maccabees demonstrated their power in this battle too. This encouraged other Jews to join forces with Yehudah and submit to his leadership. The Maccabees turned their attention to freeing Jerusalem. They purified the Temple, and when they witnessed the miracle of the oil cruse they established the Festival of Chanukah.