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Chana and Her Seven Sons
(From the Book of Maccabees, II,7)

(See also Tractate Gittin 75b)

King Antiochus of Syria wanted to demonstrate his mastery over his Jewish subjects. He wanted to prove that he could overcome their stubbornness and force them to worship idols and eat the meat of pigs.

A Jewish mother and her seven sons were arrested and brought before mad Antiochus. The king ordered that they be whipped and beaten until they ate the unclean meat. The oldest brother said, "Are you trying to test us? We are ready to die for the G-d of our ancestors!"

Antiochus was enraged. He ordered that the boy be burned and dismembered; tortured with unspeakable barbarism until he died. Mother and brothers looked on in horror and encouraged one another to remain brave and firm.

One after another, Antiochus brought the boys before him and ordered them to eat. And one after another they defied him and proclaimed their loyalty to the Living G-d.

"You can take from us only mortal life, but G d will make us live again."

"We are ready to die at the hands of man, but never to deny our trust in Hashem"

"Do as you please with us, but never doubt that when the time comes, Hashem will punish you and raise up His people, Israel."

"Don't think that your might sustains you. We are punished for our sins just as you will too for yours."

Finally, all were dead except for the youngest, barely more than an infant. Even the sadistic Antiochus felt a twinge of pity for the child and he spoke to him softly, warmly.

"Listen, my child. Eat the meat and I swear to you that you will be wealthy and comfortable for the rest of your life."

The child refused and Antiochus saw that he was being defeated. Mighty king he was! Ruler of half the civilized world he was! But he couldn't impose his will on even a child. He was being humiliated. He couldn't allow the little boy to defy him. Antiochus called Chanah to him.

“You saw six of your sons die in terrible pain. He is your last and it is up to you to save him. Convince him to eat the meat and both of you will be rewarded, I swear it."

Chanah went to her last little boy. "Look at the sky and the earth, my son, and remember Who made them from nothing. Do not fear this murderer. Be worthy of your martyred brothers."

The child looked at Antiochus and cried out. "What are you waiting for? I won't listen to you; I obey only the Torah. You will not escape the wrath of Hashem our G-d just as we have not escaped it. All your arrogance and foolish pomp will do you no good when you are judged by Hashem."

Antiochus flew into a rage far beyond any before. He ordered that the little boy be tortured more severely than any of the others. The child died. So did Chanah.

But the story of their bravery inspired Jews throughout the country. The rebellion came not long after.


To return to where you left the Chanukah Story - Click Here.

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