A woman named Yehudit (Judith) played an important part in the story of Chanukah.
Shulchan Aruch (Lit. 'The set table') [Orach Chaim 670 - the authoritative Code of Jewish Law], states: "There are those who say that we have the custom to eat cheese on Chanukah to commemorate the miracle when Judith fed cheese to the enemy."
Yehudit's story describes the heroism and determination of a woman fighting
for her nation's freedom.
Yehudit was an exceptionally beautiful woman. She asked to be introduced to
the Syrian-Greek General Halifornus, who was impressed with her beauty and
wisdom. At their meeting, she offered him very salty aged cheese and
strong wine which she brought with her. The salty cheese made him very
thirsty and he drank much wine which put him into a deep sleep.
With a silent prayer on her lips asking Hashem for strength, she beheaded him
with his own sword, placed his head into a basket, and returned with it to
Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). The Macabees placed Halifornus' head on a pole. When his
soldiers saw that their general was dead, they became frightened and ran
away. Thus, Yehudit contributed greatly to the victories of the Macabees.
To commemorate the heroism of Yehudit, many women refrain from working
while the Chanukah candles remain lit. Some have a custom to eat cheese on
Chanukah in remembrance of Yehudit's brave act which came about as a result
of serving Halifornus cheese.
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