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Judah Maccabee

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Definition: Judah Maccabee is best known as the hero of the Hanukkah story. In the second century B.C.E., Judah Maccabee, also known as Yehuda HaMaccabee and Judas Maccabeus, led the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrians. The success of the revolt is celebrated today by the Hanukkah festival.

When the priest Mattityahu of the Hasmonean family died in 167 B.C.E., he named his son Judah to be the leader of the rebellion. Guerilla warfare was used successfully against the strong Greek-Syrian army. In 165 B.C.E., the Greek-Syrians withdrew to Antioch, the prohibition against the practice of Judaism was annulled, and the Jews regained control of their Temple in Jerusalem. Judah and his followers cleansed and purified the Temple which had been desecrated by the foreigners, and they rededicated it to their One God.

Maccabeus is related to the Aramaic word for hammer, and it is believed Judah was given this name because of his valor as a soldier.

However, the war between the Jews and the Greek-Syrians continued. In 160 B.C.E., Judah died in battle and was buried in Hasmonean family grave in Modiin.

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