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The Chanukah Story


I am contacting you for clarification in the Chanuka Story timeline. As an Orthodox Jew, I have and still believe that the reason we celebrate the Yom Tov of Chanuka is because of the war that the Chashmonaim fought and won against the Syrian Greeks and the miracle of the oil lasting 8 days. However, I recently listened to a podcast titled “Maccabean Revolt” by where they explained the sequence of events differently. They explained that even though the Jews did revolt against Antiochus IV, only after Antiochus V took over in 164 BCE and repealed the laws of his father did the Jews finally return to the Temple and remove the idols. And on the 25th of Kislev of 164 BCE the Jews rededicated the Temple and had an 8 day Holiday.

As these two stories seem very conflicting, I would appreciate if you could clarify for me the topic.


First of all, let me observe that the picture that most Orthodox Jews have of the events is much less complex than what we can gather from the books of 1 Maccabees and 1 Maccabees. These are two divergent accounts of the events that do not always agree. It is important to realize that the sequence that you learned is basically that of 1 Maccabees where the temple is purified while Antiochus IV is still alive. The other sequence of events is that of 2 Maccabees. Probably the podcast you heard prefers 2 Maccabees because virtually all historians accept the notion that an internal Jewish struggle over Hellenization preceded the persecution. This is a picture derived from 2 Maccabees, whereas 1 Maccabees simply starts with the persecution. My summary and reconstruction of the events can be found here.
Do not be confused by the typo. The one who dies at the beginning is Ant III and he is succeeded by IV.

Qumran Tefillin


I was doing some research in the subject of the “shin of tefillin”. I know that you studied well the tefillin from Qumran so i thought you would be able to help me with this.

Yigal Yadin in his book “Tefillin from Qumran” writes: In the capsule before us there can be seen, on both sides, the four protrusions of the compartments forming three grooves perpendicular to the seam of the strap-passage, in the shape of a ש. This may be the source of the law : ‘Abaye also said, the shin of the tefillin is a law given to Moses at Sinai’.

It seems like he understands that the shin is formed through the three grooves of the four capsules (בתים) and like we do nowadays. However, i don’t understand what he saw in the Qumran tefillin (more than our modern tefillin) to support the idea that the shin is formed naturally through the grooves between the capsules?

From your study of the Qumran tefillin, how can they shed light on the shin of the tefillin (or perhaps its evolution) and what can we learn from it?


Prof. Yadin was trying to find the shin in some way on the ancient Tefillin he was examining. It is true that the shel rosh of Qumran Tefillin has four compartments and four parchments as does the modern head Tefillin, hence the appearance he described. Remember that the Tefillin at Qumran are about 3/8 in.square (as they wore them all the time), and most are preserved in horrendous condition. Dr. Yonatan Ariel and there may be better results in the future. However, as far as I know, there is no evidence for the shin  in the limited published evidence.

One Response to Q&A

  • Mordechai says:

    Dear Prof. Schiffman,

    I have recently begun to look into the area of archeology and the Torah after having been challenged by atheists. Some of what I have found, or should I say, did not find has left me troubled. I am a person of faith and I believe the Torah is the word of God. But I also seek evidence and truth. In particular, I am somewhat troubled by the relative lack of corroborating evidence for the Jews in Egypt, for the lack an any archeological evidence in the Sinai, especially at Kadesh Barnea where they are said to have encamped for many years, and I’m also troubled by some of the anachronisms in the Torah. I’ve been reading Finkelstein’s book, the Bible Unearthed, and this has damaged my faith. I wish to find evidence that would tend to support the Torah and I am curious if you could offer me any answers? Thank you for your time.

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