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Chana's 7 Sons

May 9, 2009 | by Shimon Apisdorf

The story of Chana and her seven sons is one of the most heartrending in all of Jewish history.

At the time of the Maccabees, the Greeks tried to humiliate the Jews, to crush their spirits, and to tear them away from Judaism.

Chana and her seven sons were brought before King Antiochus.

Antiochus fancied himself to be a deity and had statues made of himself. One by one he ordered Chana's sons to acknowledge his godliness by bowing down to an idol of himself.

The first son, the oldest, refused to bow down and acknowledge any power other than that of God. For his refusal he was slowly and brutally tortured in front of his mother and brothers. Then his dismembered body was cooked in a large pot.

One by one, each one of the brothers refused the king's command. Chana watched the butchering of her six oldest sons.

Finally, when it came to her youngest son, Antiochus promised him riches and honor if he would agree to bow down. But he too refused. Giving the young child one last chance, Antiochus approached Chana and said that as a show of mercy he would give her some time to speak to her last remaining son to persuade him to spare himself by bowing down to the statue.

Chana took her son aside, kissed him gently and said, "My son, listen carefully to my words: I carried you for nine months, nursed you for two years and have fed and cared for you up to this very day. To the best of my ability I have taught you about God and the Torah. Do not exchange your commitment and loyalty to Judaism for the fleeting offerings of a king who will soon perish himself..."

With that, Chana watched her seventh son go to his death.

Chana stood by the heaped bodies of her sons. She prayed for three things:

• for the souls of her children

• for the strength of the Jewish people

• to be taken by God rather than be killed by the Greeks

As Chana finished her prayer, she breathed her last breath and fell dead beside her children.

It is the loyalty and courage of great Jewish women like Chana who have perpetuated our precious heritage and inspires us until today.

Adapted from "Chanukah - Eight Nights of Light, Eight Gifts for the Soul"


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