Rabbi Yaakov Emden writes in his מור וקציעה seen here, in last paragraph of the second column, that the story of Yehudis had nothing to do with Chanuka and actually happened during the first exile.

What was he basing his comment off of?

This has major ramifications to the argument as to why women are required to light Chanukah lights, as Rabbi Emden addresses there.

  • 2
    – Joel K
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 12:06
  • 1
    The Judith story, itself a retelling of the biblical Jael story, is not in fact the reason women light a Hanukah candle. They light a Hanukah candle because the miraculous victory of the Jews over their oppressors was relevant to all Jews, male and female, who wished to remain faithful to their ancient covenant. The Judith story was used to justify an extra stringency for women to abstain from work while the Hanukah candle burns.
    – user19234
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 19:10
  • @Moshe that's not true. In siman 670 it is used as the reason for them to abstain from work. In siman 675 it is given as the reason they are required to light. See MB there #10.
    – user6591
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 3:50
  • @user6591 Please specify which rabbi says that the only reason women light a Hanukah candle is the story of Judith. Referencing Orah Haim 675 is not specific enough. I checked Jacob ben Asher, Joseph Karo and Moses Isserles in that section and none of these rabbis say this.
    – user19234
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 11:00
  • @Moshe I didn't say only. Nobody says only. Even Rashbam in Pesachim 108 mentioned it as another reason besides their being saved. Look in Mishna Berurah #10 in 675, as I mentioned in my last comment.
    – user6591
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 12:47

1 Answer 1


I tried searching for sources that directly answer this, but haven't managed to find any, which is why the following is a guess. The Yaavetz, as @JoelK commented, likely based his knowledge on Sefer Yehudit, also known as the Book of Judith. This is likely for two reasons:

  1. Sefer Yehudit appears to describe itself as taking place during the Babylonian Exile, though there's a disagreement between scholars as to what sub-era of the exile it was referring to (for a summary of several different views, see Prof. Yehoshua Grintz's introduction to his edition of the book).

  2. The Yaavetz seems to have had intimate knowledge of the Christian canon, which included Yehudit, among other books. One proof of this is right there in his answer, where he mentions that in the Book of the Wars of Chashmonaim, which is most likely either Maccabees I or Maccabees II (and most probable Maccabees I1), women are not described as key factors in the causation of the miracle of Chanukah. Maccabees during the Yaavetz's time had not yet been translated into Hebrew, and it was also part of the Catholic canon. Another piece of evidence is from a letter he sent to the Vaad Arba Aratzot in 17572 in which he references specific chapters in Luke and Matthew (his seemingly respectful mannerism actually hid deep sarcasm, but he clearly knew what he was talking about).

For these reasons, it seems very likely that the Yaavetz had read Yehudit and that was how he reached his conclusions about the time of the tale. It should be noted that Sefer Yehudit is also mentioned in Shalshelet Hakabbalah. He seemed to think that the story took place in the early days of the Greeks and Chazal decided to use it as a basis for eating dairy products on Chanukah, i.e., they decided to remember those events together with events that are directly related to the Chanukah story.

1 Because Maccabees II is basically a biography of Yehudah the Maccabee, whilst Maccabees I describes the campaigns of several leaders from the House of Chashmonai, hence, perhaps, "Wars of Chashmonaim" in plural.

2 Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot, pp. 421-422, compiled by Yisrael Halperin.

  • Is Maccabees different than Megillas Antiochus? Tosafos Rid mentions that some had the custom to read the latter on Chanukah. I assume it was in Hebrew...
    – robev
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 20:53
  • @robev they're different texts. And yes, there was such a custom. I think it goes back at least to the time of the Geonim. Maccabees mostly wasn't read by Jews until the last 190 years or so, when the first Hebrew translation came out.
    – Harel13
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 21:28
  • @robev Megillat Antiochus is not the same as the Book of Maccabees. Megillat Antiochus is much shorter and less in depth. It was also composed during a later period. While Maccabees is thought to have originally been written in Hebrew by an eyewitness and subsequently lost (all we have is the Greek), Megillat Antiochus was written many centuries after the Hasmonean days.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 21:31
  • @Harel13 where do Chazal reference yehudis?
    – torahmike
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 17:50
  • @torahmike some rabbinic sources relating to Judith are cited by Zunz: books.google.ca/…
    – user19234
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 19:18

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