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A Chanukah Heroine

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JewishTreats.org

Have you ever heard of Yehudit (Judith), the daughter of Yochanan the High Priest, who saved her city, Bethulia, from destruction at the hands of the Syrian-Greek general Holofernes?

As the Jews in the town neared starvation due to the enemy siege, Yehudit told the elders that she had a plan to deliver the enemy into their hands, but they must not ask her about it. They must simply have faith in her. Knowing her reputation for wisdom and piety, they agreed.

Accompanied by one maidservant, Yehudit managed to gain an audience with Holofernes and told him that, for the sake of those suffering from the siege, she wanted the city to fall. She proposed to report to him, daily, on the town’s supplies and let him know when was best to strike.

After several days, Yehudit felt that she and her maidservant had gained the trust of the enemy. They came and went as they pleased.

When she told Holofernes that the city had no food left and that it would be good time to strike, he invited her to come alone to his tent to celebrate. She agreed, insisting that he partake of her ‘renowned’ goat-cheese. As he ate the salty cheese, Yehudit quenched his thirst with the heavy wine that she had brought with her. When Holofernes finally fell into a stupor from too much food and drink, Yehudit cut off his head with his own sword. The two women wrapped the head in a cloth and returned to Bethulia.

Yehudit instructed the Jewish elders to attack the Syrian-Greeks immediately.

The Syrian-Greeks soldiers awoke to find the Judeans attacking and their leader mysteriously dead. The Syrian-Greek army fled in confusion and panic.

*This Treat was originally published on December 25, 2008. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand Chanukah.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Judith Wouk says:

    Hi,

    I am very interested in the connection between Judith and Hanukkah, and its sources in Jewish text. Can you tell me the origin of the reference to Judith feeding goat cheese and her own wine to Holofernes? The story of Judith from the (Christian) Apocrypha says only that she brings wine and cheese for herself. Also, the Apocrypha give her a very different genealogy, her father is Merari and the lineage goes back to Simeon and Reuben. Is there a Jewish text that explains this?

    Thanks.

    Sincerely,

    Judith

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