On this Shabbat of Hanukkah, the material is about the book of Judith. Judith exists only in Greek although it was originally written in Hebrew in the Land of Israel in the late 2nd century BCE. It was translated into Greek by the Jewish community of Alexandria and included in their Bible the Septuagint. It thus survived when the Septuagint was adopted by the Christian Church as the official text of the “Old Testament.” The book is a historical novel about a beautiful, rich and pious widow, Judith who saves her people from the Assyrians. It has many literary elements and antecedents with female heroes from the Hebrew Bible like Esther, Jael and Deborah. It was written at a time when descendants if the Maccabees, the Hasmonean, kings ruled the Land of Israel. It is meant to evoke the Maccabean revolt in the miracle of Judith’s ability to trick the Assyrians and assassinate the general Holofernes. The story of Judith inspired many later artistic and literary creations and a print of one such work by illustrator Gustav Dore is included. The book was lost to the Jewish community until the Renaissance although a legend of the daughter of the High Priest killing a Greek general or king by feeding him cheese to put him to sleep existed in the Middle Ages. Thus there was a custom in the Middle Ages to eat cheese dishes on Hanukkah.
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