Around the year 167 B.C.E., the Syrian-Greek rulers of Judea tried to force the
Jews to assimilate into Hellenic culture. They summoned the Jews to the town
squares where they were forced to worship idols or to sacrifice a pig before the

When the Syrian-Greek soldiers demanded that the Jews of Modiin
sacrifice a swine to one of their gods, Mattitiyahu, a priest from the Hasmonean
family, refused to allow this desecration to take place and slew the Jewish
heretic who volunteered. Mattitiyahu, together with his sons, also attacked the
Syrian-Greek soldiers. They won that battle, but they were forced to take refuge
in the hills. Mattitiyahu’s sons became known as the Maccabees.

Under the
leadership of Judah the Maccabee, the Jews launched a guerilla war for freedom.
In 165 B.C.E., the Maccabees finally succeeded in routing the vastly superior
Syrian-Greek forces and retook the Temple, but by then the Syrian-Greeks had
thoroughly desecrated the holy site. The Jews immediately set to work removing
the alien idols, scrubbing the altar and performing the many tasks necessary to
rededicate the Temple.

Unfortunately, there was no undefiled oil left
with which to light the golden menorah. The Jews searched for sealed jars of
pure oil, and finally found a single flask with its seal intact. They rejoiced
and hurried to light the Menorah and rededicate the Temple.

But it was
only one flask of oil, good for only one day. It would take at least another
week for fresh pure olive oil to be prepared. Not wanting to postpone performing
the mitzvah, they decided to light the Menorah with what they had–and the
miracle of Chanukah occurred. Despite the small quantity of oil, the menorah
remained lit for the entire eight days, announcing to the world that God’s
presence had returned to the Temple.

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