1. (a) During the Second Temple era (352 B.C.E until 70 C.E), the Greek
empire passed decrees against the Jewish People, [attempted to] obliterate
their religion, and prevented them from being involved with Torah learning
and the performance of mitzvos ("commandments"). They also plundered their
property and [abducted] their daughters. [The Greeks] entered the Temple,
wrought havoc there, and defiled that which was pure.
The Jews were in great distress because of the [Greeks] and were subjected
to great oppression, until the G-d of their fathers had mercy upon them,
delivering them from their hands and saving them. The Hasmoneans, sons of
the High priest, overcame [the Greeks], slew them, and delivered the Jews
from their hands. They appointed a king from among the priests ("cohanim")
and sovereignty (in the Land of Israel) returned to the Jewish nation for
more than two hundred years, until the destruction of the Second [Temple].
[The date] when the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them was the
twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev (139 B.C.E). [On that day,] the
[victorious Jews] entered the Sanctuary of the Temple, but could not find
any pure olive oil except for one jar, sealed with the High Priest's seal,
which contained enough oil to burn for only a single day. [Nevertheless, a
miracle occurred] and they were able to kindle the lamps of the Menorah
[with that one jar of oil] (1) for eight days, until they were able to
crush olives and produce pure oil.
For these reasons, the Sages of that generation ordained that these eight
days beginning on the twenty-fifth of Kislev should be celebrated as days
of happiness and praise. Lights should be kindled each evening at the
entrance to our homes on each of these eight nights to make known and
publicize the miracle.
(1) In Exodus 25:31, G-d explains to Moses how to build the golden oil lamp
called a 'Menorah' which would be placed in the Tabernacle ("Mishkan") in
the desert and later in the Temple ("Beit Hamikdash") built by King Solomon
in Jerusalem; that Golden Menorah had 7 branches and was kindled daily by
one of the priests.