The Miracle of the Oil

When the Jewish forces recaptured the Temple Mount, they wanted to rededicate the Temple. Part of the rededication ceremony required lighting the Temple menorah, but the Jews could find nothing more than one sealed jar with the oil suitable to burn in the Temple, enough to last for one day.

The day after the battle for the Temple Mount, a rider was dispatched to Mount Ephraim, where the olive trees grew that provided oil for the menorah. It would take three days to get there, three days to return, plus the day needed to press the oil. There was no way the oil found in the Temple would last that long—but it did. The small quantity of oil burned for eight days, until the messenger returned with new oil appropriate for the Menorah.

The Hebrew word for “dedication” is chanukah. The Jewish holiday of Chanukah is a holiday that emphasizes the importance of the rededication of the Temple and the miracle of the oil, not the military victory of the Maccabees. The Maccabean Revolt was fought over religious freedom—not over territory or political sovereignty.

Interestingly enough, the episode of the oil that burned for eight days is not even mentioned in the Book of the Maccabees. Instead, the narrative of the miracle of the oil is recounted in the Talmud. While some believe that the miracle was God's work, there are those who feel that it is merely a lovely legend.

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