The victory turned bittersweet when the Maccabees found the Temple desecrated, and the pure oil to light the menorah ritually defiled. A single, jar of oil was miraculously found. It had remained holy and pure, inscribed with the high priest's seal. With this oil the Temple was rededicated.

Why didn't the Seleucids just destroy the oil, as opposed to defiling it? Oil is a symbol for holiness. It can permeate anything, yet when placed in water, it rises to the top. Defiled — not destroyed — oil is exactly what Antiochus wanted. The Jews can adhere to their culture and keep their laws, as long as it is "touched" by the Greek ideals and philosophy.


Jewish law states that the shamash (the candle used to light the candles of the Menorah) must be set aside, or higher than the others. Jewish mysticism explains that one who helps another to do a mitzvah sets alight the "soul of man, which is the candle of G‑d." The person who causes another soul to "light up," reaches yet a higher plane, so to speak, than the illumination achieved through the mitzvah alone.