How Do You Shpiel Chanukah?

The Yiddish word shpiel literally means "play," and as it is not uncommon for a Chanukah celebration to include a reenactment of the Maccabean Revolt, the question as to which account of the event one ought to present is a legitimate one. I and II Maccabees both report on the same historical episode. There are also elements of the story which emerge only in later literature, e.g. the Mishnah and Gemara. It is affirmed in the Mishnah that it is not permissible to fast on any of the days of Chanukah; thus, despite its secondary status as a "non-Mosaic" feast, it enjoys nevertheless the status of a proper chag (feast).

(י) אֵין גּוֹזְרִין תַּעֲנִית עַל הַצִּבּוּר בְּרֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ, בַּחֲנֻכָּה וּבְפוּרִים, וְאִם הִתְחִילוּ, אֵין מַפְסִיקִין, דִּבְרֵי רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל. אָמַר רַבִּי מֵאִיר, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאָמַר רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אֵין מַפְסִיקִין, מוֹדֶה הָיָה שֶׁאֵין מַשְׁלִימִין. וְכֵן תִּשְׁעָה בְאָב שֶׁחָל לִהְיוֹת בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת:

(10) The mishna further states: One may not decree a fast on the community on New Moons, on Hanukkah, or on Purim. And if they decreed and began a set of fasts, and only afterward realized that one of the fasts would occur on one of these days, they do not interrupt the sequence. This is the statement of Rabban Gamliel. Rabbi Meir said: Although Rabban Gamliel said that they do not interrupt the sequence, he concedes that on these days, which are days with special observances, they do not complete the fast. And similarly, when the Ninth of Av occurs on Shabbat eve, the fast is not completed and one eats before the start of Shabbat, so as not to enter Shabbat while fasting.

As Chanukah quickly approaches, let us examine the sitz im leben (historical backdrop) of the Judaism of that era, up to and including 164 BCE. Within Judaism, there was a tension between the traditionalist Jewish element and those who had come under the allure of Rome. The Maccabees (aka Hasmoneans), who led the rebellion against Seleucid (Greek) Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes IV, were ironically of the sect most comfortable with being subjugated (though preferring Roman dominance to Greek).

I Maccabees - A Hasmonean Perspective

"1 Maccabees" is the Chanukah shpiel written from the perspective of the Hasmoneans, who sought an alliance with the Romans in order to defeat the Greeks. Notable in this account is that it presents the entire revolt from beginning to end, i.e. 175 to 134 BCE, praising Mattathias' family, particularly his sons, Judas Maccabeus, Jonathan Apphus, and Simon Thassi, and Simon's son, John Hyrcanus throughout. There is not one mention of Hashem or His hand in the victory in the account.

(א) וישמע יהודה את שמע אנשי רומא כי אבירי לב המה, ונותנים יד לחפצי אהבתם, וכורתים ברית למבקשי שלומם וכי עצמו במאוד מאוד.

(ב) וגם שמע את המלחמות ואת הגדולות אשר עשו בארץ גלתי, כי הכניעו את העם למשמעתם ויתנו אותם למס עובד.

(ג) ואת המעשים אשר עשו באשפניא, ויכבשו את הרי הנחושת אשר ימצא שם זהב וכסף.

(ד) ואת הארצות הרחוקות מהם אשר כבשו וירדו בהן בדעת ובחוכמה.

(ה) וכל המלכים אשר יצאו מקצווי ארץ למלחמה לקראתם הוכו במגפה ויכניעום ויתנום למס.

(ו) כאשר עשו לשני מלכי הכתים, לפוליפוס ולבנו פרזיוס, אשר קמו עליהם, ויכו אותם עד הישמדם.

(ז) ואת אשר עשו לאנטיוכוס הגדול מלך אסיא, אשר יצא בחרב לקראתם ואתו מאה ועשרים שנהבים וסוס ורכב וחיל רב עד אין מספר ויינגף לפניהם.

(ח) ויתפשו אותו חי וישימו אותו ואת זרעו אחריו למס עובד, ויצוו לשלוח להם בני תערובות.

(ט) וייקחו את מיטב ארצותיו מידו, את ארץ הודו ומדי ולוד ויתנו אותם למלך אאומינס.

(י) וכאשר התייעצו יושבי יון לנפול עליהם ולהכריתם ויוודע הדבר להם.

(יא) וישלחו אחד משלישיהם ויך אותם במערכה, ויפלו חללים רבים, וישבו מהם שבי וינהגו את נשיהם ואת טפם ואת רכושם.

(יב) ויירשו את ארצם ויהרסו את מבצריהם ויתנום לעבדים עד היום הזה.

(יג) וכן השמידו את כל הממלכות וכל איי הים המתקוממים בם הכניעו תחת ידם.

(יד) הקרובים והרחוקים שמעו לקולם, כי נפל פחדם על כל העמים.

(טו) אולם היטב היטיבו לכל אוהביהם ולאנשי בריתם.

(טז) את אשר יושיעו נושע והוקם על ממלכתו ואת אשר לא יחפצו בו יורידו מכיסאו כי עתקו גם גברו מאוד.

(יז) ובכל זאת אין בהם לא מעוטר עטרה ולא לבוש ארגמן להראות את גדלו.

(יח) כי אם בית משפט להם, וזקני הארץ שלוש מאות ועשרים ישפטו בו יום יום את העם.

(יט) ומדי שנה בשנה יבחרו להם איש אחד לנגיד עליהם ועל כל ארצותם ולו ישמעון וגאה וקנאה אין בינותם.

(כ) ויבחר יהודה את אאופולימוס בן יוחנן בן הקוץ ואת ישוע בן אלעזר וישלחם לרומא להקים ברית אהבה ושלום אתם.

(כא) למען הסיר את העול מעל שכמם, ובני ישראל לא ידוכאו עוד תחת רגלי היונים.

(1) Now Judas had heard of the fame of the Romans, that they were mighty and valiant men, and such as would lovingly accept all that joined themselves unto them, and make a league of amity with all that came unto them; And that they were men of great valour.

(2) It was told him also of their wars and noble acts which they had done among the Galatians, and how they had conquered them, and brought them under tribute;

(3) And what they had done in the country of Spain, for the winning of the mines of the silver and gold which is there;

(4) And that by their policy and patience they had conquered all the place, though it were very far from them;

(5) and the kings also that came against them from the uttermost part of the earth, till they had discomfited them, and given them a great overthrow, so that the rest did give them tribute every year:

(6) Beside this, how they had discomfited in battle Philip, and Perseus, king of the Citims, with others that lifted up themselves against them, and had overcome them:

(7) How also Antiochus the great king of Asia, that came against them in battle, having an hundred and twenty elephants, with horsemen, and chariots, and a very great army, was discomfited by them;

(8) And how they took him alive, and covenanted that he and such as reigned after him should pay a great tribute, and give hostages, and that which was agreed upon,

(9) And the country of India, and Media and Lydia and of the goodliest countries, which they took of him, and gave to king Eumenes:

(10) Moreover how the Grecians had determined to come and destroy them;

(11) And that they, having knowledge thereof sent against them a certain captain, and fighting with them slew many of them, and carried away captives their wives and their children, and spoiled them,

(12) and took possession of their lands, and pulled down their strong holds, and brought them to be their servants unto this day:

(13) It was told him besides, how they destroyed and brought under their dominion all other kingdoms and isles that at any time resisted them;

(14) But with their friends and such as relied upon them they kept amity: and that they had conquered kingdoms both far and nigh,

(15) insomuch as all that heard of their name were afraid of them:

(16) Also that, whom they would help to a kingdom, those reign; and whom again they would, they displace: finally, that they were greatly exalted:

(17) Yet for all this none of them wore a crown or was clothed in purple, to be magnified thereby:

(18) Moreover how they had made for themselves a senate house, wherein three hundred and twenty men sat in council daily, consulting alway for the people, to the end they might be well ordered:

(19) And that they committed their government to one man every year, who ruled over all their country, and that all were obedient to that one, and that there was neither envy nor emulation among them.

(20) In consideration of these things, Judas chose Eupolemus the son of John, the son of Accos, and Jason the son of Eleazar, and sent them to Rome, to make a league of amity and confederacy with them,

(21) And to intreat them that they would take the yoke from them; for they saw that the kingdom of the Grecians did oppress Israel with servitude.

II Maccabees - A Traditionalist Perspective

II Maccabees is much more religiously oriented than I Maccabees. This version of the event covers a tighter window, i.e. 180 to 161 BCE, and informs us that the first Chanukah celebration, i.e. "Feast of Dedication," was that year's Sukkot celebration (Feast of Tabernacles) delayed due to the "abomination of desecration" - the slaughter of swine on the Temple altar on the part of the Seleucid Greeks. This is why the celebration is eight days in length.

(ח) ומאת ה' הייתה זאת לחטא את הבית בעצם היום ההוא אשר טימאו אתו הגויים, והוא יום העשרים וחמשה לירח כסלו.

(ט) ויחוגו חג לה' שמונת ימים כימי חג הסוכות, ויזכרו את הימים מקדם בחגגם את חג הסוכות בהרים ובמערות, ויתעו בישימון כבהמות שדה.

(י) ויקחו ערבי נחל וכפות תמרים וישירו שיר שבח והודיה לה', אשר נתן להם עוז ותשועה לטהר את בית מקדשו.

(יא) ויעבירו קול בכל ערי יהודה לחוג את החג הזה מדי שנה בשנה.

(8) And from the Lord it was this, to purge the House on the same day that the nations defiled it, and it was the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev.

(9) And they celebrated the Festival to the Lord for eight days, like the festival of Sukkot, and they remembered the previous days when they celebrated of the festival of Sukkot in the mountains and in the caves, and they went out in the desolation/wildnerness, like wild beasts.

(10) And they took the willows of the brook and the branches of palm trees, they and sang a song of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, who gave them courage and salvation to purify the temple of his holiness.

(11) And they sent a voice in all the cities of Judah to celebrate this festival every year.

More on the Sukkot connection here: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/47720?lang=bi

First-Century Jerusalem

Just a few centuries later, despite succumbing to two more foreign conquests, we find that Jerusalem is still almost completely unhellenized. When Titus sacks Jerusalem in 70 CE, he finds that no one can understand him in Greek. Josephus is recruited to translate to Aramaic for him, since Jerusalem's Jewish population has so effectively resisted Hellenization!

Note that the Romans were still speaking Greek at this time (Latin started as a dialect of Greek, developing into a separate language later). Even Josephus himself, a close friend of Titus, describes his Greek as lacking.

יוסף בן מתתיהו, מלחמות היהודים, ו':ב':א'

(1) Τίτος δὲ τοῖς μὲν σὺν αὐτῷ στρατιώταις κατασκάπτειν προσέταξε τοὺς θεμελίους τῆς Ἀντωνίας καὶ τῇ δυνάμει πάσῃ ῥᾳδίαν τὴν ἄνοδον εὐτρεπίζειν, Αὐτὸς δὲ τὸν Ἰώσηπον παραστησάμενος: ἐπέπυστο γὰρ ἐπ' ἐκείνης τῆς ἡμέρας, Πανέμου δ' ἦν ἑπτακαιδεκάτη, τὸν ἐνδελεχισμὸν καλούμενον ἀνδρῶν ἀπορίᾳ διαλελοιπέναι τῷ θεῷ καὶ τὸν δῆμον ἐπὶ τούτῳ δεινῶς ἀθυμεῖν: λέγειν τῷ Ἰωάννῃ πάλιν ἐκέλευσεν ἃ καὶ πρότερον, ὡς εἰ καί τις αὐτὸν ἔρως κακὸς ἔχοι τοῦ μάχεσθαι, προελθόντι μεθ' ὅσων βούλεται πολεμεῖν ἐξείη δίχα τοῦ συναπολέσθαι τήν τε πόλιν καὶ τὸν ναὸν αὐτῷ, μηκέτι μέντοι μιαίνειν τὸ ἅγιον μηδὲ εἰς τὸν θεὸν πλημμελεῖν, παρεῖναι δ' αὐτῷ τὰς ἐπιλελοιπυίας θυσίας ἐκτελεῖν δι' ὧν ἂν ἐπιλέξηται Ἰουδαίων. Καὶ ὁ Ἰώσηπος, ὡς ἂν εἴη μὴ τῷ Ἰωάννῃ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς πολλοῖς ἐν ἐπηκόῳ, τά τε τοῦ Καίσαρος διήγγελλεν ἑβραίζων.1

Josephus, Jewish Wars 6:2:1

(1) And now Titus gave orders to his soldiers that were with him to dig up the foundations of the tower of Antonia, and make him a ready passage for his army to come up. While he himself had Josephus brought to him: (for he had been informed that on that very day, which was the seventeenth day of Panemus [Tamuz], the sacrifice, called the daily sacrifice had failed, and had not been offered to God, for want of men to offer it: and that the people were grievously troubled at it:) and commanded him to say the same things to John, that he had said before: that “If he had any malicious inclination for fighting, he might come out, with as many of his men as he pleased, in order to fight, without the danger of destroying either his city, or temple: but that he desired he would not defile the temple, nor thereby offend against God. That he might, if he pleased, offer the sacrifices which were now discontinued, by any of the Jews whom he should pitch upon.” Upon this Josephus stood in such a place where he might be heard, not by John only, but by many more; and then declared to them what Cæsar had given him in charge: and this in the Hebrew language.

(2) Παύσεται δ' ἐνταῦθά μοι τὰ τῆς ἀρχαιολογίας μεθ' ἣν καὶ τὸν πόλεμον ἠρξάμην γράφειν. περιέχει δ' αὕτη τὴν ἀπὸ πρώτης γενέσεως ἀνθρώπου παράδοσιν μέχρι ἔτους δωδεκάτου τῆς Νέρωνος ἡγεμονίας τῶν ἡμῖν συμβεβηκότων τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις κατά τε τὴν Αἴγυπτον καὶ Συρίαν καὶ Παλαιστίνην, ὅσα τε πεπόνθαμεν ὑπὸ Ἀσσυρίων τε καὶ Βαβυλωνίων, τίνα τε Πέρσαι καὶ Μακεδόνες διατεθείκασιν ἡμᾶς, καὶ μετ' ἐκείνους Ῥωμαῖοι: πάντα γὰρ οἶμαι μετ' ἀκριβείας συντεταχέναι. τηρῆσαι δὲ πεπείραμαι καὶ τὴν τῶν ἀρχιερέων ἀναγραφὴν τῶν ἐν δισχιλίοις ἔτεσι γενομένων. ἀπλανῆ δὲ πεποίημαι καὶ τὴν περὶ τοὺς βασιλεῖς διαδοχὴν τὰς πράξεις αὐτῶν καὶ τὰς πολιτείας ἀπαγγέλλων μοναρχῶν τε δυναστείας, ὡς αἱ ἱεραὶ βίβλοι περὶ πάντων ἔχουσι τὴν ἀναγραφήν: τοῦτο γὰρ ποιήσειν ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς ἱστορίας ἐπηγγειλάμην. λέγω δὴ θαρσήσας ἤδη διὰ τὴν τῶν προτεθέντων συντέλειαν, ὅτι μηδεὶς ἂν ἕτερος ἠδυνήθη θελήσας μήτε Ἰουδαῖος μήτε ἀλλόφυλος τὴν πραγματείαν ταύτην οὕτως ἀκριβῶς εἰς Ἕλληνας ἐξενεγκεῖν: ἔχω γὰρ ὁμολογούμενον παρὰ τῶν ὁμοεθνῶν πλεῖστον αὐτῶν κατὰ τὴν ἐπιχώριον παιδείαν διαφέρειν καὶ τῶν Ἑλληνικῶν δὲ γραμμάτων ἐσπούδασα μετασχεῖν τὴν γραμματικὴν ἐμπειρίαν ἀναλαβών, τὴν δὲ περὶ τὴν προφορὰν ἀκρίβειαν πάτριος ἐκώλυσεν συνήθεια. παρ' ἡμῖν γὰρ οὐκ ἐκείνους ἀποδέχονται τοὺς πολλῶν ἐθνῶν διάλεκτον ἐκμαθόντας διὰ τὸ κοινὸν εἶναι νομίζειν τὸ ἐπιτήδευμα τοῦτο μόνον οὐκ ἐλευθέροις τοῖς τυχοῦσιν ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν οἰκετῶν τοῖς θέλουσι, μόνοις δὲ σοφίαν μαρτυροῦσιν τοῖς τὰ νόμιμα σαφῶς ἐπισταμένοις καὶ τὴν τῶν ἱερῶν γραμμάτων δύναμιν ἑρμηνεῦσαι δυναμένοις. διὰ τοῦτο πολλῶν πονησάντων περὶ τὴν ἄσκησιν ταύτην μόλις δύο τινὲς ἢ τρεῖς κατώρθωσαν καὶ τῶν πόνων τὴν ἐπικαρπίαν εὐθὺς ἔλαβον.2

(2) I shall now, therefore, make an end here of my Antiquities; after the conclusion of which events, I began to write that account of the war; and these Antiquities contain what hath been delivered down to us from the original creation of man, until the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, as to what hath befallen the Jews, as well in Egypt as in Syria and in Palestine, and what we have suffered from the Assyrians and Babylonians, and what afflictions the Persians and Macedonians, and after them the Romans, have brought upon us; for I think I may say that I have composed this history with sufficient accuracy in all things. I have attempted to enumerate those high priests that we have had during the interval of two thousand years; I have also carried down the succession of our kings, and related their actions, and political administration, without [considerable] errors, as also the power of our monarchs; and all according to what is written in our sacred books; for this it was that I promised to do in the beginning of this history. And I am so bold as to say, now I have so completely perfected the work I proposed to myself to do, that no other person, whether he were a Jew or foreigner, had he ever so great an inclination to it, could so accurately deliver these accounts to the Greeks as is done in these books. For those of my own nation freely acknowledge that I far exceed them in the learning belonging to Jews; I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations, and so adorn their discourses with the smoothness of their periods; because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common, not only to all sorts of free-men, but to as many of the servants as please to learn them. But they give him the testimony of being a wise man who is fully acquainted with our laws, and is able to interpret their meaning; on which account, as there have been many who have done their endeavors with great patience to obtain this learning, there have yet hardly been so many as two or three that have succeeded therein, who were immediately well rewarded for their pains.

The Miracle of the Oil

The miracle of the oil is not mentioned in either of the books of Maccabees, but it does get recorded in the Talmud (Bavli), an early source reflecting an oral transmission history which far predates its written format. This is the element which garners the central focus in the halakhic texts.

(ז) בכ"ה ביה יום חנוכה תמניא יומין דִלָא לְמִסְפָּד: (ח) כשנכנסו יונים להיכל טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל וכשגברה יד בית חשמונאי ונצחום בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן הגדול שלא נטמא ולא היה בו להדליק אלא יום אחד ונעשה בו נס והדליקו ח' ימים. לשנה אחרת קבעו ח' י"ט. ומה ראו לעשות חנוכה ח' ימים והלא חנוכה שעשה משה במדבר לא עשה אלא שבעה ימים שנא' ומפתח אהל מועד לא תצאו שבעת ימים וגו' ואומר ויהי המקריב ביום הראשון את קרבנו וגו' ובשביעי הקריב אפרים. וכן מצינו בחנוכה שעשה שלמה שלא עשה אלא שבעת ימים שנא' כי חנוכת המזבח עשו שבעת הימים והחג ז' ימים ומה ראו לעשות חנוכה....

(7) On the twenty fifth of the month is Channuka, eight days on which one does not eulogize (8) because when the Greeks entered the Temple they defiled all the oil there. When the hand of the Hasmoneans was made strong and they defeat the Greeks, they checked (in the Temple) and only found one jar of oil sealed with the mark of the High Priest which remained undefiled. Though there was only enough in it to light for one day, a miracle occurred through it and they lit the Temple lamps from it for eight days. The following year they decreed these to be eight days of celebration....3

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: מִצְוַת חֲנוּכָּה, נֵר אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ. וְהַמְהַדְּרִין, נֵר לְכׇל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. וְהַמְהַדְּרִין מִן הַמְהַדְּרִין, בֵּית שַׁמַּאי אוֹמְרִים: יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק שְׁמֹנָה, מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ פּוֹחֵת וְהוֹלֵךְ. וּבֵית הִלֵּל אוֹמְרִים: יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק אַחַת, מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ מוֹסִיף וְהוֹלֵךְ. אָמַר עוּלָּא: פְּלִיגִי בַּהּ תְּרֵי אָמוֹרָאֵי בְּמַעְרְבָא, רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר אָבִין וְרַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר זְבִידָא. חַד אָמַר טַעְמָא דְּבֵית שַׁמַּאי כְּנֶגֶד יָמִים הַנִּכְנָסִין, וְטַעְמָא דְּבֵית הִלֵּל כְּנֶגֶד יָמִים הַיּוֹצְאִין. וְחַד אָמַר טַעְמָא דְּבֵית שַׁמַּאי כְּנֶגֶד פָּרֵי הַחַג, וְטַעְמָא דְּבֵית הִלֵּל דְּמַעֲלִין בַּקֹּדֶשׁ וְאֵין מוֹרִידִין.
The Sages taught in a baraita: The basic mitzva of Hanukkah is each day to have a light kindled by a person, the head of the household, for himself and his household. And the mehadrin, i.e., those who are meticulous in the performance of mitzvot, kindle a light for each and every one in the household. And the mehadrin min hamehadrin, who are even more meticulous, adjust the number of lights daily. Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree as to the nature of that adjustment. Beit Shammai say: On the first day one kindles eight lights and, from there on, gradually decreases the number of lights until, on the last day of Hanukkah, he kindles one light. And Beit Hillel say: On the first day one kindles one light, and from there on, gradually increases the number of lights until, on the last day, he kindles eight lights. Ulla said: There were two amoraim in the West, Eretz Yisrael, who disagreed with regard to this dispute, Rabbi Yosei bar Avin and Rabbi Yosei bar Zevida. One said that the reason for Beit Shammai’s opinion is that the number of lights corresponds to the incoming days, i.e., the future. On the first day, eight days remain in Hanukkah, one kindles eight lights, and on the second day seven days remain, one kindles seven, etc. The reason for Beit Hillel’s opinion is that the number of lights corresponds to the outgoing days. Each day, the number of lights corresponds to the number of the days of Hanukkah that were already observed. And one said that the reason for Beit Shammai’s opinion is that the number of lights corresponds to the bulls of the festival of Sukkot: Thirteen were sacrificed on the first day and each succeeding day one fewer was sacrificed (Numbers 29:12–31). The reason for Beit Hillel’s opinion is that the number of lights is based on the principle: One elevates to a higher level in matters of sanctity and one does not downgrade. Therefore, if the objective is to have the number of lights correspond to the number of days, there is no alternative to increasing their number with the passing of each day.

The same is echoed by the Rishonim, e.g., by Rav Sa'adia Gaon, the Rambam, the Maran Beis Yosef, and Rabbi Eleazar of Worms (Rokeach).

(ס) וְנֵר יְמֵי חֲנֻכָּה עַד כְּלוֹת:

(60) And candles on the days of Chanukah, until they are completed.

(א) כַּמָּה נֵרוֹת הוּא מַדְלִיק בַּחֲנֻכָּה. מִצְוָתָהּ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה כָּל בַּיִת וּבַיִת מַדְלִיק נֵר אֶחָד בֵּין שֶׁהָיוּ אַנְשֵׁי הַבַּיִת מְרֻבִּין בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה בּוֹ אֶלָּא אָדָם אֶחָד. וְהַמְהַדֵּר אֶת הַמִּצְוָה מַדְלִיק נֵרוֹת כְּמִנְיַן אַנְשֵׁי הַבַּיִת נֵר לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד בֵּין אֲנָשִׁים בֵּין נָשִׁים. וְהַמְהַדֵּר יוֹתֵר עַל זֶה וְעוֹשֶׂה מִצְוָה מִן הַמֻּבְחָר מַדְלִיק נֵר לְכָל אֶחָד בַּלַּיְלָה הָרִאשׁוֹן וּמוֹסִיף וְהוֹלֵךְ בְּכָל לַיְלָה וְלַיְלָה נֵר אֶחָד:

(ב) כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁהָיוּ אַנְשֵׁי הַבַּיִת עֲשָׂרָה. בַּלַּיְלָה הָרִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק עֲשָׂרָה נֵרוֹת וּבְלֵיל שֵׁנִי עֶשְׂרִים וּבְלֵיל שְׁלִישִׁי שְׁלֹשִׁים עַד שֶׁנִּמְצָא מַדְלִיק בְּלֵיל שְׁמִינִי שְׁמוֹנִים נֵרוֹת:

(ג) מִנְהָג פָּשׁוּט בְּכָל עָרֵינוּ בִּסְפָרַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ כָּל אַנְשֵׁי הַבַּיִת מַדְלִיקִין נֵר אֶחָד בַּלַּיְלָה הָרִאשׁוֹן וּמוֹסִיפִין וְהוֹלְכִין נֵר בְּכָל לַיְלָה עַד שֶׁנִּמְצָא מַדְלִיק בְּלֵיל שְׁמִינִי שְׁמוֹנָה נֵרוֹת בֵּין שֶׁהָיוּ אַנְשֵׁי הַבַּיִת מְרֻבִּים בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה אָדָם אֶחָד:

(ד) נֵר שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ שְׁתֵּי פִּיּוֹת עוֹלֶה לִשְׁנֵי בְּנֵי אָדָם. מִלֵּא קְעָרָה שֶׁמֶן וְהִקִּיפָהּ פְּתִילוֹת. אִם כָּפָה עָלֶיהָ כְּלִי כָּל פְּתִילָה וּפְתִילָה נֶחְשֶׁבֶת כְּנֵר אֶחָד. לֹא כָּפָה עָלֶיהָ כְּלִי נַעֲשֵׂית כִּמְדוּרָה וַאֲפִלּוּ כְּנֵר אֶחָד אֵינָהּ נֶחְשֶׁבֶת:

(ה) אֵין מַדְלִיקִין נֵרוֹת חֲנֻכָּה קֹדֶם שֶׁתִּשְׁקַע הַחַמָּה אֶלָּא עִם שְׁקִיעָתָהּ לֹא מְאַחֲרִין וְלֹא מַקְדִּימִין. שָׁכַח אוֹ הֵזִיד וְלֹא הִדְלִיק עִם שְׁקִיעַת הַחַמָּה מַדְלִיק וְהוֹלֵךְ עַד שֶׁתִּכְלֶה רֶגֶל מִן הַשּׁוּק. וְכַמָּה הוּא זְמַן זֶה כְּמוֹ חֲצִי שָׁעָה אוֹ יֶתֶר. עָבַר זְמַן זֶה אֵינוֹ מַדְלִיק. וְצָרִיךְ שֶׁיִּתֵּן שֶׁמֶן בַּנֵּר כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּהְיֶה דּוֹלֶקֶת וְהוֹלֶכֶת עַד שֶׁתִּכְלֶה רֶגֶל מִן הַשּׁוּק. הִדְלִיקָהּ וְכָבְתָה אֵינוֹ זָקוּק לְהַדְלִיקָהּ פַּעַם אַחֶרֶת. נִשְׁאֲרָה דּוֹלֶקֶת אַחַר שֶׁכָּלְתָה רֶגֶל מִן הַשּׁוּק אִם רָצָה לְכַבּוֹתָהּ אוֹ לְסַלְּקָהּ עוֹשֶׂה:

(ו) כָּל הַשְּׁמָנִים וְכָל הַפְּתִילוֹת כְּשֵׁרוֹת לְנֵר חֲנֻכָּה וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין הַשְּׁמָנִים נִמְשָׁכִים אַחַר הַפְּתִילָה וְאֵין הָאוּר נִתְלֵית יָפֶה בְּאוֹתָן הַפְּתִילוֹת. וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּלֵילֵי שַׁבָּת שֶׁבְּתוֹךְ יְמֵי חֲנֻכָּה מֻתָּר לְהַדְלִיק הַשְּׁמָנִים וְהַפְּתִילוֹת שֶׁאָסוּר לְהַדְלִיק בָּהֶן נֵר שַׁבָּת. לְפִי שֶׁאָסוּר לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ לְנֵר חֲנֻכָּה בֵּין בְּשַׁבָּת בֵּין בְּחל וַאֲפִלּוּ לִבְדֹּק מָעוֹת אוֹ לִמְנוֹתָן לְאוֹרָהּ אָסוּר:

(ז) נֵר חֲנֻכָּה מִצְוָה לְהַנִּיחוֹ עַל פֶּתַח בֵּיתוֹ מִבַּחוּץ בַּטֶּפַח הַסָּמוּךְ לַפֶּתַח עַל שְׂמֹאל הַנִּכְנָס לַבַּיִת כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּהְיֶה מְזוּזָה מִיָּמִין וְנֵר חֲנֻכָּה מִשְּׂמֹאל. וְאִם הָיָה דָּר בַּעֲלִיָּה מַנִּיחוֹ בַּחַלּוֹן הַסְּמוּכָה לִרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים. וְנֵר חֲנֻכָּה שֶׁהִנִּיחוֹ לְמַעְלָה מֵעֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה לֹא עָשָׂה כְּלוּם לְפִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ נִכָּר:

(ח) בִּימֵי הַסַּכָּנָה מַנִּיחַ אָדָם נֵר חֲנֻכָּה בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתוֹ מִבִּפְנִים וַאֲפִלּוּ הִנִּיחוֹ עַל שֻׁלְחָנוֹ דַּיּוֹ. וְצָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת בְּתוֹךְ הַבַּיִת נֵר אַחֵר לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ לְאוֹרוֹ. וְאִם הָיְתָה שָׁם מְדוּרָה אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ נֵר אַחֵר. וְאִם אָדָם חָשׁוּב הוּא שֶׁאֵין דַּרְכּוֹ לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ לִמְדוּרָה צָרִיךְ נֵר אַחֵר:

(ט) נֵר חֲנֻכָּה שֶׁהִדְלִיקוֹ חֵרֵשׁ שׁוֹטֶה וְקָטָן אוֹ עַכּוּ''ם לֹא עָשָׂה כְּלוּם עַד שֶׁיַּדְלִיקֶנּוּ מִי שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב בַּהַדְלָקָה. הִדְלִיקוֹ מִבִּפְנִים וְהוֹצִיאוֹ דָּלוּק וְהִנִּיחוֹ עַל פֶּתַח בֵּיתוֹ לֹא עָשָׂה כְּלוּם עַד שֶׁיַּדְלִיקֶנּוּ בִּמְקוֹמוֹ. אָחַז הַנֵּר בְּיָדוֹ וְעָמַד לֹא עָשָׂה כְּלוּם שֶׁהָרוֹאֶה אוֹמֵר לְצָרְכּוֹ הוּא עוֹמֵד. עֲשָׁשִׁית שֶׁהָיְתָה דּוֹלֶקֶת כָּל הַיּוֹם כֻּלּוֹ לְמוֹצָאֵי שַׁבָּת מְכַבֶּה וּמְבָרֵךְ וּמַדְלִיקָהּ שֶׁהַהַדְלָקָה הִיא הַמִּצְוָה וְלֹא הַהַנָּחָה. וּמֻתָּר לְהַדְלִיק נֵר חֲנֻכָּה מִנֵּר חֲנֻכָּה:

(1) How many lamps should one light on Chanukah? It is a commandment that one light be kindled in each and every house whether it be a household with many people or a house with a single person. One who enhances the commandment should light lamps according to the number of people of the house — a lamp for each and every person, whether they are men or women. One who enhances [it] further than this and performs the commandment in the choicest manner lights a lamp for each person on the first night and continues to add one lamp on each and every night.

(2) How is this? See that [if] the people of the household were ten: On the first night, one lights ten lamps; on the second night, twenty; on the third night, thirty; until it comes out that he lights eighty lamps on the eighth night.

(3) The widespread custom in all of our cities in Spain is that all of the people of the household light one lamp on the first night. And they continue to add one lamp on each night, until it comes out that one lights eight lamps on the eighth night — whether the people of the household were many or whether it was [only] one man.

(4) A lamp with two openings can count for two people. [If] one filled a bowl with oil and spread wicks around it: If he covered it with a vessel (to fix each wick in its distinct place), each and every wick is considered a [separate] lamp. [But if] he did not cover it with a vessel, it becomes like a bonfire, and it is not even considered one lamp.

(5) We may not light Chanukah lamps before the sun sets, but rather [must light] with its setting. We do not delay [from it] or precede [it. If] one forgot, or acted wantonly, and did not light with the setting of the sun, he can light until pedestrians have left the marketplace. And how much is that time? Like a half hour or more. [If] this time passes, he may not light. And he needs to put enough oil in the lamp so that it will continue to be lit until the pedestrians have left the marketplace. [If] he lit it and it became extinguished, he is not required to light it another time. [If] it stayed lit after the pedestrians have left the marketplace — if he wanted to extinguish it or take it away, he may do [so].

(6) All oils and all wicks are fit for the Chanukah lamp — even if the oils are not drawn well by the wicks or the fire does not sit well on those wicks. And even on Shabbat night that is during Chanukah, it is permissible to light with oils and wicks with which it is forbidden to light on Shabbat. For it is forbidden to use [the light of] the Chanukah lamp — whether on Shabbat or on [a weekday]. And it is forbidden even to check coins or to count them with its light.

(7) It is a commandment to place the Chanukah lamp at the entrance of one's house from the outside within the handbreadth adjacent to [the edge of] the entrance, so that the mezuzah will be to the right and the Chanukah lamp to the left. And if he was living in an attic, he places it in the window that is adjacent to the public domain. One who has placed the Chanukah lamp above twenty ells has not done anything, because it is not recognizable.

(8) In times of danger, one places the Chanukah light within his house inside. And even if he places it on his table, it is enough for it. But there needs to be another lamp inside the house to use for its light. And if there was a bonfire there, he does not need another lamp. But if he was an important man the way of whom is not to use a bonfire [for light], he needs another lamp.

(9) [In a case of] a Chanukah lamp that was lit by a deaf-mute, a mentally incapacitated person, a minor or an idolater: He has not done anything until one who is obligated in lighting has lit it. [If] one lit it inside, took it lit outside and placed it at the entrance of his house — he has not done anything until he lights it in its place. One who held the lamp in his hand and stands has not done anything; for the viewer will say he is standing for his needs. [In a case of] a lantern that was lit the whole entire day: At the conclusion of Shabbat, he should extinguish it, recite the blessing and light it. For the lighting is the commandment, and not the placement. And it is permissible to light a Chanukah lamp from [another] Chanukah lamp.

(א) דברים האסורים והמותרים בחנוכה ובו ג"ס:
בכ"ה בכסליו (מתחילים) שמונת ימי חנוכה ואסורים בהספד ותענית אבל מותרין בעשיית מלאכה ונוהגות הנשים שלא לעשות מלאכה בעוד שהנרות דולקות ויש מי שאומר שאין להקל להם:

(ב) ריבוי הסעודות שמרבים בהם הם סעודות הרשות שלא קבעום למשתה ושמחה: הגה וי"א שיש קצת מצוה בריבוי הסעודות משום דבאותן הימים היה חנוכת המזבח [מהר"א מפראג] ונוהגין לומר זמירות ושבחות בסעודות שמרבים בהם ואז הוי סעודת מצוה [מנהגים] י"א שיש לאכול גבינה בחנוכה לפי שהנס נעשה בחלב שהאכילה יהודית את האויב [כל בו ור"ן]:

(1) On the 25th of Kislev (start) the eight days of Hanukkah, and they are prohibited for eulogizing and fasting, but are permitted for doing work. The women have made it a custom not to do work while the candles are burning. And there is [an opinion] that says that we may not be lenient for them.

(2) The many meals which we add on [these days] are voluntary meals, since [the Sages] did not establish them as [days of] feasting and joy. Rem"a: But some say that there is somewhat of a mitzvah in adding meals, because during those days was the Dedication of the Altar (Abraham Kara of Prague). It is the custom to recite hymns and songs of praise during the feasts added on them, and then they are mitzvah meals (Book of Customs). Some say that cheese should be eaten during Hanukkah, because a miracle was done though milk which Yehudit fed the enemy. (Kol Bo and Nissim of Gerona).

(ג) איתא ברוקח כי הל"ו נרות דחנוכה מול הל"ו שעות שהאיר אור הגנוז בששת ימי בראשית ע"ש. א"כ נראה שנר חנוכה הוא מאור הגנוז והוא מאיר בתוך החושך הגדול זהו שרמזו שמאיר מסוף העולם ועד סופו שאין העלם וסתר עומד נגד זה האור כי העולם נק' הטבע שהוא מעלים ומסתיר האור. אבל אור הראשון הי' מאיר בכל אלה ההסתרות וגנזו לצדיקים. וע"ז כתיב זרח בחושך אור לישרים. וכ' העם ההולכים בחושך ראו אור גדול. ואותו הדור בימי יון הרשעה הלכו בחושך כמ"ש חז"ל וחושך זה יון שהחשיכו עיניהם של ישראל ומ"מ אותו הדור מסרו נפשם והלכו בעבודת השי"ת גם תוך החושך. לכן זכו שהאיר להם מאור הגנוז ונשאר הארה מזה האור לימים השפלים בכל שנה ושנה. וכל עובד ה' צריך לשמוח בימים הללו שיש בהם הארה מאור הגנוז בעבודת השי"ת שכן עיקר כוונת הרשעים הי' להשכיחנו תורת ה' וחוקיו ונרות חנוכה מביאים. זכירה:

(3) R’ Elazar of Worms says in his work ‘the Rokeach’ that the thirty-six candles we light on Hannukah parallel the thirty-six hours for which the original light of the six days of creation shone, before it was hidden away. If this is so, then it appears that each Hannukah candle draws from the or haganuz, the hidden light of creation, and gives light in great darkness, as our Sages hinted with their description of the or haganuz as a light which shined from one end of the world to the other (Chagigah 12a). There is no hiddenness or obscurity (he’elem) before this light. We call the world (olam) which obscures (ma’alim) and hides this light ‘the natural,’ but the original light of creation shone through all these layers of concealment and it was hidden away for the righteous; on this it is written “A light shines for the upright in the darkness…” (Psalms 112:4) It is also written “The people that walked in darkness have seen a brilliant light…” (Isaiah 9:1) The generation which lived in the days of the wicked Greeks walked in darkness, as the Sages taught “darkness refers to Greece which darkened the eyes of Israel…” (Bereshit Raba 2:4), nevertheless they served God with a spirit of self-sacrifice even in the midst of this darkness. That is why they merited that the hidden light shine for them, and some of its illumination remains, radiating from year to year even in these lowly times. Every servant of God must rejoice during these days when a touch of the hidden light illuminates Divine service. The primary intent of the wicked ones was to make us forget God’s laws and Torah, and the Hannukah lights bring us to remembrance.

To Answer the Question...

Admittedly, the reason for the festival of Chanukah being eight days in length is probably less associated with the miracle of the oil and more owing to the fact that the Maccabean Revolt concluded too late for the celebration of Sukkot. As mentioned above, the first Chanukah (Feast of Dedication) was actually a modified Sukkot festival, delayed due to Jewish worship having been outlawed prior to the revolt. Since Sukkot lasts 8 days, so also did that delayed observance of it which came to be the annual festival of Chanukah. Thus, depicting the events of that Revolt is certainly an element of our celebration which is deserving of our attention. The account from II Maccabees feels more "Jewish" to me, but read them both and take your pick... or weave the two together.

Our great Sages, however, have made the candle lighting the central focus of our celebration, and have anchored this tradition to the Miracle of the Oil, and so also this should be included in out celebration. Andrea Olkin has put together an excellent sefaria source sheet on why the candles (or lamps) should be lit in the front window of one's home. While we're on the subject of the oil... frying up some latkes and spanj/sufganiyot5 are not bad traditions either. As shpiel has a second meaning not mentioned in the introduction: another sense of the word play, i.e. to play a game... so spinning the sevivon (dreidl) completes the whole experience: shpiel... Chanukkiah... gnosh... shpiel... times 8!

(ח) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה:

Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the Universe, Who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days in this season.4

Notes

  1. The original Aramaic text of Josephus's works has been lost. As all that remains of them is the Greek translation (and translations into other languages made subsequently therefrom), the presented text is supplied http://www.biblical.ie/page.php?fl=josephus/War/JWG6#02.
  2. The original Aramaic text of Josephus's works has been lost. As all that remains of them is the Greek translation (and translations into other languages made subsequently therefrom), the presented text is supplied from http://www.biblical.ie/page.php?fl=josephus/Antiquities/AJGk20#11.
  3. This passage is also cited in b. Shabbat 21b:10-22a:5
  4. English translation rendered by present author.
  5. Spanj is the name for Libyan doughnuts, the Sephardic version of sufganiyot ​​​​​​​(jelly donuts).