After the murder of Seleucus, his brother Antiochus 4 began his reign to Syria (in 3 586, 174 years before the common era). He was a tyrant of an unreflecting and impulsive nature, despising religion and the feelings of others. Desiring to unify his kingdom through a common culture and religion, Antiochus attempted to uproot the individualism of the jews by supressing all jewish laws. He deposed the just high priest "Yohanan" of his office in the Temple of Jerusalem and installed in his place his brother, Yehoshua who liked to be called by his greek name "Jason". He was hellenist who used his new charge to spreed more and more greek customs among members of the priesthood. Yehoshua or Jason was later replaced by another man, Menelaus, who had promised to the king that he would bring him more money than Jason did. When Yohanan protested against the spread of greek influence in the Holy Temple, the high priest in office hired men to assassinate him. At that time, Antiochus was engaged in a war he won against Egypt. But messengers from Rome arrived and ordered him to stop the war. He was forced to submit. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the rumor spread that Antiochus had been victim of a serious accident. Believing him dead, the poeple revolted against Menelaus. The treacherons high priest fled with his friends.
Antiochus returned from Egypt, enraged by roman interference in his ambitious plans. When he heard what had happened in Jerusalem, he ordered his army to run wild against the jews. Thousands of them were killed. Then Antiochus issued a series of terrible decrees against them.The practice of their religion was now forbidden, the scrolls of the Torah were confiscated and burned. The rest of Shabbat, circumcision and food laws were forbidden on pain of death. One of the most respected and veteran member of this generation, Rabbi Eliezer, a 90 years old man, was forced by Antiochus servants to eat porky to encourage others to do the same. when he refused, they suggested that he put this meat to his lips to pretend to consume it. But of course Rabbi Eliezer refused and he was put to death. There were thousands of men who, in the same way, sacrificed their lives. The famous story of Hanna and her seven sons took place at that time. The men and Antiochuswent from town to town, village to village to force the inhabitants to serve pagan gods. There was only one area of resistance: the hills of Judea with their many caves. But even there, the Syrians pusued the faithful jews and many of them died as martyrs. °Matisyahu
One day Antiochus men at arms arrived at the village of Madiine where lived Matisyahu, the old priest. The Syrian officer built an altar in the market square and asked that Matisyahu offer sacrifices to greek gods, Matisyahu replyed: "I, my sons and brothers are determinated to remain loyal to convenant our God made with our ancestors!". At that moment, a Hellenist Jew approached the altar to offer a sacrifice. Matisyahu seized his sword, killed him and his sons, and attacked Syrian officers and soldiers. They killed many and drove out the others. And then they destroyed the altar. Matisyahu knew that Antiochus would be out of him when he learned what had happened. He would most certainly send a punitive expedition. He left the village of Modiine. He fled with his sons and his friends and took refuge in the hills of Judea. All loyal and courageous Jews joined them. They formed legions and from time to time, they abandoned their hiding places to hit enemy detachments and garrisons and to destroy the pagan altars built under the orders of Antiochus.
Feeling his near end, Matisyahu called his sons and urged them to continue fighting to defend God's Torah. He asked them to follow the advice of their brother Simon the Wise. For their well-being, he tells them, their leader should be Yehuda the Strong. Yehuda was called "Maccabee", a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words: "Mi Kamokha Baelim Hashem": Who is like you among the mighty, O God. Antiochus sent his general Apolonius to crush Yehudah and his own, the Maccabees. Although more important in numbers and equipment than their opponents, the Syrians suffered a defeat against the Maccabees. Antiochus sent another expedition which suffered the same fate. He realized then that it was only by sending a powerful army that he could hope to defeat Yehuda and his brave fighters. An army of more than 40,000 men swept the country led by two generals, Nicanor and Gorgiach. When Yehudah and his brothers heard this news, they exclaimed, "Let us fight to the death to defend our soul and our temple! The people assembled at Mishpah where Samuel the Prophet had offered his prayers to God in the past. After a series of hard fights, the victory was won.
The Maccabees then went to Jerusalem to free her. They entered the Temple and purified it of all the idols placed by the Syrian vandals. Yehudah and his men built a new altar that Yehudah inaugurated on 25 Kislev in the year 3622. Since the Golden Candelabrum had been stolen by the Syrians, the Maccabees made a new one in a less rich metal. When they wanted to light it, they found only a small jug of pure olive oil, bearing the seal of the High Priest Yohanan. This small vial would be sufficient for lighting a single day. But by Gd's miracle, she continued to burn for eight days until new oil was made. This miracle proved that Gd had once again taken His people under His protection. It is in remembrance of these events that our Sages have designated these eight days so that each year we make the commemoration and we light the lights of Hanukkah.