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Chapter 139:2-3(b)
Chanukah

2. One may not fast during Chanukah. It is, however, permitted to fast and deliver eulogies on the day before and the day after [Chanukah].

3. Work ("melacha") is permitted on Chanukah (1). Women, however, follow the custom of refraining from work during the time the Chanukah candles are burning at home (2). [They should continue this custom] without any leniency (3).

The reason why women must observe greater stringency [than men] is that the [Greek's] decrees were harsher for the women. They had decreed that any Jewish virgin who is getting married, must first have sexual relations with the Greek governor. Furthermore, a miracle [during that period] was brought about through a woman (4). [Yehudis,] the daughter of Yochanan, the High Priest, was very beautiful. The enemy ruler proposed that she cohabit with him. She told him that she would accede to his wish. [When she came to him] she fed him dishes of cheese so that he would become very thirsty, and would desire to drink much wine; [she hoped that he would] become intoxicated, and sleep soundly. Her plan worked, and [while he was asleep], she cut off his head and brought it to Jerusalem. When the leader of the Greek army saw that their ruler had been slain, [he and his army] fled. To commemorate this miracle, there are some who follow the custom of eating dairy dishes on Chanukah.

FOOTNOTES:

(1) That is, activities which are prohibited on Shabbos and Yom Tov, are permitted on Chanukah.

(2) The custom is to refrain from work only for the minimum amount of time that the candles must burn, which is approximately 30 minutes. As we shall see, once this minimum time has passed, one may put out the candles or use them for one's own benefit (Mishna Berura 670:4).

(3) In certain communities, even the men refrain from work while the candles are burning (Ibid. 670:3).

(4) See Aruch Hashulchan 270:8, who states that the incident involving Yehudis did not occur precisely at the time of the miracle of Chanukah.

 

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