During the war against the Maccabees, why did the Greeks make such an effort to attack the Holy Temple in Jerusalem?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Surprisingly, when the Greeks attacked the Temple, they didn't try to destroy it or burn it down. Rather, they defiled it. They offered pig sacrifices and brought a statue of Zeus into the Temple. The Greeks transformed the Temple into a house of idol worship. No longer did light stream from the Temple; the word of God was silenced.
The Greeks didn't want to totally destroy Judaism. Rather, they sought "li-Challel" - literally, to make it empty. They wanted to defile Jewish holy objects. To tear the heart and meaning out of Judaism. To take away the depth and reduce it to symbolism. To sap its spiritual core and to render it impotent.
This explains why the Greeks carefully scoured the Temple grounds searching for pure flasks of oil (bearing the seal of the High Priest). They knew that defiling the oil would silence the light of the Menorah - the light of Torah which reflects the depth and meaning of Jewish national and religious life. The Greeks knew that was the way to best "conquer" the Jewish nation.
Therefore, the reversal of such an attack is to put the meaning back in Judaism. How is this achieved?
The answer is found in Genesis 46:28. Before bringing his entire family down to Egypt for what will be the start of a brutal period of slavery, Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to make preparation in Goshen. The Talmud asks: What preparations did Judah make? He built a yeshiva, a house of Torah study. Through learning Torah, and uncovering the depth of relevance and meaning, we pour light into the world and drive away the darkness of exile.
When lighting the Chanukah candles, it's a wonderful lesson to keep in mind.