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Was the miracle the fact that they found the oil? Was it that the oil lasted all 8 days? Was it that they won the war over the mighty greeks?

From the fact that we light menorah, it seems that the miracle is that the oil lasted all 8 days. The gemara in meseches shabbos asks "mai chanuka?" (What is the reason that we celebrate chanuka). The answer seems to talk only about the miracle of finding the oil and about it lasting all the nights.

Al hanisim on the other hand describes the war and that fact that we won over the Hellenists and we were saved etc?

Which one is it? Why does al hanisim not really put emphasis on the miracle of the oil?

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Why must there be only one miracle? Do the chanukah lights, tied to the oil, not also remind us of the military victory? Does the plural "nisim" not alude to both? –  Monica Cellio Dec 6 '11 at 15:09
    
See my answer to a very similar question –  user4523 Nov 26 '13 at 21:17

2 Answers 2

There is a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe o.b.m. (in Likkutei Sichos, vol. 25, pp. 235ff, and adapted into English here) about this.

The gist of his answer is that there was a more "physical" miracle (the military victory) and a more "spiritual" one (the Menorah's lights burning for eight days), and the latter in a sense overshadows the former, since the war was in the first place not one for physical survival, but to prevent the Greeks from extinguishing the light of Torah.

So when we're focusing on the victory and thanking Hashem for it, in (Ve')Al HaNissim, it would be inappropriate to mention the miracle of the oil. Conversely, when the Gemara seeks to delve into the deeper meaning of the holiday, it talks only about the lights of the Menorah, which represent the re-establishment of the Torah way of life, the real heart of the entire episode.

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Rambam (Hilchot Megillah u'Chanukah, ch 3) states that we celebrate the military victory and the re-institution of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. We celebrate for 8 days because the oil burned that long.

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