973. Women Working on Chanukah

139:2 We do not fast during Chanukah, though one may deliver a eulogy or fast on the day before and the day after Chanukah.

139:3 Performing acts of labor is permitted on Chanukah, though women have the practice not to do work while the candles are burning (about half an hour – Mishnah Brurah 670:4); one should not be lenient about this. (In some places, even the men are strict about this – MB 670:3.) The reason why this practice is more stringent for women is because the decrees made by the Greeks were harsher on the Jewish women. For example, they decreed that a virgin who was to be married must first have relations with the hegemon (“droit du seigneur” or “prima nocta”).  Furthermore, the miracle was brought about through a woman. Yehudis, the beautiful daughter of Yochanan the Kohein Gadol, was summoned by the enemy leader and she acquiesced to his request. She fed him dishes of salty cheese so that he would become thirsty and drink a lot of wine, get drunk and fall asleep. When this happened, she took the opportunity to cut off his head, which was then brought  to Jerusalem. When the general of the Greek army saw that their king was dead, they ran away. Therefore, some have the practice to eat dairy on Chanukah in remembrance of the miracle that was brought about through dairy.