Since on the twenty-fifth day of Chislev we shall celebrate the purification of the temple, we thought it necessary to notify you, in order that you also may celebrate the festival of booths and the festival of the fire given when Nehemiah, who built the temple and the altar, offered sacrifices.
For when our ancestors were being led captive to Persia, the pious priests of that time took some of the fire of the altar and secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern, where they took such precautions that the place was unknown to anyone.
But after many years had passed, when it pleased God, Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to get it. And when they reported to us that they had not found fire but only a thick liquid, he ordered them to dip it out and bring it.
When the materials for the sacrifices were presented, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle the liquid on the wood and on the things laid upon it.
When this had been done and some time had passed, and when the sun, which had been clouded over, shone out, a great fire blazed up, so that all marveled.
And while the sacrifice was being consumed, the priests offered prayer—the priests and everyone. Jonathan led, and the rest responded, as did Nehemiah.
The prayer was to this effect: "O Lord, Lord God, Creator of all things, you are awe-inspiring and strong and just and merciful, you alone are king and are kind,
you alone are bountiful, you alone are just and almighty and eternal. You rescue Israel from every evil; you chose the ancestors and consecrated them.
Accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel and preserve your portion and make it holy.
Gather together our scattered people, set free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look on those who are rejected and despised, and let the Gentiles know that you are our God.
Punish those who oppress and are insolent with pride.
Plant your people in your holy place, as Moses promised."
Then the priests sang the hymns.
After the materials of the sacrifice had been consumed, Nehemiah ordered that the liquid that was left should be poured on large stones.
When this was done, a flame blazed up; but when the light from the altar shone back, it went out.
When this matter became known, and it was reported to the king of the Persians that, in the place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire, the liquid had appeared with which Nehemiah and his associates had burned the materials of the sacrifice,
the king investigated the matter, and enclosed the place and made it sacred.
And with those persons whom the king favored he exchanged many excellent gifts.
Nehemiah and his associates called this "nephthar," which means purification, but by most people it is called naphtha.