For Shabbos Chanukah 5777

I'd like to wish everyone a Lichtige Chanukah, a good Chodesh, and a good Shabbos.

First I'll quote something I heard from Michal Horowitz in her Chanukah shiur last Sunday. Chanukah, as we all know runs eight days, which means it always includes a Shabbos, obviously. But something unusal about it is that it also is a holiday that runs over Rosh Chodesh. She pointed out that in that way it counters the particular decress that the Syrian-Greeks made against Jewish identity by targeting three essential practices: Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and Bris Milah. The first two are included in the days of Chanukah and the eight days are a clear reference to Bris Milah, done on the eight day.

I wrote about other associations with eight in the past. One year, I observed that the 3 letters that make up the word for oil shemen also correspond to the root of the word shmone, the number 8. My husband then added that oil floats on top of water, just as the eighth level is lema'ala min hateva [transcends the natural order]. That's what Chanukah is all about, which is why we call the eighth and last day, Zos Chanukah -- this is Chanukah.

This is the only single holiday that is celebrated for eight days. While both Pesach and Sukkoth are celebrated for 8 days outside of Israel, they are, in essence, 7 day holidays with one day added on for those in exile. Chanukah is eight days all over the world with no additional day added. Eight is a highly significant number in Jewish thought. It represents a level of spirituality that rises above nature. That is why a brith [circumcision] is performed on the eight day.

The small jug of pure oil that should have sufficed only for one day burned for eight days to allow enought time for more pure oil to be made. That always leads to the question of why we celebrate the miracle for eight days, when the miracle was really only for seven. There are various answers for that. The most common are that finding the oil at all was a miracle or that the additional day is for the miracle of our victory in battle when our forces were so outnumbered. But the number eight is also what this holiday is all about -- reaching beyond the natural order in our spiritual aspirations.


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