Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 11, 2007 / 2 Teves, 5768

Why ‘Eight is Enough’

By Dr. Ari Zivotofsky


Printer Friendly Version

Email this article


When the Chanukah miracle was actually only seven days


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The basic story of Chanukah as related in the Talmud is well known: The Greco-Syrians had occupied the land of Israel and subjugated the Jews. They passed laws that were meant to Hellenize the Jews and lead them to assimilate into Greek society and thereby abandon practicing Judaism. In addition, they defiled the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, abolishing the regular service the Jews performed there.


A handful of Jews, the Maccabees, under the leadership of Mattisyahu and his son Judah, took up arms against the Hellenized Jews and their foreign backers and defeated them on the battle field.


Following the victory, the Maccabees rededicated the Jerusalem Temple. Part of the service included lighting the golden candelabrum (menorah) each evening with ritually pure oil and letting it burn the entire night. However, only a small crucible of pure oil, enough for one night, was found. This oil miraculously burned for eight days. In commemoration of these events, the sages enacted the eight-day festival we celebrate as Chanukah.


The length of the holiday seems quite logical — eight days in commemoration of an eight-day miracle. However, upon closer examination a slight problem can be seen. It is mentioned as early as the 12th century, but is most well known as the question of Rabbi Yosef Karo in his famous work, Beis Yosef: If there was enough oil to burn for one night and it miraculously burned for eight, the miracle was only for seven days, not eight. Therefore, why do we celebrate for eight days?


This vexing question has occupied the minds of some of the leading Jewish thinkers, particularly in the last few hundred years.


The variety of solutions has grown to the point that a recently published Hebrew-language book, Ner L'Mea, includes a collection of 100 different answers to this question.


The most fundamental answer is that the miracle of the oil was indeed only seven days long, and we actually commemorate it for only seven days. But it was not the only miracle we are celebrating by observing Chanukah. As is evident by looking at the special prayer, Al HaNissim, that is said on Chanukah, we also are celebrating the miraculous military victory. That alone, without the miracle of the oil, would have sufficed to create a holiday. Hence, one day is observed for the miracle is battle and seven days for the miracle of the oil.


Similar in nature to this answer, is that the "extra" day relates to the miracle of finding even that one jar of pure oil after the Greeks had defiled the entire rest of the Temple. The mere existence of the pure oil can be viewed as a miracle, as can the presence of even one ritually pure priest who was qualified to kindle the Temple's menorah.


Alternatively, the faith of the high priest in hiding it, and the faith of the Jews in searching for it are in themselves worthy of commemoration.


The "extra" day also may be viewed as commemorating the rededication of the altar, while the other seven are for the miracle of the oil. All of these answers assume a seven-day miracle, with seven days to commemorate it , plus and "extra" day for some other reason or miracle.


A number of answers are based on the fundamental Jewish principle that a miracle does not happen in a vacuum. Human effort must be expended and material substance must be present. To posit that the miracle was only seven days implies that not miracle whatsoever took place the first day. That would have required that all of the oil had been consumed the first day, leaving nothing on which the miracle could take place on subsequent days.


Various suggestions have been postulated to avoid this, all including a miraculous component on the first days as well. The possibilities include: The Maccabees divided the oil and used only an eight each day; the Maccabees poured out all the oil the first night but the cruse remained full; all the oil was used but the morning following the first night the candelabra was still full; or that the Maccabees poured all of the oil into the menorah but only an eighth was consumed each night — all scenarios in which the first night was miraculous as well and the miracle of the oil was thus indeed eight days long.


There also is another more superficial answer which simply nullifies the question before it gets off the ground. It is based on a 10th century Gaonic text that relates the Chanukah story slightly differently from our version. It is stated there that the single jug of oil did not have enough oil to last even one day. Hence, the first night was just as miraculous as the other seven.


The opposite extreme recognizes the question as so cogent as to have no good answer. The miracle was really only seven days. However, extrinsic reasons may have played a role in establishing Chanukah as an eight-day holiday. For example, it is forbidden to make reproductions of the various objects and compounds which were used in the Temple. Hence, there are various restrictions on what sort of seven branched candelabrum one is permitted to make or maintain in one's house. To avoid such problems, the rabbis ordained Chanukah as eight days instead of seven.


Other suggestions link the Maccabees' rededication of the Temple, and our observance of it, with a previous Temple rededication. Just like King Hezekiah's rededication of the First Temple after his father's defilement of it was eight days long, so was the Maccabee rededication of the Second Temple eight days. It is immaterial that technically the miracle was only seven days. We are celebrating the rededication in general, not the oil miracle specifically, and hence celebrate for eight days — all in anticipation of the future dedication of the Third Temple, which will never need a rededication.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

Dr. Ari Zivotofsky is a professor of brain science at Bar-Ilan University.

© 2007, Dr. Ari Zivotofsky