Why 8 days of Hanukkah?

Dear Rabbi Hyim:

I have a question about Chanukah.  I understand that we celebrate Chanukah for eight days because the Maccabees found only one jar of pure olive oil in the Jerusalem Temple to light the menorah there which was lit every day.  It took eight days to get new additional oil and due to a miracle the oil lasted eight days.  Here is my question: Why isn’t Hanukah 7 days, the miracle was not eight days it was only seven because there was already enough oil to last the first day.  So why eight?

Rivka in Baltimore


Dear Rivka,

Yours is actually a very famous question that has been written about for several hundred years.  There are literally hundreds of various answers to it.  Some of the more popular ones are that just finding the oil was a miracle, or that they divided up the oil into eight parts, each not containing enough to burn for even one day and each burned for one day making eight days of miracles, and on and on.

Two thoughts though.  The first is from Rabbi Abraham Magence, a great righteous man and the Rabbi before me of Bais Abraham congregation.  He said the real person who should be honored for Chanukah is the one who in the face of hopelessness had the hope, foresight and courage to hid at least that one jar of oil.

Secondly, I would say that perhaps the true miracle of Chanukah was not the oil lasting for eight days but the war to keep our religion that we won against such a vast Greek army, the few against the many, the persecuted against the persecutor.  That we could remain Jews was the true miracle.  We must appreciate this miracle for all times, much more so that the oil lasting for eight days.

Happy Hannukah,
Rabbi Hyim

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