Posted on December 3, 2013 by Laura Marder
I shared this dvar Torah at the recent PCJE Hanuka party:
Why 8? This question is asked in Megillah Taanit. The Rabbi’s ask, “Why 8 days?” They explore the fact that 7 would be more normative. Moses inaugurates the Mishkan, that’s 7 days. Shlomo dedicated the Temple, that’s 7 days. So why is Hanukkah 8 days? The answer given is that the miracle was 8 days long. The oil that was only enough for one day actually burned 8 days!
I hear this answer, but I still ask why 8!
Most religions have a holiday during this very dark time of the year. These holidays usually include a tradition in which we use lights or candles. Creation was 7 days. Maybe this extra day given to Hanukkah is us taking that extra step beyond natural creation and showing that sometimes we need to take a bit more action to brighten our world. We are lighting our candles each night, bringing more light into our lives and those outside our homes as we publicize the miracle. To me this “extra day” is symbolizing an extra step we must take.
I have also been told that the actual miracle is only 7 days because the 1 was mundane, seeing that the oil was expected to last only one day. The 7 days to follow were the miracle. So why are we celebrating all 8? We learn from this that we never know when a mundane day, comment, teaching, or even a smile can be the start of something miraculous. We have to be open to that chance that something expected can lead to something even greater.
In our lives at Pardes we are constantly learning from the text, our teachers, each other, and the land we are living in. We are so lucky to have this constant light shinning in our lives. We are like the shamash candle that lights the rest of the candles. We have been given light and like the candles we don’t loose anything by giving to others. Instead we just make the darkness in the world brighten. Just sharing something with a friend may seem like no big deal, but like that first day of oil, our sharing can spread into something magnificent.
I invite us all this Hanukkah to share something you have learned with someone else. Just teaching one person opens the opportunity for them to teach another and so on. My bracha for us all is that this Hanukkah we recognize the mundane in our lives and realize the possibilities that could follow. May we all have a beautifully bright Hanukkah!