Chanukah menorah outside the Old City of Jerusalem. (yishaifleisher.com) (yishaifleisher.com)

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Was the Chanukah miracle a seven-day or an eight-day occurrence? Why is the holiday celebrated for eight days rather than seven? There’s a wealth of discussion on this topic.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

As is widely known, Chanukah is celebrated for eight days in order to recall that the Maccabees found a small flask of oil that should have lasted only one day, but a miracle occurred and the oil lasted eight days.

The question is asked: According to this reasoning, Chanukah should be a SEVEN-day holiday, not an eight day holiday! This is because the miracle only lasted seven days!

There are literally HUNDREDS of answers to this question. Here the four most popular:

Since it was known that it would take at least eight days to prepare new oil for the Menorah in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, the Maccabees took the small amount of oil that they found and divided it into eight parts. A miracle occurred and the small amount of oil that was placed in the Menorah each day lasted an entire day. Hence, there was a miracle on the first day of Chanukah as well.

On the “first night” of Chanukah, the Maccabees used all the oil they found to light the Menorah. This was enough oil for the Menorah to burn for one day.  However, a miracle occurred, and a short while later it was noticed that the flask of oil remained full! The miracle occurred again and again for eight days, at which time the new oil was ready to be used. Hence, there was a miracle on each of the eight days.

In a similar vein, it is explained that on the first night, the Maccabees used all they oil they found to light the Menorah which, as mentioned, would have been enough to allow the lights of the Menorah to burn for one day. The next morning, however, it was discovered that none of the oil burned up, and the cups of the Menorah were still full! This miracle for eight days. Hence, the first day, when the oil did not burn up in the cups of the Menorah, was a miracle as well.

One day of Chanukah is to commemorate the military victory, while the other seven days of Chanukah commemorate the miracle of oil.

As mentioned, there are hundreds of additional answers! Be sure to suggest your own over the course of Chanukah!

Chanukah articles

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