The eight days of Hanukkah: The miracle of oil or a second Sukkot? – jewishpresstampa

Posted By on November 12, 2021

By ohtadmin | on November 10, 2021

Weve all heard the story of why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days. The Maccabees reclaimed the Temple but discovered that all of the oil to light the Temples menorah had been defiled except for one cruse. That cruse, we learned, was just enough oil to light the Menorah for one day, but a miracle ensued and the lights remained lit for eight days. What we dont all learn, however, is that this story is a late story appearing in the Talmud, and it is only one explanation for why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days. Now, my goal is not to ruin Hanukkah for you, so if finding out that this story might not be the reason Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days would ruin the entire holiday, I encourage you to stop reading now. That said, in looking at another explanation we may find new meaning to a holiday weve been celebrating our entire lives.

In the Second Book of Maccabees (not included in the canon of the Tanakh) we read that upon reclaiming the Temple an eight-day celebration followed in the manner of the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) remembering how not long before, during [Sukkot], they had been wandering like wild beasts in the mountains and the caves (10:6-8). The text goes on to talk about their lifting up palm fronds (the lulav). While it could be a coincidence that Sukkot (an eight-day festival including Shmini Atzeret) is mentioned in connection to another eight-day celebration taking place two months later, it most likely is not. It seems as though the Maccabees and their followers missed the Festival of Sukkot because they were fighting, and upon the end of their battle, they celebrated the neglected festival.

While quite different from the miracle of the oil, this does not have to change our Hanukkah celebrations. It can, however, leave us with a new value in this season. Too often we think of missed opportunities as permanent. In celebrating a second Sukkot a month and a half after the festival ended, the Maccabees and their followers teach us that its never too late for a second chance. As we prepare to enter our Hanukkah celebration at the end of this month, think about that conversation you meant to have but never did. As you light your Hanukkah lights, think about that joyous occasion you meant to celebrate but let slip by. As you eat your latkes, think about any other moments in life that slipped by, and embrace this lesson of the Maccabees. Take advantage of the opportunity to have a second chance.

Neis gadol haya sham A great miracle happened there. Whether or not one day of oil lasted eight days, the Maccabees victory was truly a miracle, and rather than mourning a missed festival, their combination of nostalgia and optimism led them to celebrate that missed opportunity with more passion than they would have the first time around. We can learn from both of these miracles by making the most of every opportunity and creating a second chance for those times in which we cant.

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association which assigns the column on a rotating basis. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the TRA.


The eight days of Hanukkah: The miracle of oil or a second Sukkot? - jewishpresstampa

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