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Why 8 Days of Hanukkah?

May 9, 2009 | by Shimon Apisdorf

The number eight transcends the natural world

Do you sense there is more to life than you can touch or feel or smell? That there's a dimension to reality that cannot be experienced by any of your senses – but it's as real as the feeling you have when holding the hand of someone you love? Have you pondered the soul, the nonphysical core of your being which cannot be detected by x-ray technology? Do you believe in God?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Hanukkah is the holiday for you.

Here's why:

The world was created in seven days. There are seven notes in the musical scale, seven days of the week. Therefore, the number seven represents the physical world that we can touch and smell and feel.

The number eight, on the other hand, transcends the natural world. That's why the miraculous days of Chanukah are "eight." Though eight emanates from beyond our senses, your soul can still reach out and be touched by its force?


The Greeks had a particular dislike of the Jewish practice of Brit Mila, the circumcision of a baby boy on the eighth day after his birth. In fact, they outlawed the practice of Brit Mila.

Why such string opposition?

First of all, circumcision offended the Greek idea of perfection of the human body. Public nudity was accepted in Greek society because every "body" was another piece of art. Greek Olympic athletes competed naked. To the Greeks, circumcision was mutilation of a masterpiece, like spraying graffiti on a Renoir.

To the Jew, Brit Mila is one of the most essential expressions of Jewish identity. A human being can only achieve its greatest beauty if affected by a relationship with God. The perfectly sculpted human recognizes and embraces the reality of his transcendent soul.

During the period of Greek oppression, Brit Mila was intolerable. It became a capital crime.


"The wise sages, days of eight they proclaimed for song and rejoicing."
from "Ma'oz Tzur" - Rock of Salvation, sung nightly after lighting the menorah

When the Jews recaptured the Holy Temple from the Greeks, the first thing they did was light the golden Menorah. They had only one enough oil to last for one day, and new oil would take seven days to prepare. But a miracle happened. Instead of burning for one day, the Menorah stayed lit for eight days. Today we light our menorahs for eight days to recall this miracle and to be inspired by its message.

On a deeper level, the days of Chanukah are eight days of transcendence. Days of opportunity to look both within ourselves and beyond, to sense that there is far more to our existence than the world of nature could ever contain.

The Greeks detested Brit Mila because of its "eightness," because it stands for transcendence. The miracle of the oil lasted for eight days as a reminder that Jewish life is hewn from the "Rock" of transcendence.

Adapted from "Chanukah - Eight Nights of Light, Eight Gifts for the Soul"


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