One of the most famous questions related to Chanukah is as follows: Since the Jews had sufficient oil to burn for one day, then the miracle is that that oil burned for an additional seven. Why do we celebrate the miracle for eight days?
There are many answers to this questions. A few of them are:
- the first day was celebrated for the miracle of the military victory
- the fact that they even found one tiny flask of pure oil was itself a miracle.
- they only added an eighth of the oil each day
I’d like to share with you two answers that I really connect to.
- The very fact that oil burns is a miracle. Nature is a miracle. We take it for granted that the sun rises in the morning and sets at night, that water puts out fire, and that oil burns. But why? It’s all miraculous, every aspect of nature, from the planets and stars to the blossoming of a flower. Chanukah is a time to recognize not only the once in a lifetime miracles, but the miracles that happen all around us every minute of the day. The miracle of nature.
- The Jewish people had just gone through one of their most difficult periods. Persecution, death, war, personal hardships. When they finally managed to drive the Hellenist forces out of Jerusalem, they entered the Holy Temple only to find it desecrated and in ruin. They miraculously found a tiny flask of sealed holy oil, but they knew that it could only last for a day, so why bother? Why bother lighting the Menorah, the eternal light, when it will just be extinguished within the day? You see, the miracle is that they didn’t give up hope. Even though it looked hopeless, they lit the Menorah. They started over, from amidst the ruins and desecration. They never gave up hope. The Jews in the concentration camps and ghettos of the Holocaust also never gave up hope. Those that survived the destruction lit the tiny flask of oil that remained, and watched it miraculously burn, and continue to grow and spread light throughout the world.