latest Post

TCS Question - Why is Hanukkah eight days long?

At first glance this may appear to be a rather strange question to ask. Hanukkah lasts for eight days because when the Maccabees rededicated the Temple they found a tiny jar of oil, which should have only lasted for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days. We just need to look at our eight branched Hanukkiah as a reminder of the miracle and the duration of the festival.

However, the ‘real’ answer is a little more complicated.

The major source for the story of Hanukah is the Book of Maccabees, although the book has no religious significance within Judaism, it is an important source of historical information. Without a Hebrew text, the book has primarily been preserved in Greek, as a part of the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Bible.

The Book of Maccabees tells the story of the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks during the second century BCE, and their subsequent rule of the Jewish Kingdom. During the final year of the revolt it was not possible to celebrate the festival of Sukkot, because the Jews were consumed by their war against the Greeks. When they finally reclaimed the Temple, they celebrated a belated Sukkot during the month of Kislev, when we now celebrate Hanukah.

Sukkot lasts for seven days, with a final eighth day of Shmini Atzeret, and so this original celebration, which developed into Hanukah, also lasted for eight days. According to the Book of Maccabees they even waved the lulav when originally celebrating this festival.

The story of the jar of oil appears significantly later in Jewish history, when it is recorded in the Talmud, which was written between the third and fifth centuries of the Common Era. This later story allowed the Rabbis to move the focus of Hanukah away from a military revolution, and to instead transform it into a story about God’s miraculous power. This was a strategically sensible decision for a dispersed people, without a homeland, who had suffered greatly as a result of two failed revolutions in the first and second centuries of the Common Era.

So in answering our original question; Hanukah is eight days long because of Sukkot.

About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
Recommended Posts × +


Post a Comment