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                    6, 7, 8, Let Us Celebrate!

11/05/2013 11:11:57 AM


Rebbetzin Penny and I wish you Chanukah Sameach, a very happy Chanukah!

Most people know so much about the history and the story of Chanukah. In this article I want to go beyond these and focus on the power of eight!

I am indebted to Rabbi Avraham Sutton for the core of this idea. [The article NIFLAOT #2, printed in Ascent Quarterly #37.] He reminds us that the main mitzvah of Chanukah is the lighting of the Menorah. The fact that this is celebrated for eight days has an interesting undercurrent. 

Let us examine the meaningfulness of the numbers 6, 7 and 8. Hashem created the world in 6 "days". The number 6 can symbolize the natural world, with its six directions: north, south, east, west, up and down.

Hashem ceased from creation and made the seventh day holy, Shabbat. Thus the number 7 reflects Hashem's immanence. It is the very soul, which permeates all of the 6 days, all of the world, with     G-d's holiness. 

Eight is the number representing Hashem's transcendence. Eight is unique; it is above and it is beyond our world. This is the realm of the miracle. 

It is fascinating that in Hebrew, the word shemonah (eight) is made up of the same letters as the word hashemen (the oil), neshama (soul), and Mishna!  Thus, when the Rabbis in the Talmud related the story of how the Syrian Greeks had desecrated the Temple and the jars of oil used for lighting the Menorah, they are presenting for us a way to reflect on a deeper meaning.

What does the oil symbolize? It represents the innermost level of the Jewish soul. Even when we are challenged, living in the midst of exile,  we can stir ourselves; we can find our true potential, our light.

It is amazing in the story of the little cruse of oil, that only the one vessel that still had the seal of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, was acceptable. It had the purity. It represented the seal of the holy man, this High Priest, who wore 8 special garments when officiating in the Temple!

Now for another amazing occurrence! Our siddur, prayer book,  has the prayer "Al Hanisim" that we recite on Chanukah. In it, Mattityahu is called the Chashmonai (Mattithias the Hasmonean). He, his sons, and followers were the devoted Jews who defended Torah, and risking their lives, saved Judaism. This, of course, could only be won because of Hashem's support.

The name Chashmonai, Hasmonean, can be divided into two parts, the letter chet, the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, followed by the word for oil, shemen. In this name, is hidden, in open sight, the concept of the power of 8, right alongside the concept of shemen, oil. 

Chanukah has this amazing message. It is beckoning us to see the 8 in our lives. We are more than physical human beings. We are physical beings with a soul! This soul is linked continuously with the One, who is immanent and transcendent.

The "Eight" calls us to transcend the smallness of time and space, and to imagine, see, and experience the miracles in nature, the miracles in our lives, the ways that Hashem guides us, and is ever present.

Chanukah is reminding us of the time when Hashem "stepped into history", and changed the natural course of events. Logically, there is no way that a small band of Jews could fight the super power, which was the Syrian Greeks, and be victorious. 

Indeed, the very fact that we, as Jews, exist, is a mystery to many. There is an account that relates that  Queen Victoria of England asked her Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli: "Mr. Prime Minister, what evidence can you give me of the existence of G-d?" Disraeli thought for a moment and then replied, "The Jew, your majesty."

As we kindle the Chanukah lights, let us ponder the miracles that are daily with us. Let us marvel about how Hashem has kept the Jewish people alive and given them the modern state of Israel.

Then let us resolve that we will do everything we can for our children and our family to be active and committed Jews, worthy of the name of Israel. After all, the Jews who wished to assimilate with the Hellenist Greeks, forsaking the Torah, disappeared from the Jewish people. It was the Jews who took a stand and held the Torah close and dear to them, who passed on Judaism to us. May we follow in their footsteps.

Chanukah Sameach!





Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782