Why Eight? by Chaim Metzger


The Beit Yosef (Orach Chaim 670 s.v. VeHaTa’am) notes that the Gemara (Shabbat 21b) lists the miracle of Chanukah as the finding of the oil jug, enough to last for one day, and its lasting for eight days. But when we recite “Al HaNisim”, the only miracle mentioned is the battle against the Hellenists; there is no mention whatsoever of the oil miracle. Is the victory in battle the miracle or is the finding of the Pach HaShemen the miracle? One might point out that the lasting of the oil is impossible, as oil lasting for eight days violates basic laws of nature, while a small army beating a much larger army is only nearly impossible. But even if the main miracle were the Shemen, why do we celebrate Chanukah for eight days? If there was initially enough oil to last for one day, then the miracle was that it lasted for seven more! Why don't we celebrate Chanukah for seven days?

There are many possible explanations to this difficulty. One such answer would be that the eighth day commemorates the miracle of Teva, nature – the miracle that the world continues to run from day to day. It is also possible to say that it was a miracle even to find the Pach Shemen. An alternative to these classic answers can be found in letters of the Hebrew word for eight, “Shemoneh.” By rearranging the letters, we can read it as “Shemen Vav-Hey.” The Shemen (oil) makes sense, but what can we make of the extra letters, Vav and Hey?

In one of Hashem’s names, spelled “Yud-Hey-Vov-Hey”, the “Yud-Hey” is representative of the Nistar or hidden aspect of Hashem’s help: hidden miracles. On the other hand, “Vav-Hey” is representative of the Nigleh, the open miracles that the Almighty performs.

Only after the oil was found did Bnei Yisrael understand that their entire saga was miraculous, including their victory in battle. Until then, they did not see their victory in battle as a miracle. But when they found the Pach HaShemen, which subsequently lasted for eight days, they realized that everything which had conspired was a true miracle. Their victory was a hidden miracle and not just a victory due to their luck and skill.

Similarly, in our everyday lives, we must take a step back. It is necessary to realize that whenever things go our way, whether in school or business, we must notice that while it may seem that our prosperity was a result of only our actions, such is hardly ever the case. We have to look at the big picture and understand that Hashem is aiding us every day, and we must thank Him properly.

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