by Avraham Sutton
[Adapted from NIFLAOT #2 and printed in Ascent Quarterly
That the overt miracle of Chanuka, the lighting of the Menorah, lasted
for eight days, is not accidental, but intrinsic. The Torah informs us
that G-d created the world in six days and ceased working on the seventh,
the Shabbat. The number six can thus be said to represent the natural
world that was created in six days (time) with its six spatial directions
(east-west, north-south, up-down). The number seven represents G-d's immanence,
the hidden presence of the Divine at the heart and core of this world.
In other words, seven is the very soul of six, permeating it, instilling
it with (transcendent) holiness, and elevating it to its perfection. The
next number, eight, represents G-d's transcendence above and beyond this
world. Like all miracles, Chanuka happened from the level of "eight",
that which is beyond natural law. However, being the last miracle of its
kind until the coming of Mashiach, Chanuka had to embody "eight"
in a unique, special way. It had to breathe "eight".
In Hebrew, the word shemonah (eight) has the same exact letters
as hashemen (the oil), neshama (soul), and mishna
(transmitted teaching). As recorded in the Talmud, the Syrian-Greeks had
entered the Temple and sullied all its oil. This oil represents the deepest
level of the Jewish soul. It represents the Jew's potential to awaken
from the deepest slumber of exile, to come to life even (and perhaps especially)
under the most trying circumstances. Only one jar of pure oil was found,
sealed with the seal of the Kohen Gadol (high priest), the holiest
Jew, who embodied the level of "eight" by virtue of the eight
special garments he wore when serving in the Temple.
The siddur informs us that it was Mattityahu the Chashmonai (Mattithiah
the Hasmonean) and his sons who rallied the Jews to defend the Torah and
fight against the Greeks. The name Chashmonai has two components,
the letter chet, the eighth letter of the aleph-bet, followed by
the word for oil, shemen. Thus, the Cha-shemonai family embodied
the power of Eight.
"Eight" beckons us to transcend the constrictions of time and
space, to see through a world that disguises G-dliness and threatens to
engulf our souls in materiality. "Eight" calls us to see miracles
in the order of nature, in confusing events of our individual and collective
lives, in the hidden pathways of Divine Providence that guide us.
"Eight" can rouse us from our collective slumber. By reminding
us of the time when G-d did indeed overtly "interfere" with
and "alter" the "natural" course of history, it quickens
our anticipation of the revelation of G-d's salvation that we await in
Rabbi Avraham Sutton is the editor-compiler of Aryeh Kaplan's Inner
Space and the translator and author of many articles on Kabbala (www.geulah.org).