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Why Is Chanukah Eight Days Long?

Why Is Chanukah Eight Days Long?


This question is as old as the holiday itself . . . If the pure oil which was found was enough for one day, then seemingly no miracle occurred on the first day of Chanukah. Why, then, isn’t Chanukah celebrated for seven days—starting with the 26th of Kislev, when the miracle began?

Many answers are given for this glaring difficulty. In fact, since Rabbi Yosef Caro (16th-century author of the Code of Jewish Law) posed this question (and suggested three answers of his own), over 100 other answers have been proposed!

The following are a few of them:1

  1. Considering that it would take another eight days to procure pure oil, the Jews divided the jug of oil—which contained enough oil for only one night—into eight equal amounts. They figured that they would light one-eighth of the oil each of the next eight nights. Miraculously, on each of the eight nights of Chanukah, the oil which should have lasted only one-eighth of the night lasted for the entire night.
  2. After they filled the menorah with oil on the first night, the jug remained full. The same happened on the ensuing seven days.
  3. After the first night, when they entered the sanctuary the next morning to clean the menorah, they found that the cups of the menorah were still full of oil, despite having burned the entire night.
  4. We celebrate the first day to commemorate the miraculous victory over the Greeks.

For an in-depth (and entertaining) exposition of these solutions, see The Menorah Files.


Beit Yosef on Tur, Orach Chaim 670. See also Likkutei Sichot, vol. 15, p. 183.

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Discussion (8)
January 11, 2017
Like everything in the Oral Torah, by definition it was first transmitted orally within the Jewish community. And because it was a relatively recent occurrence (at the time), that was sufficient. But once there was a risk of the tradition being lost, the sages recorded it in the Talmud.
Eliezer Zalmanov
December 28, 2016
There is no contemporary account of the miracle of the oil. Why did it take 600 years for the story to appear in the Talmud?
December 18, 2014
To: Rich in Maine
All Jewish holidays are always on the same date on the Jewish calendar, which is not perfectly aligned with the modern secular calendar. That's why Chanukah, for example, will usually be on different dates year to year.
Eliezer Zalmanov
December 17, 2014
What determines when Channukah begins. In fact it appears that many if not all Jewish holidays occur on varying dates compared to the modern western calendar
November 21, 2014
One wonders if the jug was still full after the eighth night, and if so, is it still full today?
Barry Dennis
November 28, 2013
Re: Chanukah and Sukkot
The story of the jug of oil is found in the Talmud, which is indeed the source for what is Jewish. The rabbis of the Talmud also considered the books of Maccabees to not be authoritative. It is no clearer that the reason given there is true than the reason given in the Talmud. The writer was not a contemporary of the events he describes. At any rate, correlating Chanukah with Sukkot would explain why the Jews then celebrated an eight day holiday. The author of Maccabees also does not mention kindling the Menorah to celebrate. The Talmud is explaining why we celebrate it for eight days instead of just one day, the 25th, as well as why we do so by kindling Menorahs. During this holiday we do indeed give thanks for the miraculous victories, as well as kindle the menorah to commemorate the miracle of the oil.
See also "Is Chanukah Mentioned in the Torah".
Rabbi Shmary Brownstein
December 9, 2012
Chanukah lasts 8 days to remind us that G-dliness transcends worldly philosophy. Moses saw a bush that burned but wasn't consumed, and Israel saw a lamp that burned, but the oil wasn't consumed. Isaiah 43:2 says, "When you walk through the fire, you won't be burned." So being G-dly isn't popular in our culture, but it certainly transcends it.
Ron Faulk
Leesburg, Fl.
December 20, 2011
I'm confused
What exactly happened? Did they pour oil in the 1st night and it lasted for all 8 nights? Or every night they found more oil in the jug?
montreal, qc/ canada
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