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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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Eliezer Zalmanov for 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. Reply

Mike Jerusalem 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? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for 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. Reply

Rich Maine 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 Reply

Jim Texas, USA October 1, 2017
in response to Rich:

If you're calling the Gregorian Calendar "the modern calendar" that calendar was established centuries ago by a Catholic Pope (Gregory).
From the internet: "The Gregorian calendar is internationally the most widely used civil calendar. It is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582. The calendar was a refinement to the Julian calendar involving a 0.002% correction in the length of the year." Reply

Barry Dennis MD, USA November 21, 2014

One wonders if the jug was still full after the eighth night, and if so, is it still full today? Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein 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". Reply

Ron Faulk Leesburg, Fl. December 9, 2012

chanukah 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. Reply

Anonymous montreal, qc/ canada 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? Reply

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