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Why is Hanukkah 8 days?

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The Jewish pageant of Hanukkah — additionally spelled Chanukah — is a celebration that occurs across the center of winter every year. However why is it eight days lengthy?

Probably the most generally heard clarification is that the eight days commemorate a miracle through which a small quantity of oil burned not for one however eight days. Nonetheless, that is really not the unique purpose that Hanukkah lasts for therefore lengthy, a scholar of Jewish historical past instructed Dwell Science. 

However regardless of the reason, Hanukkah has at all times lasted eight days, even the primary 12 months it was celebrated in historical occasions.

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The phrase “Hanukkah” derives from the Hebrew verb “to dedicate.” The pageant was established in 163 B.C. when a Jewish revolt led by warriors often known as the Maccabees succeeded in liberating Jerusalem from the Seleucid Empire. The Selucid ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, had outlawed Jewish practices and put in an altar to Zeus within the Temple in Jerusalem, sacrificing pigs there.

Historic sources state that Hannukah was instituted to commemorate the ritual purification and re-dedication of the temple, which allowed Jewish worship to renew there. However simply why Hanukkah is eight days lengthy is advanced.

The standard clarification is the “miracle of the cruse of oil.” (A cruse is a container.)

In keeping with this legend, the “everlasting flame” within the temple, which was presupposed to burn repeatedly, had gone out whereas the Selucids managed the town. 

After the Seleucids have been expelled from Jerusalem, it is mentioned the Maccabees looked for oil to mild the temple flame; however they might solely discover a single cruse of religiously pure oil — sufficient to gas the flame for at some point.

When the temple flame was lit from the only cruse of oil, nevertheless, it miraculously lasted eight days — simply lengthy sufficient to finish the spiritual purification course of and make extra oil, the legend relates.

In keeping with some traditions, these are the eight days commemorated by Hanukkah. 

The affiliation of this story with the eight days of Hanukkah is strengthened by the ritual of lighting candles on the nine-branched candlestick often known as a Hanukkah menorah, or hanukkiah, that brightens many Jewish properties throughout the vacation. Every primary department of the candlestick represents at some point of Hanukkah, whereas a ninth candle — the helper candle, or “shamash” in Hebrew — is used to mild the others.

However David Kraemer (opens in new tab), a professor of the Talmud and Rabbinics on the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York Metropolis, notes that the story of the miracle of oil was solely written down a number of hundred years after Hanukkah was instituted; As a substitute, it appears to this point from between about A.D. 100 to 600, when the gathering of Jewish teachings often known as the Talmud was written down, though a lot of it was primarily based on earlier traditions.

Throughout Sukkot, Jews rejoice the autumn harvest by constructing a sukkah, a small outside sales space or hut, the place they’ll eat meals and, in the event that they so select, sleep in in a single day to allow them to slumber underneath the celebs. (Picture credit score: robertharding by way of Alamy Inventory Picture)

As such, the story of the miracle of oil would not appear to have been identified till that point; and the historic sources clarify that the primary Hanukkah lasted for eight days in order that the essential Jewish harvest vacation of Sukkot may very well be noticed, he mentioned. 

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Sukkot additionally lasts eight days (or seven days in some Jewish traditions) and normally takes place in September or October, but it surely could not be noticed within the 12 months that the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem; and so Hanukkah was established to permit it to happen, Kraemer mentioned.

“What they did was after they re-purified the temple, they celebrated Sukkot,” Kraemer instructed Dwell Science. “Initially, the eight days come from the truth that Hanukkah was a belated observance of Sukkot.”

In keeping with the Jewish spiritual calendar, Hanukkah begins on the twenty fifth day of the month of Kislev and continues till the second day of the month of Teslev — a date often known as Zos Chanukah that’s significantly holy.

The Jewish months, nevertheless, are primarily based on a luni-solar calendar and transfer round in contrast with the calendar utilized in most international locations, which is predicated on the Gregorian calendar launched in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII (itself a modification to the Julian calendar launched in 46 B.C. by the Roman chief Julius Caesar.)

The result’s that the dates of Hanukkah additionally transfer round; and whereas the beginning of Hanukkah is commonly close to Christmas on Dec. 25, it will also be as early as Thanksgiving (the final “Thanksgivukkah” was in 2013 and the following will likely be in 2070) or as late as Dec. 27.

In 2022, Hanukkah will start on Sunday, Dec 18; and it’ll finish on Dec. 26.

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