CHANUKAH: Why Chanukah?

December 1, 2023

Moses dedicated the Mishkan, Solomon dedicated the First Temple, but only the Hasmonean rededication became a festival we celebrate until today. Why?

(Sicha Shabbos Vayigash, 4 Teves, 5734)

The Eight Days of Chanukah

We kindle the Chanukah candles for eight nights in remembrance of the miracle of the pure oil (Source 1). The question is well known: Being that the jug of oil found was enough to last one day, the miracle was only for seven days! (Source 2). There are several answers: a) the oil was divided into eight, and despite the small amount used on the first night, the menorah continued to burn all night. b) There wasn’t enough oil for even one night. c) The first night commemorates the military victory.

When we give the Chanukah story a deeper look in the light of Chassidic teachings, eight nights has a deeper significance.

Chanukah and the Messianic Era

Chanukah is eight days, like the Moshiach’s harp, which will have eight strings.

Seven represents the full circle of nature, while eight signifies the supernatural that is revealed within nature. The Greeks believed that human intellect was the highest authority, thus they forbade mitzvah observance. The victory of the Maccabees was a victory of faith and mitzvah observance beyond logic – eight.

This is the difference between a harp of seven strings and that of eight (Source 3). The Messianic era will reveal an unprecedented level of holiness, and the additional string will represent the aspect of G-dliness that is beyond nature.

Chanukah is an eternal holiday, which will be observed even after Moshiach’s arrival; all holidays will be obsolete except for Chanukah and Purim (Sources 4-5).

The Rebbe adds another dimension to the connection between Chanukah and Moshiach: the dedication of the Altar. The Chashmonaim rededicated the Altar after the invaders defiled it, which is connected with the future dedication of the Altar in the third Holy Temple.

According to the Yalkut Shimoni, the Altar of the third Temple will be dedicated in the month of Cheshvan (Source 6). How then is it connected to the holiday of Chanukah?

From Suffering to Plenty

On Chanukah, we commemorate two events: the military victory and tjhe dedication of the Altar, as we say in the Al Hanisim prayer (Source 7). Why is there no holiday commemorating the Mishkan and the Holy Temple, as was established for the rededication of the Temple in the days of the Chashmonaim?

Moses made a grand celebration for the Mishkan for eight days (Source 8), and King Solomon celebrated the Holy Temple for 14 days (Source 9), however, we do not find such celebrations being commemorated later on.

The Rebbe explains that this is because the Jews weren’t going from suffering to times of peace: The Mishkan was built after the giving of the tablets at Sinai and G-d’s forgiveness of the Jewish people; Solomon’s Temple was built during a peaceful period. The second Temple was after the Jews returned from exile to the Land of Israel and re-established themselves there to an extent. The period leading up to Chanukah, on the other hand, was a difficult one: laws were enshrined that forbade the practice of Judaism (Source 10) and the rededication of the Altar signified the transition from suffering to plenty. That is why we celebrate Chanukah today.

Accordingly, we can understand the connection between Chanukah and the third Holy Temple. The dedication of the third Temple will be akin to the holiday of Chanukah in that both events mark the end of a period of suffering and persecution.



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