Every Chanukah is a little different and yet the same. This year has started off no different in that something spoke to me, a voice deep inside. The first night as I was preparing the Chanukiah with oil and wicks, foil placed by the window, a profound declaration came to my mind. I NEED ALL EIGHT DAYS OF CHANUKAH. The thought wasn’t forgotten but temporarily put on the proverbial back burner for later pondering.
Why? As with many Jewish holidays we don’t usually just one day. Rosh Hashanah is a two day event and Pesach and Succoth are stretched as well. There are many reasons given but the eight day issue is parallel with the time of circumcision of an eight day old baby boy.
Eight days. I’ve heard many reasons why the circumcision is on the eighth day namely because of the Torah’s explicit commandment from the time of Isaac’s birth to his father Abraham. By the eighth day the boy has survived one full week and his health and survival of the birth process has proved him strong enough (usually) to handle the circumcision. It’s a covenant for life,…so it’s a big deal and making it through eight days is that immune build up time for facing their first invasive challenge of such a vulnerable anatomical organ.
Chanukah was a circumcision. Eight days was how long the holy oil lasted in the rededicated temple but the really big deal was eight days to reset the clock, the mechanisms of daily temple worship, sacrifices, everyday rituals reestablished and most importantly reengrained into their daily lives.
I need all eight days because to appreciate the daily miracles of survival, to boost my holistic immune system for the Winter months ahead and especially the challenges to bend, conform, to compromise due to pressures of those who don’t care much about God or any kind of commitment much less a covenant with God, it’s vital to prepare for the circumcisions of life we all must face.
Just as the baby is given a taste of his first drops of wine so too we have the sweetness of the special pastries, candies, chocolate gelt, to sooth us in the cold nights of Winters’ beginning, we know it’s a ways off till Purim and this time is saturated with temptations of all kinds. The biggest temptations are to assimilate which is what our ancient warriors the Maccabees were fighting against. Excising the hedonistic elements out of the temple was the circumcision we all face in the interacts with the others in our worlds.
I need all eight days to remind myself how important my own commitment is to God and vice versa. I have to make it through all eight days to build up my ever tempted spiritual immune system to face the challenges of those who would say my circumcision, my covenant with God is irrelevant. By my eighth day I will have survived, strengthened and no matter what cuts I may feel from others and their various knives, I will survive.