search
Akiva Gersh

The 8th day of Hanukkah and the 7th of October

(courtesy)
(courtesy)

Today, the 8th day of Hanukkah, is a spiritual fixing for October 7th.

I know that might sound like a crazy thing to say, but allow me to explain.

October 7th was Shemini Atzeret, a one-day holiday (in Israel) that comes immediately after the 7 days of Sukkot. The name “Shemini Atzeret” literally means “Eighth (day), stop”, referring to the fact that it is the 8th day from the beginning of Sukkot.

On a spiritual level, Shemini Atzeret is the peak and the closing of not only the week of Sukkot but also of the entire Jewish holiday season that begins with Rosh Hashanah. On this day the ability of our prayers to reach the highest heavens is amplified and we have one more chance to do teshuvah (repentance) before our fate for the year is officially sealed. In addition, in Israel, Shemini Atzeret is also Simchat Torah, the day Jews dance joyously for hours with the Torah to celebrate the spiritual path given to them by God over 3000 years ago.

Hamas’s attack on Shemini Atzeret stopped all of that in its tracks.

Synagogues around Israel were shut down and worshipers told to go home as over 3000 rockets were launched by Hamas into many parts of Israel.

The prayers and the dancing were silenced.

The nation went into defensive mode, both physically and spiritually.

Instead of celebrating one of the most joyous days in the Jewish calendar together with family and community, millions of Israelis were behind locked doors in their security rooms in their homes, not yet aware of the magnitude of what was happening in the country.

And then we heard. Over 1200 murdered. Hundreds taken captive. Communities along the Gaza border destroyed.

And the war began.

And in addition to experiencing the intense reality of that war all around us and the overwhelming emotions inside of us, we felt like we were left without reaching the peak of, or giving closure to, our holiday season. It felt like the new year never really begun.

And then, over 60 days into the war, Hanukkah comes with its joy and its celebration and its abundance of radiant light.

And this year we are not only celebrating the ancient Jewish victory over our oppressors, but also the path towards victory we are currently experiencing over our enemies as our tremendous and brave soldiers defeat and destroy Hamas one day after the next.

And then we come to the last day of Hanukkah, the 8th day of Hanukkah.

According to Hasidic thought, inspired by the holy Baal Shem Tov, it is this day that really gives spiritual closure to the holiday season from Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot, and it is on this day that our new year really begins to unfold and come forth.

In addition, our prayers on this 8th day of Hanukkah reach the highest heavens, just like on Shemini Atzeret. It is a day to pray for everything we want for ourselves, our family, our nation and the world.

Jewish tradition teaches that the number 8 symbolizes beyond nature, the level of miracles and wonders.

And while we haven’t seen miracles like the Splitting of the Sea during these past two months, we have seen the Nation of Israel come together in unprecedented ways, shedding their differences and viscious disagreements that were us tearing apart, literally within hours. The unity and national spirit that we are experiencing now is literally on the level of miracles.

And that’s why today, the 8th day of Hanukkah, is a spiritual fixing for what happened on October 7th.

Though we can never bring back those who were brutally killed on that day, and though we are still yearning, hoping, dreaming and fighting to bring back those who are still held captive in Gaza, our nation has gone through a transformation since October 7th. One of the greatest transformations of our history. And the lights of Hanukkah, especially the fully lit Hannukiah of the 8th day, symbolize that, represent that, broadcast that reality loud and clear. We will never be the same.

On this day, the 8th day of Hanukkah, we open our hearts towards the highest heavens with the deepest prayers and longing for healing, for repair, for an end to the darkness, and we focus our gaze in front of us on the year that stands before us, ready to experience a new chapter in our nation’s story, ready to transition into the kind of nation we have yet to become, one that will eventually bring redemption to the entire world.

About the Author
Akiva Gersh has been working in the field of Jewish and Israel Education for over 20 years. In 2020 he founded @Israel to share his love and passion for Israel with students, schools and communities around the world through his online classes, courses and virtual tours of Israel. Akiva is also the editor of the book "Becoming Israeli" (at-israel.com/book), a compilation of essays that gives an inside look at the unique experience of making aliyah and the journey of acclimating to life in Israel. Akiva himself made aliyah in 2004 with his wife Tamar and they live in Pardes Hanna with their four kids. You can learn more about his work at www.at-israel.com as well as about his work teaching about Judaism and veganism at www.akivagersh.com/veganrabbi.
Related Topics
Related Posts