WHEN IS A MIRACLE A MIRACLE?

December 17th, 2020

There is a well-known question regarding the miracle of Chanuka, most often associated with the “Beit Yosef,” Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575), author of the definitive code of Jewish law (“Shulchan Aruch”).

The miracle of Chanuka is described in the Talmud as follows: uncontaminated oil which should only have lasted for one day lasted for eight days, giving the kohanim enough time to get new oil from Tekoa — a 4-day journey from Jerusalem — without the Menorah, which needed to be relit each day, missing a day of lighting.

The Beit Yosef’s question is simple: why, if the oil would definitely have lasted for one day, do we celebrate Chanuka for eight days? Chanuka should have been a seven-day festival, seeing as the miracle only really happened on the extra seven days!

Rabbi Dunner traverses through a range of answers, and also reveals an interesting historical debate regarding the origins of Chanukah, and how the miracle story became the festival’s central feature.

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