From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
*** Please note that those living outside of Israel will start reciting “Tal Umatar Livracha” in Arvit of Motzei Shabbat, 4th December 2021 ***
The Miracle of Chanukah Was on the First Night Too
Maran Rav Yosef Karo’s ztz”l (1488-1575) question is well-known (Bet Yosef OH 670). Why did the chachamim fix the Chag of Chanukah for 8 days? Since the oil that they found would suffice for one day, therefore the miracle was really only for 7 days!
The Bet Yosef gives possible 3 answers:
1) First divided the oil into 8 small parts and then ach night they put one part of the oil in the Menorah, and it stayed alight until the morning. It therefore transpired that on the first night too there was a miracle.
2) On the first night they poured the oil from the jug into the Menorah and as they did so, the jug continued to refill itself afresh.
3) On the first night they poured all the oil from the jug into the Menorah and it burnt all night, yet despite this, in the morning the oil was still full in the Menorah.
Rabbenu Chizkiya da Silva ztz”l (1659-1698) in his work the Pri Chadash answers this question as follows. Whilst it is true that regarding the oil and the Menorah the miracle was indeed for only 7 days but on the first day we were celebrating the victory, as we say in the Al HaNissim prayer, “You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few…the wicked in the hands of the righteous, the wilful transgressors into the hands of those who study Your Torah, and You publicised Your Great and Holy Name in Your world.”
The Gaon Rav Aryeh Leib Zuenz of Plozk ztz”l (1768-1833) gives another answer based on a true story: A wealthy merchant travelled to the Leipzig Trade Fair taking 8 pouches of gold coins. On his way, whilst in the thick of the forest, he was attacked by bandits who robbed him. However, by way of a miracle one of the pouches slipped away from them. When the merchant reached the nearby town he immediately hired some henchmen to purse the bandits and return him his money. The henchmen went out and the merchant vowed that should Hashem help him and save his money then he will donate 10% to tzedakah! His prayer was answered. The henchmen caught the bandits and they returned him his gold.
The merchant ran to hastily fulfil his vow and give 10% to tzedakah. But he was faced with a question, whilst the merchant argued that he need only donate 10% from the 7 pouches, the gabbai tzedakah argued that he must donate 10% from all 8 pouches, because that pouch caused the miracle to happen, for with it, he paid the henchmen. And if not for that pouch, he would not have had resources to hire henchmen to capture the bandits. And so this pouch is a partner in the miracle and he should therefore donate tzedakah from it too!
The question was submitted to the town’s Dayanim and they ruled that the gabbai’s argument is correct and that the merchant must donate 10% from all 8 pouches!
With this ruling, the Bet Yosef’s question may be answered, that the following miracle too is integral, namely, that the Greeks ransacked the whole Bet HaMikdash and despite this they didn’t manage to find the solitary jug of pure [tahor-holy] oil. So we see that without it there wouldn’t have been any oil to enable the miracle to last for 8 days. Therefore we celebrate for 8 days because the first day is to remember the miracle of finding the pure [tahor-holy] oil from which the other additional 7 days emanated!
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach!