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The Eighth Note

What is the most important and significant number in the Torah? Most likely, you thought of seven: Seven days of the week, seven days of Pesach and Sukkot, sevens in the Counting of the Omer, the seventh shmittah year, the seven days of purification and more. We also meet sevens in the physical world: Imagine a cube surrounding you – above, below, right, left, front, back- six sides. We are the seventh point in the center. Another example: If you put a coin on the table and then surround it with other coins, you will have six surrounding coins and one in the center. The musical scale also has seven basic notes.

And then the eight days of Chanukah come and skip right over the sevens. Furthermore, the miracle took place with olive oil, (shemen zayit). It turns out that there is a mysterious connection between the word shemen and the number shmoneh (8). Inexplicably, we light eight candles for eight days to memorialize a miracle that took place in a menorah of seven candles…

Above Nature

In order to delve into the secret of Chanukah, we need to recall a prominent eight in the Torah: Circumcision on the eighth day. Circumcision is a major intervention in nature. Man was created in a certain form and we come on the eighth day and reshape that form. In order to reach the covenant aspect of circumcision, seven days – which express the perfection of the natural world – must pass. We must reach the additional dimension that is above nature, the eight that is above the seven, like the oil that floats on the water. Interestingly, one of the primary decrees of the Greeks was the prohibition to perform circumcision. They simply could not come to terms with the fact that the Jewish People relate to something that is above nature.

This is exactly what the miracle of the flask of oil revealed. Suddenly, the regular rules changed and the miraculous eighth (shemini) dimension appeared from within the shemen (oil). In the world of nature and sevens, there are clear rules and logical parameters. On Chanukah, however, we see that there are things that are above nature. We understand that our intellect cannot decipher everything. Greek philosophy is not willing to believe in miracles. (This is also true of the doubtful Greek inside us). It is closed in the box of nature. But we can think out of the box and we know that behind revealed nature, a miracle is concealed.

I Believe

Music and song are an integral part of the service in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. One of the instruments played there is the violin. The sages do not relate much about musical instruments, but they do go into surprising detail about the violin: “The violin of the Temple had seven strings[1].” This is important because in the Holy Temple, it was necessary to attain the perfection symbolized by the number seven. The sages continue: “In the violin of the days of Mashiach, there are eight strings![2]

Since the destruction of the Temple, we haven’t seen the violin with the seven strings nor the menorah with the seven branches. The eight days of Chanukah and the eight candles, however, are a reminder of the future – of the eight strings in the Mashiach’s violin. And why is Mashiach called Mashiach? Because King David and his descendants are anointed (mashuach, cognate to Mashiach) with the anointing oil (shemen hamishcha, also cognate to Mashiach), which is actually olive oil. Hence, the shemen (oil) of the holiday of Chanukah arouses our anticipation of the Mashiach, who will play his violin of shmoneh (eight) strings.

[1] Arachin 13b.

[2] Ibid.

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