Eight Miraculous Days
My daughter came home from school with this question, and I don't have anybody to answer it:
Why is the first night of Chanukah also considered a miracle if there was originally enough oil to burn for the first night of Chanukah? It is understood that there wasn't enough oil for the other nights, but what was so special that we call the first night of Chanukah also a miracle? Thanks.
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Your daughter has asked one of the most famous questions in rabbinic literature! Rabbi Yosef Karo (16th century Israel) offered three possible answers, and scholars have offered an endless stream of answers through the years. There is even a book called "Ner L'meah," by Rabbi Yerachmiel Zeltzer, that lists 100 answers to this question! Here's a sampling:
(1) The oil was divided in eight parts, and the Kohanim lit only one-eighth of the oil each night. But this small amount miraculously burned throughout each of the eight nights - including the first night. (Beit Yosef)
(2) Since the Temple had been desecrated with pagan idols, the Maccabees lit their Menorah outside in the courtyard. Normally, a flame exposed to the open air will burn more quickly than one sheltered indoors. Nevertheless, on all eight nights, the oil burned as long outdoors as it would have inside the Temple. (Chasam Sofer)
(3) Having returned to the Temple and found it in shambles, the Maccabees had no reason to think they would find pure oil. But they were so eager to perform the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah, that they began what seemed like a hopeless search - and they succeeded! This commitment to battle all odds for the sake of a mitzvah is what we commemorate on the first day of Chanukah. (Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik)
(4) The first day commemorates the miraculous military victory. (Pri Chadash, Kedushas Levi)
(5) We tend to take "nature" for granted, yet the burning of oil is inherently no less miraculous than would be the burning of water. Therefore, the first day commemorates that even the "normal" burning of oil takes place only because God created it so. (Rabbi David Feinstein)
Have a happy Chanukah, and may your daughter's future be as bright as the Chanukah lights!