Friday, December 30, 2016

Are You In the Gutteral?

The goal of this blog is to add eightness to the Shabbat table talk ...  Please share.
Continuing to wish a speedy recovery to Tamar Adina bas Kayna Shulamis and to Ruth bat Sarah.
In honor of Tehila's seventh birthday.

Hanukkah-Chanukah-frequencyPhilosophically-speaking, why should it be eight days?

Isn't the standard number in the Torah seven?

(Try asking this at your table - ask them how many sevens they can think of in the Torah. For that matter, how many sevens can they think of in nature? Notes on a major scale, etc. I've come up with nineteen so far - email me if you want my full list.)

To answer the philosophical question, here's a little philosophy for you, followed by a brief word from Jerusalem.

Last week, I asked if it matters (and why) how you say "Channuka".

One reader, William in Brookline, sent a beautiful answer.

He notices that the difference between the two pronunciations is a single Hebrew letter - "chet" v. "hey". Numerically, the difference only 3, which could be represented by the word "av" which means father....

"Using Google Translate, הנוכה ["Hanukah"] means, "seasonally"; חנוכה [Chanukah] means,
"dedication".  We have more than a seasonal holiday here: we dedicate ourselves to אבינו שבשמים [God], so if we add the אב to the seasonal festival, we have our Dedication."

If William will permit me to riff off of him a bit.... It is interesting that Channuka is related to the word for "education" — "chinuch". Eduation isn't just dedicating a child, it's preparing the child for life.

The idea of Chanuka is to re-dedicate yourself — that is, to prepare yourself.

Maybe you thought you were prepared?

But you're not. None of us were.

We were maybe prepared on the level of seven, but not on the level of eight.

The other day I was speaking with my 12-year-old nephew in Jerusalem.

He asked me, "If there was enough oil for one day, then the miracle was only seven days. The last day it burned up, so it wasn't a miracle!"

His answer: For most of the world, it's only a miracle when oil doesn't burn. But for a Jew, it's even a miracle when it does burn. Everything in nature is miraculous.

As long as you are waiting for that miraculous success, that miraculous recovery, that divine intervention in marriage or childbirth or winning the lottery, then you are still living in the world of seven.

When you start to realize the miracle of the quotidian, you are living in the eight.

That's why it matters how you say it. Because this world matters. The here-and-now matters. Beauty matters. If you pronounce something wrong, you are marring the cosmic harmony.

So the real magic of Channuka - the real preparation - happens tomorrow night, when you light those eight candles.

Take a good gander and think about re-dedicating yourself to living in this beautiful moment.

Channukah sameach and

Shabbat Shalom

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