Eight is the number of completion. It is the number of infinity, of reaching beyond ourselves to touch the Absolute.

“Send Your light and Your truth. Let them guide me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain and Your dwelling place.”

Psalm 43:3

Rebbe Natan of Nemirov teaches that on Hanukkah we receive the light of pure Truth.[1] This process begins on the first day where we experience an inner illumination that clears away the darkness and awakens us to the existence of a higher reality, and it comes to its culmination on the eighth day when this higher reality becomes a living truth for us as we enter fully into its sublime consciousness and integrate its reality into the depths of our being.

In the Torah (Exodus 27:20), the Children of Israel are commanded to bring for the Menorah in the Mishkan or Tabernacle “pure olive oil pressed especially for the light, to cause the light to burn always.” The Hasidic Master, Nachum of Chernobyl, points out that this commandment is proceeded by the words, “And you shall command the Children of Israel” instead of “And God spoke to Moses saying”, the usual phrasing that proceeds a commandment. Rebbe Nachum explains that this is because olive oil symbolizes wisdom, and the kind of pure wisdom that will “burn always” can only come from within and not from without. No teacher, not even Moses, can give us this kind of higher wisdom. It is a truth that only we can find, a truth that comes from our very essence. [2]

The Hasidic Master, Avraham of Trisk, teaches that on Shavuot we receive the written Torah, and on Hanukkah we receive the oral Torah. [3] On Shavuot, there was a revelation for all of Israel throughout the generations. On Hanukkah, there is an illumination of mind and heart that is meant just for us.

Rebbe Natan teaches that the light of the eighth day of Hanukkah is the light from the Seven Days of Creation. [4] The Talmud, Haggigah 12A, tells us that this original light was too potent for our physical plane of existence, so God hid it away for the tzaddikim or realized souls to receive in the future. This brilliant light is the light of the eighth day of Hanukkah. It is the light of pure truth, the light of wisdom. It is a light that completes our vision and leads us into a totally new way of seeing and experiencing reality. It is a light that enters into our heart and illuminates the whole of our being.

This truth touches on the essence of creation. It is a truth that comes not from the mind or the emotions rather it is a truth that comes direct from God. Through this truth we learn to resonate with the whole of the universe. This is why it is an all-illuminating truth and why it is the light of completion. The fullness of Hanukkah is the fullness of total dedication to God.

In Hinduism there is a form of prostration called Ashtanga namaskar – eight-pointed prostration. In this act of prostration eight parts of the body touch the ground. It is an expression of complete surrender to God, like the full prostration that we do in the Avodah service on Yom Kippur. This is because completion cannot be achieved by any amount of self-effort; it can only be attained through surrender to God and an abundance of Divine grace.

Of course, it is not the outer prostration that matters, but the inner surrender of our will and desires. It is the sense of completely giving ourselves over to God that we are after, drowning ourselves in the Ocean of Infinity; immersing ourselves in the Divine Presence until the eternal truth which lies at our core is revealed.

This is bitul, not self-annihilation but eradicating our lower self with its wants and desires. This form of bitul gives us the freedom to live our lives without the burden of the lower pulls and battles. This is the meaning of completion, to be completely joined to God, and this is the significance of the number eight. To live in the light of the eighth day is to go beyond the realm of the seven, the ordinary reality that we inhabit, and live in the awareness of the Kingdom of Heaven. The truth of Hanukkah is when this inner reality is as real to us as the physical world.

According to Rebbe Natan, the light of the eighth day of Hanukkah is drawn from the light of the Mashiach (the Messiah). [5] We all want to receive the blissful radiance of the mashiach, but what about His truth? Are we ready for the mind- expanding and all-encompassing truth that he or she will reveal? Are we ready to give our all to God? If we want the Great One to come, then we need to prepare the way with our total devotion, with the development of a different understanding and consciousness; with a yearning for God that comes from the depths of our heart.

Esoteric teaching speaks of the emergence of an eighth center or chakra. This center expresses an additional capacity to reach into the Divine realm, to see reality in a fresh way. It is not just more of the same, but a totally new aspect of being.

Completion, then, is inner transformation. When we have become a briyah chadasha, a new creation, then we will be complete. This is why the eighth day of Hanukkah brings its own distinctive blessing. The Hebrew word for “complete” is shalem, which is of the same root as shalom (peace). When we have reached the stage of shlaimut, inner completeness, we will be at peace with ourselves and at peace with the world. This state of spiritual completion is at the heart of the messianic vision that the wolf will lie down with the lamb and men shall beat their swords into ploughshares. This Cosmic consciousness of Oneness and Harmony is the transcendent awareness to which we aspire.

 

Copyright © 2008, by Yoel Glick

 


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Natan of Nemirov, Likutei Halachot, Hilchot Hanukkah 6, and Hilchot Geneivah 5
  2. Nachum of Chernobyl, Meor Eiynayim, Torah portion Tetzaveh
  3. Avraham of Trisk, Magan Avraham, Hanukkah
  4. Natan of Nemirov, Lekutei Halachot, Laws of honoring one’s teacher, law 3: 10
  5. Natan of Nemirov, Likutei Halachot, Hilchot Matanah, halacha 5: 61,63

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