Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone
Contact Us
Visit us on Facebook

Is Chanukah a Minor Holiday?

Is Chanukah a Minor Holiday?

E-mail

Question:

My friend told me that Chanukah is a minor holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Passover, and so we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. He said that the only reason it became so big was because of the season.

Answer:

Unlike Rosh Hashanah, Passover and other “major” holidays, which are biblically prescribed days of rest, we go to work on Chanukah. Even on Purim, going to work is not recommended. Also, on Jewish holidays we wear special clothes. But the days of Chanukah are regular workdays in regular clothes.

Yet Chanukah is a hardly a “minor” holiday. Read what Maimonides writes in his Laws of Chanukah:

The mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lamps is a very precious mitzvah. A person should be very careful in its observance, to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of G‑d and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf. Even if a person has no resources for food except what he receives from charity, he should pawn or sell his garments and purchase oil and lamps to kindle them.

Maimonides continues by instructing that if one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Chanukah lamp, the mitzvah of Chanukah takes precedence. Doesn’t sound too minor to me.

Especially when you take into account that this is what Chanukah is all about: to “light up the darkness” (which is why we light it at night, at the door or window). So, even though it’s a regular workday—well, that’s really the whole idea: to light up the regular workday. And that takes a very special light.

At any rate, since when do we look for excuses not to celebrate? On the contrary, in the words of wise King Solomon, “A good heart always celebrates.”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (7)
November 2, 2013
Chanuka
Even when I was pretty ignorant about Judaism and the special days, Chanuka was the one thing I recognized as being Jewish straight away.
From that point of view I'd say it is a very special day.
Anonymous
October 31, 2013
To Ed., Janice and Helen, great comments
Janice,( Dec. 09) You are so right when you said that without the watchman, without vigilance, the lights go out. This is what has happened because of intermarriage, to %51 percent of American Jews, according to the Pew report and who knows how much worse it could become.

Helen, your description of Chanuka in Bergen Belson was very moving.
The oil that they used to light that string was from their meager ration of margarine.

Chanukah is a major holiday celebrating the fight against assimilation, against succumbing to the Greek influence.

The fight against not giving in, and to remain Jewish, is one that many Jews today would do well to learn. Channah and her seven sons were captured lighting Shabbos candles, and died rather than bow down to an idol. And look how so many Jews do that willingly today, without being forced. And little children risked their lives, hiding caves, in order to study Torah. What would they think of today's
assimilation and intermarriage?
Shoshana
Jerusalem
October 30, 2013
'Cause Christmas
I could stand behind elevating Chanukah (to ever increasing heights) if more Jews treated Sukkot or Shavuot with the respect they deserve. The questioner is perhaps hinting at a larger issue than is addressed by the response. Maybe not among the Chabad or Orthodox, but too many Jews have replaced Torah mandated festivals with Chanukah. I think Rambam would have made it clearer if he could have anticipated future generations would make an 'idol' of Chanukah. Obviously, I am being a little facetious, but I think my point still stands.
Orli Sand
Chicago
June 29, 2010
What they take for granted
Have we forgotton that evry Jewish holiday was a struggle for being alive? Every holiday, starting with any holiday brings back the thought that we always fought to stay alive! Starting with the exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses we Jews have always fought our ememies. I never take for granted my Jewish trdation and the ability to support my people during any type of crises.
Moses was one of the greatrest leaders in history. Who else does one know that had a one to one conversation with THE ALMIGHTY? We as a people should always remember, on any Jewish holiday or occassion, that liberty does not come easy, so keep those light bnurning bright on Channaka and never never take it for granted! A M E N !
Ed.
Coconut Creek, Florida
June 29, 2010
What they take for granted
Have we forgotton that evry Jewish holiday was a struggle for being alive? Every holiday, starting with any holiday brings back the thought that we always fought to stay alive! Starting with the exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses we Jews have always fought our ememies. I never take for granted my Jewish trdation and the ability to support my people during any type of crises.
Moses was one of the greatrest leaders in history. Who else does one know that had a one to one conversation with THE ALMIGHTY? We as a people should always remember, on any Jewish holiday or occassion, that liberty does not come easy, so keep those light bnurning bright on Channaka and never never take it for granted! A M E N !
Ed.
Coconut Creek, Florida
December 24, 2009
Inportance of Chanukah
The great importance of Chanukah is one of remembering the importance of guardianship. A major holiday if yo ask me. To guard over, keep watch of that which we hold most dear. A national, spiritual and personal identity; the land and Jerusalem.

The influence of Hellenism - started not on one day or in one place; it creapt slowly toward and then into the borders of Israel; had it been stopped at the borders; maybe there had been no need to fight and defend.

Without the watchmen, without vigalence; the light goes out.
Janice
Denver, CO USA
December 20, 2009
It makes me sad to here my friends tell me they didn't celebrate chanukkah. it may be not the biggest holiday of the year, but why should we forget to celebrate it, or even say it's no big deal. Chanukkah was celebrated at Bergen Belsen concentration camp. People needed the light of Chanukkah to lift their spirits, to remember who they were.
A minor holiday chanukkah may be, but it is one that brings joy into the heart and soul of every Jew. Chanukkah is special to us because it reminds us of our victory over evil, and with that victory came a miracle. Miracles are a rarity. And to think of the many people in the camp that received such joy from a make shift Chanukkiyah made from a clog, and strings from their clothes, is a miracle. It's a miracle because they felt that spark , maybe for a second or more, it doesn't matter how long. All that matters is that they could feel the warmth and embrace the light of Chanukkah.
Helen
Seattle, WA
Hanukkah Kids Zone
Hanukkah Recipes
Hanukkah Cards
Hanukkah Shopping
Hanukkah Tidbits
Menorah Gallery
Chanukah News
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG