מַאי חֲנוּכָּה דְּתָּנוּ רַבָּנָן בְּכ"ה בְּכִסְלֵיו יוֹמֵי דַּחֲנוּכָּה תְּמָנְיָא אִינּוּן דְּלֹא לְמִסְפַּד בְּהוֹן וּדְלֹא לְהִתְעַנּוֹת בְּהוֹן שֶׁכְּשֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ יְוָונִים לַהֵיכָל טִמְּאוּ כָּל הַשְּׁמָנִים שֶׁבַּהֵיכָל וּכְשֶׁגָּבְרָה מַלְכוּת בֵּית חַשְׁמוֹנַאי וְנִצְּחוּם בָּדְקוּ וְלֹא מָצְאוּ אֶלָּא פַּךְ אֶחָד שֶׁל שֶׁמֶן שֶׁהָיָה מוּנָּח בְּחוֹתָמוֹ שֶׁל כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל וְלֹא הָיָה בּוֹ אֶלָּא לְהַדְלִיק יוֹם אֶחָד נַעֲשָׂה בוֹ נֵס וְהִדְלִיקוּ מִמֶּנוּ שְׁמוֹנֶה יָמִים לְשָׁנָה אַחֶרֶת קְבָעוּם וַעֲשָׂאוּם יָמִים טוֹבִים בְּהַלֵּל וְהוֹדָאָה

What is Chanukah? As the Rabbis learned, on the 25th of Kislev [begin] the days of Chanukah, eight in number, during which it is forbidden to eulogize or to fast. For when the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary. When the royal Hasmonean house overpowered them and vanquished them, they searched and found only one flask of oil that lay there with the Kohen Gadol’s seal, and it contained enough oil only to kindle for one day. A miracle occurred with it, and they kindled with it for eight days. The following year [the Hasmoneans and the Sanhedrin] established and rendered [these eight days] as festival days — with respect to Hallel and “thanksgiving.”

Shabbat 21b)


"מאי חנוכה"
“Meaning of Name Chanukah

QUESTION: What is the meaning of the name “Chanukah”?

ANSWER: 1) For a long period of time the Jews were at war with the Syrian-Greeks. Finally on the 25th of Kislev in the year 3597 (165 B.C.E.) the Hasmoneans vanquished the enemy, recaptured the Beit Hamikdash, and rested from the warfare. Thus the word “Chanukah” is a composite of two words: “chanu” — “they rested” (חנו) chof hei — “[on] the twenty fifth” of Kislev.

(ר"ן מס' שבת, ואבודרהם, ועי' בהשלמה לשו"ע הרב לבעל "דברי נחמיה")

2) “Chanukah” derives from the word “chinuch” — “dedication” — on this day they dedicated a new Altar. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 52b) says that the Greeks defiled the Altar by using it to sacrifice offerings to an idol. The Rabbis prohibited using that Altar, and its stones were hidden away in the northeastern chamber that opened to the Beit Hamoked — Hall of the Fire. When the Hasmoneans seized control, they immediately built a new Altar, which was dedicated on the 25th of Kislev.

(מהרש"א)

The entire Beit Hamikdash needed rededication since the Syrian-Greeks defiled everything, as the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 52b) says, “uba’u ba pritzim vayechaleluhah” — “lawless people entered [the Sanctuary] and profaned it.” Nevertheless, the chinuch — rededication — of the Altar is emphasized because it was targeted by the Syrian-Greeks for defilement since it represented the primary part of the mitzvah of erecting the Beit Hamikdash. As the Rambam (Beit Habechirah 1:1) writes, “It is a mitzvah to build a house for Hashem, to be prepared to be able to offer sacrifices in it.”

There is a question concerning the way this dedication was accomplished. Some say that it was through doing the service on the Altar (or the using of the vessels), as the Gemara (Shevuot 15a) says, “Avodatan mechanchatan” — they became consecrated through their inaugural [first use in] service.

Others opine that actual rededication was not required since the halachah (Rambam, Beit Habechirah 6:14) is that the initial sanctification of Yerushalayim and the Beit Hamikdash in the days of King David and Shlomo was sufficient for that time and for all future times. Thus, even after the Babylonians destroyed Yerushalayim and the first Beit Hamikdash, the site retained its sanctity.

Therefore, in our case, “chinuch” does not mean formal consecration and rededication, but rather renewal of use — the putting back of the items into use again by the Jews after a long period of interruption and after the Beit Hamikdash was thoroughly cleaned up.

It should be noted, however, that there are opinions that the rule concerning the perpetual sanctity only applies to the Beit Hamikdash site and vessels which needed repair, but not to a totally newly built item, as in the case of the Altar.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"כ ע' 633 בהגה"ה, מועדים בהלכה)

3) There is a dispute between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel concerning how many candles the mehadrin min hamehadrim — extremely scrupulous — should kindle each night. Beit Shammai say to kindle eight the first night and each night thereafter to decrease the number by one. Beit Hillel say to start with one on the first night and add another candle each succeeding night.

The word “Chanukah” is an acronym for Chet neirot vehalachah kebeit Hillel” (ח' נרות והלכה כבית הלל) — “Eight candles [should be lit on Chanukah] and the halachah is like Beit Hillel” [to increase the number each night].

(אבודרהם והובא בעטרת זקנים על שו"ע סי' עת"ר או"ח)

4) In the days of Chanukah they miraculously kindled the Menorah for eight days. The Menorah had on it seven lamps, so during the period of the miracle they kindled seven lights for eight days, a total of 56 candles, which in Hebrew numerals is נ"ו.

Thus the name “Chanukah” connotes that —

ח — for eight days

נ"ו — 56 candles were miraculously kindled

כ"ה — this all started on the 25th of the month.

(בני יששכר)

5) Daryavesh (Darius) the king of Persia (according to the Midrash [Vayikra Rabbah 15:4] he was the son of Esther and Achashverosh) sanctioned and encouraged the construction of the second Beit Hamikdash which had begun in the days of Koresh (Cyrus, king of Persia) and which subsequently ceased for eighteen years.

The prophet Chaggai writes (2:14-18) that the Beit Hamikdash was completed on the 24th of the ninth month (Kislev). Thus, it was dedicated the next day with the offering of sacrifices, and the kindling of the Menorah took place in the evening, as the Gemara (Menachot 49a) states, that the dedication of the Menorah can only be accomplished with the evening kindling.

Consequently, because of the chinuch — dedication — of the Beit Hamikdash, which took place on this day many years earlier, the festival marking the miracle of the lights which takes place also on the 25th of Kislev is called “Chanukah.”

(מור וקציעה מר' יעקב ז"ל עמדין סי' עת"ר – ובלקו"ש ח"כ ע' 633 כתב כ"ק אדמו"ר לא זכיתי להבין, שהרי כל השנים עד החשמונאים לא הזכירו זה)

6) The original light Hashem created was extremely powerful; one could see with it from one end of the world to the other. Reflecting upon the wickedness of man, Hashem hid it for the future, when Mashiach will reveal himself (Chagigah 12a). According to the Midrash (Tanchuma, Parshat Noah 3) it was hidden in the Torah to benefit those who toil in the Oral Torah day and night.

The Syrian-Greeks endeavored to detach Jews from Torah and wanted them to deny their belief in Hashem and Mashiach. When the miracle of the kindling of the Menorah took place, Hashem revealed a semblance of the great hidden light which will radiate in full glory in the Messianic Era. Likewise, every Chanukah when the Menorah is kindled, there is a revelation of that great light in this mundane world.

Chanukah” comes from the word “chinuch,” which means preparation and education. A minor is exempt from fulfilling the mitzvot of the Torah. Nevertheless, he goes through a process called “chinuch” in which he is trained and taught how to properly fulfill mitzvot when he will become Bar-Mitzvah and thereafter, for the rest of his life.

Similarly, the festival is called “Chanukah” because on it Hashem provides chinuch to the Jewish people. He prepares and educates them about the great hidden light by giving a foretaste on Chanukah of that illumination which they will merit to enjoy speedily in the days of Mashiach.

(בני יששכר)


"מאי חנוכה? בכ"ה בכסליו..."
“What is Chanukah? On the 25th of Kislev...”

QUESTION: Why did the miracle of Chanukah take place on the 25th of Kislev?

ANSWER: In the wilderness, the construction of the Mishkan was completed on the 25th of Kislev. Hashem told Moshe to wait with the dedication till the auspicious day of Rosh Chodesh Nissan the month in which the Patriarchs were born (Rosh Hashanah 11a). The 25th of Kislev was somewhat offended. To appease her, the rededication of the second Beit Hamikdash, in the days of the Hasmoneans, took place on the 25th of Kislev.

(ילקוט שמעוני, מלכים סוף רמז קפד, ועי' לקוטי שיחות ח"י ע' 279)

* * *

It is interesting to note that the words "זאת חנוכת המזבח" — “this is the dedication of the Altar” — (Bamidbar 7:84) which refer to the MishkanTabernacle — (and are part of the Torah reading for Chanukah), have the numerical value of 954, which is the exact numerical value of "זאת יהיה בימי חשמונים" — “this (dedication) will be in the days of the Hasmoneans.”

(רוקח)


"תנו רבנן בכ"ה בכסליו יומי דחנוכה"
“The Rabbis learned, on the 25th of Kislev [begin] the days of Chanukah.”

QUESTION: Why does the Gemara write the name of the month, Kislev (כסליו) with a yud?

ANSWER: The word “Kislev” with a yud is an acronym for “Vayomer Hashem salachti kidvarecha” (ויאמרי-ה-ו-ה סלחתי כדבריך) — “Hashem said I have pardoned in accordance with Your words” (Bamidbar 14:20). This indicates that Chanukah is also a time for teshuvah and Divine forgiveness.

It is stated in sefarim (see Ta’amei Haminhagim p. 363) that Chanukah is the “gemar hachatimah” — the completion of the process (which started in Tishrei) by which the Jews are sealed and inscribed for the new year.

An allusion to this is found in the pasuk “Bezot yechupar avon Yaakov — “Through this shall Yaakov’s iniquity be atoned” (Isaiah 27:9). The word “bezot” is a reference to Zot Chanukah, and the prophet is saying that until “zot” Chanukah the sins of the Jewish people are forgiven.

Another hint is from the discussion the brothers had with their father Yaakov about returning to Egypt to purchase food. They said “Ki lulei hitmamanu ki atah shavnu zeh pa’amayim” — “For had we not delayed, by now we could have returned twice” (Bereishit 43:10). The word “lulei” (לולא) can be arranged to spell Elul (אלול), which is the month designated for Teshuvah. The message was “Ki lulei hitmanu — if we delayed doing Teshuvah in the month of Elul, ki atah shavnu zeh pa’amayim — we still have two more chances to do Teshuvah — the month of Tishrei and Chanukah.”

(עי' לקו"ש חכ"ה ע' 510, אג"ק חי"ד ע' קי"ב, עיטורי תורה על בראשית)


"כשנכנסו יוונים להיכל טמאו כל השמנים"
“When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all the oils.”

QUESTION: If the purpose of the Greeks was to extinguish the light of the Menorah and prevent its rekindling, why did they defile the oil? They could have accomplished this more effectively by using it up or destroying it.

ANSWER: The true objective of the Greeks was not to prevent the rekindling of the Menorah, but rather that it should be rekindled with defiled oil. Hence, they purposely left a supply of defiled oil in the Sanctuary to be readily available for this purpose.

The Greeks were willing to recognize the Torah as a beautiful literary creation, with exceptional wisdom and profound philosophy, provided only that it was considered as a human creation, like their own mythology. As such, the Torah could be changed and modified from time to time, so as to harmonize with the character of the ruling class and the novel ideas and morals of the period. Thus, it was not the suppression of the Torah that they aimed at, but “lehashkicham Toratecha” — “to make them forget Your Torah” — and not treat it as G‑d-given.

Similarly, they were not against to the moral and ethical values contained therein, but their concern was “leha’aviram meichukei retzonecha” — “to violate the decrees of Your Will” — not to observe the Divine chukim, the so-called “supra-rational” precepts, which more than any other, distinguish the Divinely ordained Jewish way of life.

Their objective was, thus, not to prevent the rekindling of the Menorah, but that its light should come from oil that had a Greek “taint.”

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ג)


"טמאו כל השמנים"
“They defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary.”

QUESTION: How was the defilement caused to the flasks of oil?

ANSWER: 1) Our Rabbis decreed that the gentiles impart the tumah — defilement — of a zav (see Vayikra 15:1-15) through maga — touching an item — or even by heset — indirectly causing an item to move. However, the unbroken seal of the Kohen Gadol on the flask of oil was an indication that the Syrian-Greeks did not even notice it, and it was thus ritually pure olive oil suitable for kindling the Menorah.

A difficulty raised with the explanation is that this law is one of the Eighteen Enactments which were established when a large contingent of disciples of Shammai and Hillel met in the upper chamber of Chananyah ben Chizkiyah ben Daron (See Shabbat 13b). Now the miracle of Chanukah took place in the year 3597, which was 206 years before the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash while Shammai and Hillel lived only 100 years before the destruction (Shabbat 15a)?

To alleviate this difficulty some say that originally gentiles were declared as zavim only to the extent that what they touched could not be used any more for matters of holiness, but at the time of the Eighteen Enactments the decree was extended to a point that it required that the holy things they touched needed to be destroyed by burning (see Shabbat 15b).

Some say that the original decree applied only to the adults and later at the time of the Eighteen Enactments it was extended to include children of nine years and older.

(רא"ם בביאוריו לסמ"ג עשין ה', ועי' פרי חדש סי' עת"ר ומהרש"א שבת כ"א ע"ב)

2) The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 52b) says that when the Greeks seized control of the Beit Hamikdash they defiled the Altar by sacrificing offerings upon it to an idol. The Gemara (Chullin 13b) says that idolatrous offerings are Biblically likened to “the dead,” and just as a human corpse imparts tumah through ohel — by being under the same roof — so does an idolatrous offering.

A difficulty some raise with this explanation is that this is only the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah ben Beteirah. The Rabbanan disagree and the halachah follows their opinions?

Tosafot (ibid.) says that though the Rabbanan do not hold that idolatrous offerings Biblically convey Tumah through ohel, they agree that a Rabbinic prohibition would apply. Accordingly, they were unable to use these oils because according to Rabbinic law they were considered tamei.

One can still ask, if the oil was tamei only from a Rabbinic standpoint, why did they not use it for kindling the Menorah, which is a Biblical law?

The answer is: the Rabbis cannot order the active violation of a Biblical law (kum ve’aseih), but they have the power to stop the fulfillment of a Biblical law by shev v’al ta’aseh — inactivity.

3) Some say, that even if the tumah of ohel does not apply, all the flasks of oil that were open was used or may have been used for their idolatrous offerings (and afterwards poured back into the flask) and thus forbidden for our use. Since the flask found was sealed, it was definitely not used by them and therefore it was undoubtedly suitable for kindling the Menorah.

(אליהו רבה עת"ר סק"ג, פרי חדש, לבוש, ב"ח, חתן סופר על חנוכה סי' א')

4) In the course of the fierce fighting that took place within the Beit Hamikdash, numerous fatalities occurred among the Jewish soldiers. According to halachah the corpse of a Jew lying within the house causes everything under the same roof to become tamei — defiled. Hence, all the oil in the Sanctuary became tamei except for the one flask which had an unbroken seal on it.

Though a corpse causes everything under the same ohel — roof — to become tamei, the flask did not become tamei because the Torah (Bamidbar 19:15) says that an earthenware vessel with a tightly fitting cover is not affected.

(ב"ח סי' עת"ר)


"נעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים"
“A miracle occurred with it, and they kindled with it for eight days.”

QUESTION: Why was a miracle needed for eight days?

ANSWER: 1) For the kindling of the Menorah not only was the purest oil used, but also the best quality. Such oil was manufactured in the city of Tekoa (see Menachot 85b), which was in the tribal portion of Asher, who was blessed with an abundance of oil (Bereishit 49:20, Rashi).

Tekoa was a four day trip from Yerushalayim. Thus, it required four days to reach Tekoa and another four to return back to Yerushalayim. Since all this time the single flask lasted miraculously, it was decided to make Chanukah eight days in commemoration.

(ר"ן)

A question raised about this is that in eight days there must be a Shabbat and to travel out of the city more than 12 mil (a mil is approximately 6/10 of a mile) or to carry on Shabbat in a public domain is a Biblical violation, so it should have taken nine days to get new oil from Tekoa. An answer may be that the entire eight days were not occupied with travel; rather it was a 3 ½ day journey each way, and counting the Shabbat, it would require eight days until new oil was obtained from Tekoa.

(חתן סופר – חנוכה סי' ז')

2) As a result of the war the Jews became tamei meit — defiled by contact with corpses — and they required seven days of purification. An additional day was also needed to produce the oil once the workers regained their purity. During this entire period the flask of oil did not give out, so an eight-day festival was declared in commemoration.

(בית יוסף אורח חיים עת"ר)

QUESTION: This raises a difficulty: If they were all tamei, how were they able to kindle the Menorah since when they touched the oil they would make it tamei and in turn it would convey tumah to the Menorah?

ANSWER: The single sealed flask found was considered definitely not tamei. When the Kohanim handled it to pour into the Menorah, it was done through peshutei k’lei eitz — simple pieces of unshaped and unformed wood which do not attract tumah when touched by a tamei meit.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 43a) says that the Syrian-Greeks plundered the golden Menorah, and for the time being the Jews made a new one of wood. The new wooden Menorah also was considered a peshutei k’li eitz and therefore did not become tamei through the tamei craftsman who made it.

This suggests a difficulty, however: The cups containing the oil suggest that it should not be considered a simple wooden structure but a k’li kibel — receptacle — and become tamei?

Some explain that in regard to tumah, a receptacle is something that holds things for storage, and when they are needed, the things are taken out to be used, (an example would be a knife holder). In the Menorah, however, the oil was poured into the cups and then immediately kindled; it was not put there for storage purposes.

(בתי כהונה עפ"י תו"כ פ' שמיני פ"ו, והקשו ע"ז מתוספתא כלים, בבא מציעא פ"ב:ד)

Alternatively, the laws of tumah are derived from the verse “Whether it is a wooden utensil etc. or a sack” (Vayikra 11:32). Since the Torah equated wood and sack, we learn that just as a sack is an item carried laden as well as empty, so too, must wooden utensils (or any utensil) be of a sort that is carried laden as well as empty in order to be susceptible to tumah. This excludes items which must always be stationary since they are not carried either laden or empty. According to the Gemara (Chagigah 26b) the Menorah and the Shulchan — Table — are considered “k’lei eitz ha’asu lanachat” — “wooden utensils made to remain stationary” — and thus they do not become tamei.

(רא"ם, מהרש"א מס' שבת, תבואת שור, בתי כהונה)


"בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול"
“They searched and found only one flask of oil, that lay there with the seal of the Kohen Gadol.”

QUESTION: What assurance did they have that the flask was not touched by any of the Greek soldiers?

ANSWER: Tosafot (ibid.) raises this question, and answers that it was buried in the ground, and thus the Greeks did not see it or know of its existence. A difficulty with this explanation is that there is no allusion to this fact in the Gemara. Moreover, if so, why was it necessary to have a seal on it?

Careful analysis of the terminology used in the Gemara, prompts one to ask:

1) The Kohen Gadol was not in charge of making oil. Why would his seal be on the flask?

2) Grammatically, instead of saying "שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול" — “that lay there with the Kohen Gadol’s seal” — it should have said, "שהיה חתום" — “that was sealed [with the Kohen Gadol’s seal]?”

From this we may deduce that when the Hasmoneans entered the Beit Hamikdash, their eyes beheld a fascinating phenomenon. They saw one flask of oil, and "שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול" —it was lying together with the precious golden signet ring of the Kohen Gadol. They surmised that undoubtedly no Greek had come into this area, because he definitely would have stolen the very valuable ring. Therefore, they confidently assumed that the flask was not defiled by the Greeks and fit for the Menorah kindling.

(צמח דוד מדינוב זצ"ל)


"בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן"
“They searched and found only one flask of oil.”

QUESTION: There is an opinion in the Gemara (Yoma 6b) that tumah — defilement — is “dechuyah betzibbur” — overridden with regard to a community. That is, the Torah allows the needs of the communal offerings to override the tumah restrictions, but it does so with reluctance; it prefers that a community, too, observe tumah restrictions if at all possible. Another opinion holds that it is “hutrah betzibbur” — permitted in regard to a community. That is, if any tumah restriction interferes with a communal offering, Torah commands without reservation that the restriction be disregarded.

According to the latter opinion, that tumah is “hutrah betzibur,” why was the whole miracle of the oil necessary they could have used oil which was tamei?

ANSWER: Hashem performed this miracle, though halachically it was unnecessary, to demonstrate his love for the Jewish people, He knew that if they had no other alternative, they would reluctantly suffice with using defiled oil to kindle the Menorah. By giving them the opportunity to perform the mitzvah behidur — in the best possible way — He showed that they are His beloved people and that He wants them to be able to perform His mitzvot with happiness and contentment.

(חכם צבי סי' פ"ז - פני יהושע)

* * *

Alternatively, the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 43a) says that the Syrian-Greeks defiled the Sanctuary and plundered the vessels and utensils of the Beit Hamikdash. When the Hasmoneans were victorious and expelled their oppressors, they purified the Beit Hamikdash and restored the service. Since the Hasmoneans were impoverished, they were unable to make a new Menorah out of gold, so they made a wooden Menorah instead.

Now, all the utensils used in the Tabernacle and Beit Hamikdash service needed to be consecrated in order to achieve kedushat haguf — physical sanctity — making them fit for use in the Beit Hamikdash service. The Gemara (Shevuot 15a) says, “All the utensils that Moshe made for the Tabernacle, their anointment with the Oil of Anointment sanctified them. From then on, when new utensils were made to replace old ones, avodatan mechanchatan — their first use in the Temple service inaugurated them as holy vessels of the Beit Hamikdash.”

While it is true that normally it would be permissible to kindle the Menorah with the defiled oil; this applies only when there is a holy Menorah which needs to be kindled. However, when the Hasmoneans regained control over the Beit Hamikdash, at that time there wasn’t a mitzvah of kindling the Menorah since they did not have the Menorah. Thus, they needed to make a new one, and, the newly constructed Menorah would be considered as inaugurated for Temple use with the kindling. This can only be accomplished with oil without any trace of defilement.

(כלי חמדה פ' בהעלותך, עי' קונטרס נס השמן ענף א')

* * *

A proof to the abovementioned theory that in a time of chinuch — inauguration into service — a more sublime standard is required can be derived from the first dedication of the Kohanim which took place in the wilderness in the days of Moshe.

On the day when Aharon and his four sons were being inaugurated as Kohanim in the Mishkan — Tabernacle — tragedy befell Nadav and Avihu and they suddenly expired. The Torah (Vayikra 10:4-5) relates that “Moshe summoned Mishael and Eltzafan (who were Levites), sons of Aharon’s uncle Uziel, and said to them, ‘Approach, carry out your brothers (relatives) out of the Sanctuary to the outside of the camp.’” Moshe also instructed Elazar and Itamar (who were Kohanim), “Do not leave your heads unshorn and do not rend your garments.”

Commentaries ask, while it is true that a Kohen Gadol is forbidden to defile himself for even his closest relatives and he must not practice mourning, an ordinary Kohen may attend the funeral of a brother and practice the laws of mourning. If so, why did Moshe call in the Levite cousins and not instruct Elazar and Itamar, who were only ordinary Kohanim, to carry out their expired brothers? Also, why did he tell Elazar and Itamar not to leave their hair unshorn and not to rend their garments?

The Da’at Zekeinim Miba’alei Hatosafot answers that even a Kohen Hedyot — ordinary Kohen — has the laws of a Kohen Gadol on the day he is anointed and inaugurated as a Kohen. Since this was the day of their inauguration, they were forbidden to defile themselves even for a brother.

From this we see that at the time of chinuch — inauguration into service — things are on a much loftier level than usual and a higher standard of purity is required. Thus, the Hasmoneans did not settle for to rely on the law that “Tumah hutrah betzibbur” — “oil that is tamei is permitted in regard to a community” — since it is not the supreme taharah — purity — needed on the day of the inauguration of the new Menorah.

(גליוני הש"ס מר' יוסף ז"ל ענגעל, חכמת שלמה על גליון השו"ע סי' עת"ר)


"טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל"
“They defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary.”

QUESTION: In the Gemara (Pesachim 17a) there is an opinion that mashkei Beit Midbechaya — liquids of the Altar — (wine and oil belonging to the Beit Hamikdash) are not susceptible to tumah — defilement — and of course cannot cause defilement to other things. If so, how did the oil of the Menorah become defiled?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 52b) says that the Greeks defiled the Altar by using it to sacrifice offerings to an idol. Since it is written “And lawless people came into it [the Sanctuary] and profaned it” (Ezekiel 7:22), once the gentile idolaters entered the Sanctuary, all the Temple’s utensils were stripped of their sanctify.

The law that liquids of the Beit Hamikdash are not susceptible to defilement is applicable only as long as the Holiness of the Beit Hamikdash is intact, but not when it has lost its sanctity due to gentile idolaters.

(שו"ת בית יצחק סי' ק"ו ועי' בקונטרס נס השמן)


"פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול"
“One flask of oil that lay there with the Kohen Gadol’s seal.”

QUESTION: What exactly was the flask of oil, and which Kohen Gadol’s seal did it bear?

ANSWER: The Torah relates that when Yaakov set out to meet his brother Eisav, he had his family cross over the stream, and he sent over all his possessions. [Then], “vayivateir Yaakov levado” — “Yaakov remained alone” (Bereishit 32:25). Rashi cites a Gemara (Chullin 91a) that actually Yaakov crossed over the stream together with his family but had forgotten some “pachim ketanim” — small earthenware jugs — and he returned to fetch them. Thus, the word “levado” — “alone” — is read as “lekado” — “for his jug” (see Da’at Zekeinim Miba’alei Hatosafot).

The reason that Yaakov endangered himself for these seemingly inexpensive possessions was that when he was traveling from Beer-Sheva to Charan he slept over on Mount Moriah, where eventually the Beit Hamikdash would be built. Early in the morning he took the stone that he placed around his head and set it up as a matzeivah — pillar, and he poured oil on its top (Ibid. 28:18). This oil was from a jug which miraculously appeared to him. After pouring from it on the stone, it miraculously filled itself up again. Years later this jug of oil was used to anoint the Tabernacle and its vessels, Aaron the Kohen Gadol and his sons, and also kings. The container of oil is still existing in its entirety, and it will be used to anoint King Mashiach (see Shemot 30:31, Rashi, Ramban). Yaakov thus realized that it was special oil which was destined for blessings, and he decided not to leave it there. When he realized that he had forgotten the oil, he risked his life to go back and retrieve it.

(שפתי כהן עה"ת פ' וישלח)

This jug was the single flask of oil that miraculously appeared to the Hasmoneans and though it was sufficient only for one night’s kindling, it lasted for eight nights. The flask bore the seal of Aharon the Kohen Gadol.

(ברכת שמואל פ' מקץ מר' אהרן שמואל ז"ל קיידינובר, פפד"מ תמ"כ)

* * *

According to another opinion it bore the seal of the Patriarch Yaakov, who was also considered a Kohen Gadol.

(אור התורה לר' יחיאל מאיר זצ"ל מ'אסטראווצא, ע"י ילקוט שמעוני בראשית קל"ב, עה"פ ויגע בכף ירכו, "א"ל הקב"ה למיכאל יפה עשית שעשית כהן שלי בעל מום" ועי' במד"ר בראשית פ"ע ה' שיעקב בקש לחם הפנים ובגדי כהונה, ועי' מד"ר פמ"ו, ה', אברהם כהן גדול היה שנאמר (תהלים ק"י:ד) נשבע ה' ולא ינחם אתה כהן לעולם וגו', עי' נדרים ל"ב ע"ב)

* * *

Of course, the popular opinion is that the flask of oil had on it the seal of Matityahu.

(עי' בני יששכר מאמר ד' אות ט"ו)

This can also serve as another answer to the Beit Yosef’s question (Tur, Orach Chaim 670) that the Festival of Chanukah should be only seven days since they had a flask of oil that was sufficient for one day. In reality the Syrian-Greeks defiled all the oils, and there was not even a single flask of pure oil. However, miraculously this flask appeared, and it lasted for eight days until a new supply arrived.

(ים התלמוד עמ"ס בבא קמא, בהקדמה)

* * *

Incidentally, according to a midrash, Hashem said to Yaakov, “You endangered yourself to return for a small jug for my sake (the jug of oil he used to pour on the pillar); I will personally repay your descendants in the time of the Hasmoneans when a miracle will be performed with a small jug.”

This shows another connection between Yaakov and Chanukah. See page 126.

(צידה לדרך בשם המהרש"ל)


"ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד, נעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים "
“The oil in the flask was sufficient for only one day, but miraculously they kindled from it for eight days.”

QUESTION: Since the flask of oil found was sufficient for the first day, the miracle was for only seven days, so why is Chanukah celebrated eight days?

ANSWER: The Beit Yosef (Tur, Orach Chaim 670) provides three answers for this problem:

1) The Hasmoneans knew that it would take them eight days to get a new supply of oil. They did not want to kindle the Menorah for merely one night and neglect the succeeding seven nights. Hence, they decided to divide the flask of oil into eight equal parts. Miraculously, the small amount of oil used the first night lasted for the entire night, and this happened again each of the succeeding seven nights.

2) After filling the Menorah on the first night, they saw that the flask remained full of oil. This miracle reoccurred for the next seven nights.

3) In the evening they poured the entire flask of oil into the Menorah and kindled it. In the morning, they were amazed to find that after burning the entire night the cups were still filled with oil. Thus, on the first night a miracle had already occurred.

* * *

Some difficulties with the above:

1) Only pure olive oil is suitable, and not oil derived through a miracle!

2) The Menorah cups must be filled with enough oil to last the night (Menachot 89a).

* * *

In response, Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik of Brisk advances the thought that on the first night the entire flask of oil was poured into the Menorah. The miracle was in the quality of the oil. Oil which normally could burn for one night suddenly acquired the power to last for eight nights. Thus, each night the Menorah remained full, with the original olive oil losing only 1/8th of its “flame” potentiality.

(במועדים בהלכה מייחס הנ"ל להגר"ח ז"ל מבריסק, וברשימות כ"ק אדמו"ר חוברת ג' מייחסו להצ"צ)

* * *

The Lubavitcher Rebbe questioned the need for the explanation that the oil did not increase in quantity but rather was enhanced in quality, since otherwise there is a difficulty that only pure olive oil is suitable and not oil derived through a miracle.

He opines that when the Torah prescribed shemen zayit — it was not to exclude miracle oil. It was merely because the Torah wanted the best quality among oils, and olive oil produces the cleanest and constant flame. If oil of such nature was produced through a miracle, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using it for the Menorah kindling.

Superficually, this theory can be disputed based on a discussion in Gemara (Menachot 69b) concerning wheat which miraculously came down from the clouds: Can it be used for the two loaves offered on Shavuot? The Gemara concludes that it cannot, which would seem to suggest that only items of natural origin are suitable in the Beit Hamikdash and not something produced by a miracle?

This does not, however, contradict the above conclusion since there the question is that the Torah wrote an extra word “mimoshvoteichem” — “from your settled places” (Vayikra 23:17). We thus ponder whether it means to exclude specifically wheat from chutz la’eretz — Diaspora — but not if it is from the clouds, or is it a prerequisite that the wheat must have grown in Eretz Yisrael and any other wheat (even if it came down from clouds and is of equal quality) is excluded. However, when the Torah wrote “shemen zayit” — “olive oil” the word “zayit” — “olive” — is not superfluous because it is necessary to exclude other inferior oils but it does not exclude miraculous oil which has the identical qualities of natural olive oil.

(רשימות כ"ק אדמו"ר ח"ג)

* * *

This answers the first question (regarding miracle oil) raised on the Beit Yosef’s explanation.

As for the second question [that the Menorah must be filled with enough oil for the night] this is only lechat’chilah — a priori — based on the reason that “Ein aniyut bimkom ashirut” — “There should be no manifestation of poverty in a place of opulence (Shabbat 102b) .” However, possessing only one flask of suitable oil exemplifies extreme poverty. Therefore, dividing it and relying on a miracle to occur is proper in such a situation.

(עי' ספר נר למאה סי' ט"ו, ובקונטרס נס השמן ענף ה')

* * *

QUESTION: According to the Beit Yosef’s explanation that immediately after filling the cups of the Menorah the flask filled up again, this repeated itself up to the seventh day. Thus, Chanukah should only be for seven days since no miracle occurred on the eighth day?

ANSWER: The miracle was not that they emptied the entire flask into the seven cups of the Menorah and then the empty flask miraculously filled up again. Rather, as they were pouring the oil into the Menorah, what was poured out was immediately miraculously replaced. Thus, already on the first day after the first bit was poured out of the flask, the flask held a mixture of original oil and miraculous oil. Consequently, for all the eight nights of Chanukah the Menorah was kindled with the mixture, and even on the first night it was impossible to ascertain if the oil used was totally the original which was found or some of the oil that came into the flask by way of miracle. Hence, the kindling of all eight days was partially with miracle oil and therefore we celebrate for eight days.

(חכמת שלמה על גליון השו"ע סי' עת"ר)

Alternatively, even if we should say that the flask refilled itself after it was emptied into the Menorah, the reason to celebrate eight days is that this occurred also on the eighth night after they filled the Menorah cups. Thus, they witnessed a miracle also on the eighth day although they did not use this oil on the ninth day since a fresh supply had already arrived.

(נרות שמונה)

* * *


1) 25th Commemorates Victory

The Pri Chadash explains that if it were only for the miracle of the oil, then Chanukah would only be seven days. The eight-day celebration has two reasons: The 25th of Kislev is celebrated because of the miraculous victory the Hasmoneans experienced in the war, and the other seven days mark the seven days of miraculous Menorah kindling.

(פרי חדש סי' עת"ר)


2) 25th Commemorates Finding Oil

In reality there was no miracle on the first day. However, the eight days of celebration is not only because of the kindling of the Menorah until new oil was provided.

The first day (25 Kislev) was declared a Yom Tov in order to thank Hashem for delivering us from the Syrian-Greek oppressors and for helping us find the one flask of undefiled oil. The additional seven days of Chanukah commemorate the miracle that oil sufficient for only one day miraculously lasted an additional seven days when there was no other oil available.

(מאירי)

QUESTION: A difficulty raised with these two explanations is as follows: Why is Chanukah celebrated with kindling the Menorah eight days — the celebrated kindling should have started on the 26th of Kislev for a period of seven days?

ANSWER: The Hasmoneans fought strictly for spiritual reasons. The Syrian-Greeks endeavored to cause the Jews to stop learning Torah and cease doing mitzvot. Unfortunately, they were somewhat successful and many Jews became Hellenized. Cognizant that the Jews were facing spiritual devastation, the Hasmoneans went to war and the victory was not for physical or material matters but strictly a spiritual victory for Torah and mitzvoth.

Hence, when the Rabbis declared the 25th of Kislev as a Yom Tov for the victory, they ordained that it be celebrated with candles and light since candles corresponds to mitzvot and light corresponds to Torah, as King Shlomo said, “For a mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23).

(רשימות כ"ק אדמו"ר ח"ג ע' 18)


3) 25th Commemorates “Fire from Heaven”

The Gemara says that though the Kohanim would light a fire on the Altar, a fire also descended from heaven which consumed the sacrifices. This fire was also there during the second Beit Hamikdash, although it did not assist in consuming the sacrifices placed on the Altar (Yoma 21b). When the Syrian-Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they defiled the Altar by sacrificing an idol on it, and thus the heavenly fire departed.

Upon gaining entry to the Sanctuary, on the 25th of Kislev, the Kohanim dedicated a new Altar, but to their great disappointment no heavenly fire descended upon it.

After much praying, a heavenly fire appeared between the stones of the Altar (see Josephus, ch. 20). Prior to the evening of the 26th of Kislev they kindled the Menorah for the first time (see Rambam, Chanukah 3:2) and the flask of oil lasted them for eight days, until new pure oil was received.

Thus, the eight-day celebration which commences on the 25th of Kislev commemorates two events: the first day commemorates Hashem’s response to their prayers and sending a fire from heaven, and the seven succeeding days commemorate seven days of miraculous Menorah kindling.

(מחזיק ברכה להחיד"א סי' עת"ר:א)

A difficulty can be raised; if the celebration on the first day is for the heavenly fire that descended on the Altar, why do we light the Menorah on the night of the 25th?

The answer may be because the Gemara (Yoma 45b) says that from the Aish Tamid — constant fire — that was on the Altar they would take fire for the kindling of the Menorah. Thus, when the Kohanim dedicated the Altar and there was no heavenly fire they were greatly disappointed. Afterwards, when the heavenly fire appeared, they rejoiced, since they would be able to use it for the kindling of the Menorah. Hence, we kindle the Menorah on the 25th to celebrate the miracle of heavenly fire appearing on the Altar which was used later in the day to kindle the Menorah.

(ויחי יוסף - ר' יוסף זצ"ל מפאפא)


4) Flask Was Not Enough for 25th

According to the Mechilta D’rav Achai, Vayishlach, the flask of oil found was not enough for even one night’s kindling. Thus, already on the 25th they experienced a miracle when the Menorah burned the entire night. Therefore, Chanukah is celebrated with Menorah kindling for eight days, to commemorate the eight day of miraculous Menorah kindling.

A difficulty with the Mechilta is the following: The Menorah had to be lit for the entire night — why would the flasks of oil prepared for the daily kindling contain less than what is needed for the required lighting time?

In describing the miracle of Chanukah, the Gemara relates that the Jews found only one flask of oil and that it had the seal of the Kohen Gadol. In the Beit Hamikdash there were Kohanim assigned to the special task of making oil, and it was not the responsibility of the Kohen Gadol to make oil. Why then did this particular flask bear the Kohen Gadol’s seal?

The Kohen Gadol was required to bring a daily meal-offering consisting of flour and oil, known as “chavitei Kohen Gadol” (Vayikra 6:15). Normally, the oil used for this offering would be of lower quality than that used for the kindling of the Menorah (Shemot 27:20, Rashi). However, the Kohen Gadol of that time was a highly distinguished spiritual personality, and a mehader bemitzvot — one scrupulous in mitzvot — who used pure olive oil for his daily sacrifice.

When the Hasmoneans entered the Beit Hamikdash, they did not find any pure olive oil to kindle the Menorah. Luckily, they found one flask which was designated for the Kohen Gadol’s daily sacrifice, and, to their utter amazement, it was pure olive oil.

The Menorah required one half lug (5 ½ oz.) for each of the seven candles, adding up to a total of 3 ½ lugim (Menachot 88a). The Kohen Gadol’s daily sacrifice required only a total of three lugim of oil per day (Menachot 87b). Thus, the flask found was not sufficient for even one night, though miraculously it burnt through the entire night.

(שפת אמת – מלא העומר מר' ארי' ליב ז"ל צינץ)

Alternatively, the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 43a) says that the Syrian-Greeks plundered the vessels of the Beit Hamikdash, including the golden Menorah. After the Jews chased them out, they make a Menorah of wood. New wood has a tendency to absorb oil until it becomes saturated. Thus, actually when the flask of oil was prepared the content was enough for one night, assuming that it was poured into the regular Menorah whose cups did not absorb oil (or were fully saturated). However, now that they had to kindle the new wooden Menorah, the content of the flask was not enough even for one night’s kindling, and nevertheless it miraculously burnt throughout the entire night.

(חידושי מהרצ"א)


On 25th Some Oil Remained in Flask

1) The Taz explains that according to the Zohar, in order for a miracle to occur, there must first be something tangible in existence. Thus, after filling the Menorah with oil from the flask, which had a sufficient amount for just one day, some oil remained in the flask. Miraculously, this little bit of oil which remained in the flask increased till the flask was full and sufficient for the kindling of the next evening. This miracle repeated itself every evening after filling the Menorah. Hence, immediately on the first day a miracle occurred.

(טורי זהב סי' עת"ר)

* * *


Without the One there Wouldn’t be Seven

2) The reason for 8 days though they had oil for the first day can be explained with a parable: A businessman once traveled to a market with eight bags of gold coins. While he was staying over at an inn, bandits stole seven of them. Immediately he took money from the one remaining bag and hired people to catch the bandits and vowed to Hashem that if the search was successful he would donate ten percent of the money to charity. They skillfully made an investigation and apprehended the thieves.

When the gabba’ei tzedakah — people in charge of tzedakah funds — arrived to collect their due, a debate arose concerning whether he had to give charity from all eight bags of gold coins or only from seven? It was decided that he should give from all eight, for were it not for the eighth bag that miraculously remained in his possession, he would have been penniless and without funds to hire people to pursue the bandits and recover his money.

The same is true with celebrating eight days. Though the Jews had a flask with sufficient oil for one night, were it not for that one flask that was found, there would have not been any oil to miraculously burn for eight days.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר בשם קומץ המנחה)


8 Days to Distinguish Between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai

3) There is an argument in the Gemara (Shabbat 21b) as to how many candles should be lit each night of Chanukah. According to Beit Hillel, we start the first night with one candle and each night we add a candle. According to Beit Shammai, we start the first night with eight, and decrease by one every night after.

According to the Avudraham, one of the meanings of the name Chanukah” is "ח' נרות והלכה כבית הלל" — “Candles should be lit for eight days, and the halachah is according to Beit Hillel” (that each night we increase one candle).

When one looks at the Chanukah Menorah any day of Chanukah, one can immediately tell from the number of candles being lit, that the halachah is according to Beit Hillel.

For example, on the third day of Chanukah one sees three candles lit, and one knows that this is according to Beit Hillel, because according to Beit Shammai, there should have been six candles lit. On the sixth day of Chanukah, if one sees six candles lit, one can derive from this that the halachah is according to Beit Hillel, because according to Beit Shammai there should have been only three candles lit.

If Chanukah candles were only lit for a period of seven days, then on the fourth night of Chanukah, according to Beit Hillel and also according to Beit Shammai, a total of only four candles would be lit. Thus, if one looked at the Chanukah Menorah that evening, one would not be able to see if the halachah was according to Beit Hillel or Beit Shammai. However, when Chanukah is celebrated for eight days, then on the fourth day, according to Beit Hillel one lights four candles and according to Beit Shammai one lights five candles.

Since the word “Chanukah” indicates that the halachah is according to Beit Hillel, Chanukah has to be eight days and not seven days.

(ברכת חיים)

"קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה"
“They established and rendered these eight days as festival days with respect to reciting Hallel and thanksgiving.”

4) QUESTION: It should say that they established these eight days as a Yom Tov — holiday — in singular; why does it say “Yomim Tov” — “holidays” — in plural?

ANSWER: One of the things the Syrian-Greeks demanded of the Jews was that they abolish Rosh Chodesh. They sought that their calendar should not be dependant on the Beit Din’s sanctifying the new moon each month based on the testimony of witnesses, but rather it should be in accordance with the solar system, as the calendar of the entire secular world.

The dates the Torah prescribes for the observance of a Yom Tov are based on the lunar system. Hence, without a calendar based on the moon we would not know when to observe any Yom Tov, and thus, Yomim Tovim would be forgotten.

In Eretz Yisrael there are eight days during the year which are observed as Yom Tov. Pesach is celebrated on the first and seventh days of the festival, the 15th and 21st of Nissan. (Chol Hamoeid — the intermediate days — is not considered Yom Tov; see Turei Zahav 668:1) Shavuot is celebrated one day on the 6th of Sivan. Rosh Hashanah — even in Eretz Yisrael — is always celebrated for two days: the first and second day of Tishrei (see Rosh Hashanah 30b). Yom Kippur is only one day, on the 10th of Tishrei, and Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret are one day each: the 15th and 22nd day of Tishrei. Thus, had the Syrian-Greeks, G‑d forbid, achieved their desires, the Jewish people would be missing eight days of Yomim Tovim.

Thanks to the defeat of the enemy, the Jews were able to celebrate and observe all the Yomim Tovim — holidays — without any fear and on the proper Biblical date. Consequently, when the Sanhedrin established the celebration of the victory of the Hasmoneans, they made it for eight days of Yomim Tovim (plural) corresponding to the eight days of various Yomim Tovim the Syrian-Greeks wanted to stop the Jewish people from celebrating. They did not, however, forbid working, but rather emphasized Hallel and thanksgiving to Hashem.

(חתן סופר על חנוכה סי' י"ט)

5) In Shemoneh Esreih and Birkat Hamazon we recite, during Chanukah, the prayer of Al Hanissim. In it, there are a total of eight things mentioned which Hashem did in our behalf to make Chanukah a reality. “You... 1) waged their battles, 2) defended their rights, 3) avenged the wrong done to them, 4) delivered the mighty into the hand of the weak, 5) the many into the hand of the few, 6) the impure into the hand of the pure, 7) the wicked into the hand of the righteous, 8) and wanton sinners into the hand of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah.”

Therefore, Chanukah is celebrated eight days, though the miracle of the oil was only for seven days.

(ספר נר למאה בשם זכר אברהם)


"בכ"ה בכסליו יומי דחנוכה תמניא אינון"
“On the 25th of Kislev [begin] the days of Chanukah, eight in number.”

QUESTION: Because of a doubt as to which days the Beit Din declared as Rosh Chodesh in the Diaspora every Yom-Tov is celebrated two days. Why isn’t Chanukah, too, nine days in Diaspora?

ANSWER: All Yomim Tovim except for Chanukah and Purim, are Biblical. There is more stringency concerning a doubt related to a Biblical matter than one concerning something Rabbinical. Therefore, out of doubt as to what day is actually the first of the month, the Yom-Tov is celebrated for two days. This stringency is not extended, however, to Yomim Tovim which are merely of Rabbinical origin.

(אבודרהם)

Some say that really Chanukah should only have been seven days since without any miracles there was sufficient oil in the flask they found for one night. Thus, the eighth day was added only because of the doubt of which day in the month was designated as the day of Rosh Chodesh. Hence, there is no need for a ninth day because the eighth day was already added to satisfy the doubt.

(ערבי נחל)

A difficulty with this is that we might wonder. If so, why Chanukah is also eight days in Eretz Yisrael?

(חתם סופר)

Others claim that the reason for two days of Yom Tov is that after the Beit Din in Eretz Yisrael declared Rosh Chodesh they would dispatch emissaries to notify the people who lived far away from Yerushalayim and in the Diaspora which day was established. Since it would take them more than fifteen days to reach the community, the people would celebrate Yom-Tov for two days. However, by the 25th of the month they would definitely reach even the most distant Jewish community and thus there is no need for a ninth day because of any doubts.

(ברכי יוסף סי' עת"ר, וצ"ע דתנן בר"ה דף י"ח ע"א ששלוחים יצאו בכסלו מפני חנוכה)

Nevertheless, there is an opinion that indeed in those days Chanukah was only eight days in Eretz Yisrael (where every Yom Tov lasted for one day). However, in the distant communities where every Yom-Tov was celebrated two days because the messengers would not arrive in time to inform them which day was declared Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah too was celebrated for nine days.

Now that we have a pre-calculated calendar and we observe two days Yom Tov only because of Minhag avoteinu beyadeinu” — we follow the customs of our parents (see Rambam, Kiddush HaChodesh 5:5) — we are stringent to do as our parents did only in regard to a Biblical Yom Tov but not in regard to Chanukah, which is only of Rabbinic origin.

However, when the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt and we will return to the establishment of Rosh Chodesh by Beit Din based on the testimony of witnesses, then Chanukah in Diaspora will again be nine days.

(מנחת חינוך מצוה ש"א, ועי' במועדים בהלכה – חנוכה סי' ב)

Another explanation for Chanukah’s not having nine days is that we celebrate for eight days because the Syrian-Greeks decreed against Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and milah — circumcision. Therefore, the Rabbis decided that the celebration be for eight-days since in an eight day period there is a Shabbat, a Rosh Chodesh (Tevet). Since a Brit Milah is done on the eighth day, an eighth day was added to the Chanukah celebration, to commemorate their failure to abolish circumcision on the eighth day after the birth of a boy. (This also gives a possibility for a boy born on the first day of Chanukah to have his brit during Chanukah — on the eighth day.

If Chanukah were celebrated for nine days, the whole idea expressed by eight days would be obscured.

(חדרי בטן להחיד"א, מקץ אות ט"ו)


"בכ"ה בכסליו יומי דחנוכה תמניא אינון"
“On the 25th of Kislev the days of Chanukah commence, they are eight days in all.”

QUESTION: On what day was the war actually won, and when did the first Menorah kindling take place?

ANSWER: According to one opinion, the victory was declared on the 24th of Kislev. Towards evening of the 25th the Menorah was kindled and it burned through the entire night, and in the morning they brought offerings on the Altar. Thus, the name “Chanukah” which can be read “Chanu chof hei” — “They rested on the 25th” — means that the 25th was the first complete day of rest after a long, tedious battle.

(מאירי)

The Rambam (Chanukah 3:2) writes, “When the Jews overpowered their enemies and destroyed them it was on the 25th of Kislev, and they entered the Sanctuary and found no non-defiled oil in the Sanctuary except for one flask which was sufficient for only one day, and they kindled with it the candles for eight days until olives were crushed and clean oil was produced.”

Accordingly, there was fighting still on the 25th and sometime during the day, victory was declared and they rested on part of the 25th day. On the 25th late in the afternoon they kindled the Menorah and it burned through the night of the 26th.

Then the Rambam writes in the next halachah (3:3) “Therefore, the Sages of that generation declared that these eight days which commence from the night of the 25th of Kislev should be days of happiness and joy, and candles are lit in the evening at the entrance doors to the houses every night of the eight nights to demonstrate and publicize the miracle.”

The Rambam seems to be contradicting himself! If the Menorah was first lit on the 25th, and if it burned throughout the night of the 26th, shouldn’t the commemorative annual kindling commence on the eve of the 26th?

Some explain that according to the Rambam, we kindle on the eve of the 25th to commemorate the victory that took place on that day and the remaining seven nights of kindling is to commemorate the seven day miraculous kindling of the Menorah after the flask of oil was consumed.

(פרי חדש סי' עת"ר, א)

A difficulty still remains, why is the victory celebrated with kindling the Menorah for eight days starting with the 25th of Kislev?

An explanation may be the following: According to the Jewish calendar, the day starts with evening, as the Torah says, “And there was evening and there was morning one day” (Bereishit 1:5). However, the Gemara (Chullin 83a) says that in regard to matters of the holiness of the Beit Hamikdash it is the reverse. Day starts with morning and the evening is a continuation of the day. This is evident from the verse “[The offering] must be eaten on the day of its offering; he may not leave any of it until morning” (Vayikra 7:15). Since it may be eaten the entire night until the morning and since the Torah calls this “beyom karbano” — “in the day of his offering” — it is evident that in regard to holiness the night is a continuation of the day it follows (Rashi).

Thus, though the Menorah lighting took place on the eve of the 26th, since this was a matter of the holiness of the Beit Hamikdash, it is associated with the 25th day. However, our kindling at the entrance to our houses is not a matter of “holiness.” Therefore, since our day commences with the evening, it cannot be considered as associated with the 25th day unless it be done on the eve of the 25th.

(לקו"ש ח"ל ע' 204)

Alternatively, according to the Rambam (Temidim Umusafim 3:12) the Menorah was lit twice a day, in the late afternoon, and again in the morning. Thus, victory was declared early in the morning of the 25th of Kislev, and immediately the Kohanim went to the Beit Hamikdash and they did the morning lighting of the Menorah.

Now according to the Rambam the victory was as follows; on the 25th of Kislev they found the single flask of oil which was sufficient only for one kindling and they used it for the morning kindling. Miraculously, this flask provided oil for both the evening and morning kindling of the next seven days. Hence, on each of the eight days starting on the 25th of Kislev a miracle was experienced with the kindling of the Menorah.

A question, however, can be raised; the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 43a) says that they made a new wooden Menorah. Hence, it needed to be sanctified, and the Gemara (Menachot 49a) says that the sanctifying of the Menorah can only be done with the evening lighting. If so how were they able to kindle on the morning of the 25th?

The halachah that sanctification can only be accomplished with evening kindling is a Rabbinic ordination.

It could be that the need for a new Menorah was not because the old one was plundered but rather because it was defiled since it was used for idol worship, the same as the Altar which was stored away and replaced with a new one for that reason (see Avodah Zarah 52b). Since the prohibition to use such vessels is only a Rabbinical law, and kindling Menorah is a Biblical command, the Rabbis made their ruling only when an alternative exists.

Consequently, for the morning kindling they had no other alternative but to use the old Menorah. For the evening lighting, however, they used the new wooden Menorah, which they were able to sanctify with its inauguration into service for the evening kindling, as the Gemara (Shevuout 15a) says, “Avodatan mechanchatan” — The vessels become sanctified through their first use for service in the Beit Hamikdash.

(אור גדול על משניות יומא פ"ז מ"ד)


"נעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים"
“A miracle occurred with it, and they kindled with it for eight days.”

QUESTION: To commemorate this miracle we kindle a total of 36 candles during Chanukah (excluding the Shamashim). What is the significance of the 36 candles of Chanukah?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Chagigah 12a) says regarding the light that Hashem created on the first day that man could use it to survey everything from one end of the world to the other. Once, however, He looked at the Generation of the Flood and the Generation of the Dispersion and He saw that their deeds were perverse, He proceeded to hide the light from them, and hid it for the righteous people in the future. According to the Zohar (Shemot 148-49) not only will the righteous enjoy it in the World to Come in the Messianic Era, but it is hidden in the Torah. Whenever people exert themselves in the study of Torah, a ray shines forth from that light and rests upon them.

When the miracle of Chanukah occurred and the Menorah was kindled with the oil of the flask, Hashem revealed some of the exalted hidden light of the future. Also, on every Chanukah, during the kindling of the Menorah, there is a revealing of the hidden light — the light of Mashiach.

The name “Chanukah” etymologically stems from the word “chinuch” — education and preparation. A parent educates and prepares a young child prior to the time when he will be obligated to perform mitzvot so he will have all the knowledge he needs when the time actually comes. Likewise, Hashem reveals on Chanukah some of the “hidden light” which we will enjoy in the exalted days of Mashiach.

According to the Midrash (Rabbah Bereishit 11:2) the great light which Hashem created functioned for Adam a total of 36 hours: twelve hours on Friday day and the twenty four hours of Shabbat (and then was darkness — see Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 8:5). In addition, the words ohr — “light” — or neir — “candle” — or “me’orot — “luminaries” — appear in the Torah a total of 36 times. The Greeks wanted to stop us from studying Torah and thus fail to benefit from the great light which is hidden in the Torah, and which served Adam for 36 hours. Therefore, on Chanukah, when Hashem reveals to us some of the great light that will radiate in the days of Mashiach, the custom is to light a total of 36 candles (without the shamashim).

(בני יששכר בשם הרוקח)

Alternatively, the Syrian-Greeks endeavored to cause the Jews “lehashkicham Toratecha” — to forget the Torah. In the Torah there are two parts, the Written and the Oral. The Written consists of the five volumes of the Torah scroll and the Oral Torah is the Gemara, without which we do not really know how to observe the Torah. For example, the Torah says that a Jew should wear tefillin. However, without the explanations transmitted from Sinai in the Oral Torah we would not know what tefillin are and how to perform the mitzvah.

By attempting to stop the Jews from studying the Gemara and making them study Greek philosophy and secular studies instead, the Greeks hoped that ultimately the Jews would not know what the Written Torah means, and thus, Torah would be obsolete and forgotten.

In the Babylonian Talmud, there are 36 Gemarot. (Some Tractates consist of only Mishnah without any Gemara, e.g. Ediyot). When the Jews conquered their adversaries, they were then able to engage freely in study of the 36 volumes of Gemara and thereby assure the continuity of Torah study and observance. In commemoration 36 candles are kindled.

(בני יששכר, ועי' סדר הדורות שמות הספרים אות ת')


"ונעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים"
“A miracle occurred with it, and they kindled with it eight days.”

QUESTION: Why, in addition to helping the minority of Jews overcome the large number of enemies, did Hashem make the additional miracle connected with candles?

ANSWER: According to the midrash (Rabbah Bereishit 2:4) the Syrian-Greeks decreed that the Jews cease observing Shabbat, circumcision and the sanctification of the new moon to establish the day of Rosh Chodesh.

These three mitzvot all have an association with candle lighting. Shabbat is ushered in with the woman lighting candles and motza’ei Shabbat we light the Havdalah candle. (In addition, it is customary to light candles on motza’ei Shabbat to “escort” the departing Shabbat — see Shulchan Aruch Harav 300:2, Ba’eir Heitev 298:16). At a circumcision it is also customary to kindle candles (see Sanhedrin 32b, Tosafot).

Based on the acceptance of testimony from witnesses who saw the new moon appear in the sky, the Beit Din would decide which day should be designated as Rosh Chodesh. To notify the people of the Diaspora, (Babylon) which day was declared Rosh Chodesh, so that they would know which day of the month should be celebrated as Yom Tov, torches would be lit on mountaintops on the evening following the day declared as Rosh Chodesh (see Rosh Hashanah 21b).

Despite the decree of the Syrian-Greeks, the dedicated Jews were unyielding and with mesirat nefesh — self sacrifice — continued observing these three mitzvot. To demonstrate His love for his devoted people, Hashem specifically made a miracle for them connected with candle lighting.

(משמרת אליעזר)


"לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה"
“In the following year they established and rendered [these eight days] as festival days, with respect to recital of Hallel and thanksgiving.”

QUESTION: Why was Purim immediately declared a Yom Tov while Chanukah was only declared a holiday the following year?

ANSWER: Haman sought the physical annihilation of the entire Jewish nation. He made his plans during the month of Nissan and designated a date a year later, the 13th of Adar, as the appropriate time to carry out his insidious plot. During the entire year the Jews prayed and repented, but no one was physically hurt. On the 13th of Adar, “the fear of the Jews had fallen upon all the peoples” and “no one stood in their way” when they “struck at all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering and annihilating” (Esther 9:2,5).

On the other hand, the Jews fought the Syrian-Greek armies for three years until they vanquished them and regained control of the Beit Hamikdash. During this period there was fierce fighting and many soldiers of the Jewish army were killed. Thus, when the Jews rested on the 25th of Kislev, many families were mourning loved ones who had perished. Consequently, it was not deemed proper to immediately declare Chanukah as a Yom Tov, and the Jews waited till next year, by which time all would have concluded their mourning periods.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר בשם פתחי תורה)

Alternatively, when the Rambam (Chanukah 3:1) records the events that led up to Chanukah, he describes how the Jews suffered bitterly from the Syrian-Greek decrees and their reprehensible conduct in the Sanctuary. He also writes “until the G‑d of our fathers had mercy over them and He helped them and saved them, and the children of Chashmonai the Kohanim Gedolim overpowered, and they killed them and rescued the Jews from their hands. And they appointed a king from among the Kohanim, and the Jewish Kingdom returned to Israel for over two hundred years, until the second destruction [of the Beit Hamikdash].” Then the Rambam records the miracle concerning the Menorah and concludes (ibid 3:3) “Therefore the Sages of the generation instituted these eight days, which start on the night of the 25th of Kislev, as days of simchah and Hallel.”

Now the Rambam’s work is a code of halachah, not a history book. What is the relevance to halachah that they appointed a king?

The Gemara (Megillah 14a) says that the reason the Rabbis did not institute the saying of Hallel on Purim is that the salvation was an incomplete redemption since “Akati avdei Achashveirosh anan” — “We are still servants of Achashveirosh.” Though they were relieved of Haman and his cohorts, there was no Jewish government; rather they lived in peace under the rulership of Achashveirosh. Regarding Chanukah, however, not only were the Jews relieved of the wicked Syrian-Greek oppressors; but after the victory they reinstituted the Jewish kingdom. Hence, at the conclusion of the first anniversary, when they saw that their kingdom was firmly established and thus their victory was a complete redemption, the Rabbis decided to ordain these eight days as a Yom-Tov in which Hallel is recited.

(תפארת צבי – הרב צבי שי' רוזונטל)


"ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה"
“[The eight days] were rendered festival days with respect to recital of Hallel and thanksgiving.”

QUESTION: Why wasn’t Chanukah also declared a day of feasting just as Purim was?

ANSWER: Haman plotted to annihilate the Jewish people physically. A Jew’s religious convictions didn’t matter to him. If one was a member of the Jewish people, regardless of age or gender, he wanted that person wiped off the face of the earth. Chanukah on the other hand was a totally spiritual war. The ambition of the Syrian-Greeks was “to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will.” The Jews who Hellenized and joined with them were to be spared.

Since Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people from physical annihilation, the celebration is in a physical form — eating and drinking — things that the body enjoys. In contrast, with regard to Chanukah, the Jewish body was not in danger, but rather the soul. Thus, the commemoration and celebration is not expressed by the physical acts of eating and drinking, but by spiritual activities — kindling the Menorah, recital of Hallel, and thanksgiving.

(ב"ח וט"ז סי' עת"ר)

Alternatively, the feast on Purim was instituted for a special reason: Queen Vashti’s downfall occurred at the great feast when the King was merry with wine (Esther, 1:10). Queen Esther’s coronation was also celebrated with a mishtei yayin — feast of wine (2:18). The downfall of Haman and his subsequent execution came about through the wine banquet made by Esther (7:1-10). Therefore, it is a mitzvah on Purim to have a festive meal at which wine is also consumed.

(אבודרהם, ובמגילה ז' ע"ב רש"י ד"ה לבסומי, כ' "להשתכר ביין")

Alternatively, the Gemara (Shabbat 88a) says that when Hashem originally gave the Jewish people the Torah, he lifted the mountain over them and forced them to accept it. Nevertheless, they accepted it again willfully in the days of Achashverosh, as it is written ‘The Jews established and accepted’ (Esther 9:26). They established in the days of Achashverosh that which they had already accepted in the days of Moshe’.” [Out of their love for Hashem engendered by the miracle of Purim the Jews reaccepted the Torah — Rashi.]

Torah is compared to food and drink, as King Shlomo says, “Come and partake of my bread, and drink the wine that I have mixed” (Proverbs 9:5). Consequently, on Purim, which marks our reacceptance of the Torah, we celebrate with festive meals and drinking.

(חיד"א)