Chanukah @ Shemayisrael

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher


1) Sh.O. O.Ch. 673:2 rules that the act of fulfillment of the mitzvoh of "hadlokas ner Chanukah" takes place at the moment of lighting, "hadlokoh osoh mitzvoh." As well, in 671:4 it is stated that if one kindles a light in a manner that the kindled light takes on the appearance of a torch flame, i.e. a large raging flame, he has not fulfilled the mitzvoh. If so, how do we properly light Chanukah lights? At the moment that we bring our fire source to the wick of the "ner Chanukah" and it catches on fire, which is the moment of our DOING the lighting, it is a torch since there are two sources of fire in one flame.

2) The gemara R.H. 32b says that the reason we do not say Hallel on Rosh Hashonoh is that since the King is sitting on His throne of judgment and the books of living and dead are open in front of Him, how can we then recite Hallel, which is a "shiroh." On the same page of gemara Rabbi Yossi says that a person is judged daily. If so, how can we recite Hallel on Chanukah, since it is also a day of judgment? How can we recite Hallel on any day of the year?

3) The Ram"o on Sh.O. O.Ch. 187:4 writes that if a person forgot to say "Al hanisim" in "birkas hamozon" either for Chanukah of Purim and has already completed the next blessing, he may insert it into the end of "birkas hamozon" among the "hoRachamon" prayers. However, he should first say "hoRachamon hu yaa'seh lonu nisim k'mo she'osoh ba'yomim ho'heim." We have a maxim that a person should not pray for a miracle since if it were to be done for him it would greatly deplete his merits. If so, why have our Rabbis instituted this text?

4) The gemara Taanis 20b says that one may not derive benefit from an object that came about through a miracle. If so, how did the Kohanim use the oil which came about through a miracle to light the menorah?

5) We add the prayer of "al hanisim" to our daily "amidoh" and "birkas hamozon." Since "al hamichyoh/ha'gefen/ha'peiros" is a diminutive "birkas hamozon," why is it not incorporated into this blessing, just as we mention Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and Yom Tov in the original?


#1 -

1) What is wrong with the "ner Chanukah" looking like a "m'duroh," a flaming torch? It is that it gives off very much light and heat. The onlooker might mistakenly believe that it was surely lit for personal usage (Sfas Emes on gemara Shabbos 23b). Since regular lighting does not give this impression, as this is the normal manner of igniting every flame, it does not have the invalidating ruling of a torch.

2) A careful look at the wording of the Sh.O. yields an answer to the question as well. It says that if the flame is "niris kimduroh" the kindling is not valid. After one removes the lighting source we are left with a simple flame. The problem only arises at the moment of kindling, which is the moment of DOING the mitzvoh. At that moment the lighting source is held in one's hand, touching or almost touching the wick. This scene does not look like a "m'duroh" even though two flames join and are burning together. This might be akin to the opinion of the Chazon Ish regarding "ohel aro'i," the Rabbinic decree against creating a temporary sort of tent or cover similar to a structural roof. He says that this does not apply to a person holding an already opened umbrella over something to protect it, as long as the person remains holding the umbrella in his hand. Holding it in his hand is a clear difference between the umbrella covering and another temporary roof. (Nirreh li)

#2 -

1) Chochmas Shlomo in his commentary on Sh.O. O.Ch. 584:1 writes that Rabbi Yossi's intention is not that literally every day is a day of judgment. There are some exceptions, such as Yom Tov. We can similarly say that Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah are also excluded.

2) Rosh Hashonoh is a day of judgment that brings trepidation as the whole world as a group, besides individually, is judged on that day. Hallel is therefore not in place. The daily judgment is on an individual basis only. (Oruch L'ner)

3) The judgment of Rosh Hashonoh encompasses a verdict for the outcome of the whole year, while the daily judgment is for that day only (Sfas Emes). Judgment for one day at a time is not contradicted by saying Hallel.

4) Although there is a daily judgment, this does not include "books of living and dead" opened in front of Hashem. That only takes place on the anniversary of His coronation. (Nirreh li)

#3 -

1) Bchor Shor in his commentary on the gemara Shabbos 21 writes that this concern only applies to miracles done for the benefit of an individual, not a congregation. The prayer in "birkas hamozon" is for the benefit of a "tzibur" as evidenced by the words "hoRachamon hu yaa'seh LONU nisim."

2) The miracles referred to are those that were done to our ancestors, namely their winning a long protracted war against the Hellenists. Although the outcome was miraculous, it was nevertheless cloaked in the natural, as the victory was achieved through warfare. This type of miracle does not detract from our merits.

3) Even though we are asking for outright miracles that would detract from our merits, since we are asking for miracles as those done to our ancestors around the time of the original Chanukah, it is most appropriate. Even if we lose many merits, we must be ready to do so if the miracles are needed to counter the offensives of enemies who are striking against us to ch"v destroy our commitment to Hashem and His Torah, as was the case by Chanukah. (Nirreh li)

4) Since this prayer is said in the company of "Horachamon hu y'za'keinu limose haMoshiach ," since in the days of Moshiach there will be an abundance of miracles to the point that they will overshadow even the miracles that accompanied the exodus from Egypt, at a time of miracles being the order of the day, they would not detract from our merits. (Nirreh li) 5) This prayer is said in the company of numerous prayers for sufficient sustenance and livelihood, i.e. "brochoh m'ruboh v'al shulchon zeh, y'farn'seinu b'chovod," and the gemara P'sochim 118a says that providing a livelihood is as difficult as splitting Yam Suf, once we are praying for other matters that are in the realm of miraculous we can likewise sneak in this similar prayer as well. (Nirreh li)

#4 -

1) The miracle was that the oil was not consumed as quickly as usual, but the oil itself was natural. (Nirreh li)

2) In the Beis Hamikdosh many miracles were the order of the day (see Pirkei Ovos chapter 5). On the Mikdosh campus a miracle is "natural."

3) Using miraculously created oil for a mitzvoh is not considered deriving benefit, as per the maxim, "Mitzvos lav l'he'nos nitnu," performance of mitzvos is not for a personal benefit.

4) They had no other suitable oil with which to perform this mitzvoh. If this miraculous oil were not available they would simply not have lit the menorah. Thus using it did not in any way deplete their supply, which in turn would require the public to fund procuring more oil. The actual light emitted was of no practical purpose for anyone as it was lit in the Beis Hamikdosh. Even if lit in the courtyard, as per one understanding of the words "v'hidliku neiros b'chatzros kodshecho" in "al hanisim," there were numerous other lights going as well. Practically speaking, no benefit was derived. The benefit of having done the mitzvoh was a congregational responsibility, so no specific person gained from it. (Nirreh li)

5) We find that the prophet Elisha told the prophet Ovadioh's widow to pour her bit of oil into many, many, empty vessels and then sell the oil to ransom her children, and there would even be more left over for household needs, an open miracle from which she derived benefit (M'lochim 2:4:1 and onwards). Since the miraculous oil came from a bit of natural oil it was permitted. One explanation in the Beis Yoseif of the miracle of the oil of Chanukah is that the original oil was not totally consumed, but rather, that some remained and increased. If so, the miracle was not ex nihilo, and this is permissible. (Nirreh li)

#5 -

1) The Machatzis Hashekel O.Ch. 208:18 answers that only occasions mentioned in the Torah deserve to be mentioned in the diminutive "mei'en sholosh," the abbreviated "birkas hamozon."

2) MVRHRH"G R' Yaakov Kamenecki zt"l answers this question in a most marvelous manner. The gemara Brochos 29a says that the Rabbis instituted a short form of the Amidoh called "tfilas havi'neinu." After the first 3 blessings are said in the normal fashion, the 12/13 middle blessings are said in very short form. The gemara says that this prayer may not be said on "motzo'ei Shabbos" because there is a need to say "havdoloh" ("atoh chonantonu") in the "atoh chonein" blessing. Mar Zutra asks, "Why not say "havdoloh" in full in the middle of the shortened form of "atoh chonein" and say the rest in shortened form?" The gemara says that this is a difficult question and offers no answer.

Rabbeinu Yonoh says that in spite of the difficulty posed by Mar Zutra we maintain the halacha that it may not be said on "motzo'ei Shabbos." He answers the gemara's question by saying that since the rest of the middle of the "amidoh" is said in very short form, if we were to include the regular lengthy prayer of "atoh chonantonu" there is a realistic fear that a person might believe that in the full-length version there are numerous other blessings.

Rabbi Kamenecki zt"l raises a question on "al hamichyoh." When we mention Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, or Yom Tov, why do we place their mention after "uvnei Yerusholayim" and not before, just as we find in the original full-length "birkas hamozon?" He answers that the point raised by Rabbeinu Yonoh could be raised here as well. Why do we mention Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, or Yom Tov in the short version? Is there not the fear that one might mistakenly think that in the original there is a separate blessing for Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, or Yom Tov? The answer is that there indeed is such a fear. However, our Rabbis wanted to include mention of Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and Yom Tov in "al hamichyoh." Since when one forgets Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, or Yom Tov in "birkas hamozon" there is a make-up blessing that one should recite immediately after the blessing of "binyan Yerusholayim," the Rabbis allowed themselves to include the mention of Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and Yom Tov in the shortened version, but only after "binyan Yerusholayim," since that is the only place that they are accorded an actual blessing on their own. Since neither Chanukah nor Purim has a blessing on its own in "birkas hamozon," even when forgotten, we cannot include them in "al hamichyoh/ha'gefen/ha'peiros."


Chanukah @ Shemayisrael