Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Candles And The War

לזכות מו"ר שליט"א לבריאותו השלימה

Says the Rambam in the third perek of hilchos Chanukah:

א] בבית שני, כשמלכי יון גזרו גזרות על ישראל, ובטלו דתם, ולא הניחו אותם לעסוק בתורה ובמצוות; ופשטו ידם בממונם ובבנותיהם, ונכנסו להיכל, ופרצו בו פרצות, וטמאו הטהרות; וצר להם לישראל מאד מפניהם, ולחצום לחץ גדול. עד שריחם עליהם אלהי אבותינו, והושיעם מידם והצילם, וגברו בני חשמונאי הכהנים הגדולים, והרגום, והושיעו ישראל מידם; והעמידו מלך מן הכהנים, וחזרה מלכות לישראל יתר על מאתים שנים, עד החורבן השני.

ב] וכשגברו ישראל על אויביהם ואבדום בכ"ה בחדש כסליו היה ונכנסו להיכל ולא מצאו שמן טהור במקדש אלא פך אחד ולא היה בו להדליק אלא יום אחד בלבד והדליקו ממנו נרות המערכה שמונה ימים עד שכתשו זיתים והוציאו שמן טהור.

ג] ומפני זה התקינו חכמים שבאותו הדור שיהיו שמונת ימים האלו שתחלתן כ"ה בכסליו ימי שמחה והלל ומדליקין בהן הנרות בערב על פתחי הבתים בכל לילה ולילה משמונת הלילות להראות ולגלות הנס

א] In [the era of] the Second Temple, the Greek kingdom issued decrees against the Jewish people, [attempting to] nullify their faith and refusing to allow them to observe the Torah and its commandments. They extended their hands against their property and their daughters; they entered the Sanctuary, wrought havoc within, and made the sacraments impure.

The Jews suffered great difficulties from them, for they oppressed them greatly until the God of our ancestors had mercy upon them, delivered them from their hand, and saved them. The sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priests, overcame [them], slew them, and saved the Jews from their hand.

They appointed a king from the priests, and sovereignty returned to Israel for more than 200 years, until the destruction of the Second Temple.

ב] When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, they entered the Sanctuary; this was on the twenty-fifth of Kislev. They could not find any pure oil in the Sanctuary, with the exception of a single cruse. It contained enough oil to burn for merely one day. They lit the arrangement of candles from it for eight days until they could crush olives and produce pure oil.

ג]  Accordingly, the Sages of that generation ordained that these eight days, which begin from the twenty-fifth of Kislev, should be commemorated to be days of happiness and praise [of God]. Candles should be lit in the evening at the entrance to the houses on each and every one of these eight nights to publicize and reveal the miracle.

We see from the Rambam that the primary aspect of Chanukah was the victory over the Greeks in the war and the candles are lit in order to "publicize and reveal the miracle - להראות ולגלות הנס".

This is seen as well in the words of the Rambam [4/12] 

מצות נר חנוכה מצוה חביבה היא עד מאד וצריך אדם להזהר בה כדי להודיע הנס ולהוסיף בשבח האל והודיה לו על הנסים שעשה לנו.

The mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lamps is very dear. A person should be very careful in its observance to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of God and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf.

We see that Chanukah is primarily to commemorate the victory [as we saw in the earlier Rambam quoted from perek gimmel] and we light the Chanukah candles in order to "publicize the miracle and and thus increase our praise of God and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf." [This is also clear  from the fact that we never celebrate miracles unless they brought about some type of salvation for the Jewish people. So it MUST BE that the military victory is the ikker]. That is the "pirsumei nisa" the gemara talks about. 

There are a number of questions:

1] How is lighting the menorah going to "increase our praise of God" about the military victory when the candles relate to a completely different event?

2] How is lighting the menorah "revealing the miracle" of the war? Again - it is a completely different inyan?!

3] Rashi says that the decree of the Rabbis to commemorate Chanukah with הלל והודאה - praise and thanks, mean saying Hallel and Al Hanisim [for hoda'a]. The Rambam doesn't learn that way and instead understands the hoda'a to be the lighting of the candles, as he says [4/12] that we light the candles for "הודיה" [and so understood the Achronim]. How is lighting candles a הודיה?? Also, you give thanks for winning a war. Why would you give thanks for a miracle. Praise of Hashem's greatness - yes, but THANKS?? 

Unrelated [but ultimately related] question:

4] How can we light a shkiya when it still might be the previous day?? So we light on the 24th for the 25th and then two candles on the 25th for what may be the 26th etc. etc.

Where do we ever find that we do a mitzva for one day on what may well be the previous day??

I hope to clarify these issues b'ezras Hashem and his Chachomim!