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Book Review: Inside Chanuka

 

Book Review: Inside Chanukah
By: Rabbi Aryeh Pinchas Strickoff
Feldheim / 704 pages
Reviewed By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Rabbi Aryeh Pinchas Strickoff’s latest offering is the book Inside Chanuka. Inside Chanuka probably addresses any question that one can possibly come up with on anything related to Chanuka. There are dozens and dozens of such questions and difficulties. For example: Why are five expressions of redemption (in nusach Ashkenaz, at least) used to describe the Chanuka miracle in the prayer “Al Hanissim”? Why isn’t Chanuka observed for an extra day outside of Israel like all other holidays? Was the miracle of oil a 7, 8, or 9 day miracle? Which miracle should be better emphasized – the military victory or the miracle of oil? In most instances multiple answers are given to each question.

The well-sourced entries span the Talmud through to the rishonim and achronim, right to contemporary commentaries. It even includes insights that the author gleaned from newspaper articles and radio broadcasts! Indeed, one should not be shy to learn from and quote divrei Torah from any source! The book is rich in the teachings of the Chassidic masters. And my favorite, of course, is the impressively thorough treatment of all the Chanuka-related halachic issues. There is a wealth of “Divrei Torah” that one will enjoy sharing and giving over to others at Chanuka gatherings. It is truly “The Jewish Book of Why” of everything Chanuka. These lines simply don’t do justice to the exhaustive amount of material, information, knowledge, and wisdom that are found on its pages. A very enjoyable read.

There is also everything on “dreidel-lore”, all there is to know about the origins of the Chashmonaim and the Maccabees, and an exhaustive treatment of the “Beis Yosef’s question” and much much more. Especially welcome and noteworthy is the inclusion of all the ancient and mysterious Chanuka texts (with commentary!) that are generally unknown, not easily accessible, and sadly, often banned. For example, the books of Yehudit, the story of Chana and her seven sons, Maccabees, Josephus, Antiochus, and the Chanuka midrashim are included in full. There is also a discussion on the halachic status of these and other “Sefarim Hachitzonim”.

There really is not much to critique in a book such as this, which is a collection of teachings from other sources. The font and spacing is a little larger than necessary making for a heavier and bulkier-than-needed volume. The numeric style that the author uses for the classification and ordering made me a bit dizzy at first – too many digits on every page. An index would have made the book that much more powerful.

Bottom line: I’m rarely so impressed with a book. This one is a winner. Highly recommended.

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of “The Dalet Amot Halacha Series” (5 Vol.) and the General Editor and Halacha columnist at Torahmusings.com. He welcomes books of a halachic nature for review on the Torah Musings website. [email protected]

 
 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

6 Responses

  1. Hirhurim says:

    I didn’t like the book. Way too much Chassidus. And he’ll ask bad questions and give silly answers. Like why is Chanukah in Kislev? Because a covering (kis) and the hidden 36 (or haganuz).

    Why do we give Chanukah gelt? We give poor people money so they can buy Chanukah candles. We give children money so the poor people aren’t embarrassed. Good question, really bad answer. Or, money represents potential so we give Chanukah gelt to children to teach them the infinite potential of their efforts. Really bad answer.

    The book has no filter.

  2. Ari Enkin says:

    Yes, all true. But keep in mind that HE is not giving the answers, he is merely presenting every answer that he has found on the topic. And there is a tremendous service in that. Some of the answers are great and some are ridiculous.

  3. Nachum says:

    Just looking at the table of contents, I find it highly unlikely he managed to fit all of the Books of Maccabees in there. I mean, even the main two would take up the bulk of the book. I shall have to check it out in the store, unless you care to fill us in, R’ Enkin.

    I mean, a book professing to give *all* sources would have to devote at least a couple of hundred pages to Apocrypha and Josephus.

  4. Ari Enkin says:

    I believe the Books of Maccabees are indeen in full. Ill bl’n check later. Perhaps it is only the Chanuka related chapters as you suggest.

    Ari Enkin

  5. IH says:

    The book has no filter.

    Gil’s comment sparked a half-serious thought for an interesting Ebook experiment. Take a suitable topic, such as this, and tag the text such that one could set views for different major hashkafot (e.g. Mystical, Lomdus, Academic). Comparative Religion for insiders, so to speak…

  6. Chaim says:

    Ari-
    I would say that might be where your mistake lies in general. there is no service in presenting every answer that has been given to a question if the answer is silly or obviously incorrect. Not everything that has been printed should have been printed. [ayen shiurei harav, vhamevin yavin.]

 
 

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