R Israel Rubin / The eight-day festival of Chanukah, a post biblical festival of lights, starts on the 25th of Kislev. It celebrates the courageous battles by Yehudah haMaccabee and his forces against the pagan armies of the Syrian-Greeks. The triumphant Maccabeans then entered Jerusalem and purified the Beit Hamikdash. A new altar was built to replace the defiled one. New holy implements were fabricated including a menorah, a table, an incense-altar and parochet (curtains). The rededication of the Beit Hamikdash [The Holy Temple] was set for the 25th of Kislev. With this dedication, once again the daily sacrificial service was renewed along with the chanting of Hallel, singing and playing of musical instruments by the Levites. The decisive triumph against the religious persecution led to religious liberty and national self-determination.

The How & Why of Chanukah

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Guest post by R. Israel Rubin

Excerpted from the new book, The How & Why of Jewish Prayer: A Guidebook for Men and Women. The book may be ordered by visiting this website: link or by sending an email to [email protected]. About the author: link

The eight-day festival of Chanukah, a post biblical festival of lights, starts on the 25th of Kislev. It celebrates the courageous battles by Yehudah haMaccabee and his forces against the pagan armies of the Syrian-Greeks. The triumphant Maccabeans then entered Jerusalem and purified the Beit Hamikdash. A new altar was built to replace the defiled one. New holy implements were fabricated including a menorah, a table, an incense-altar and parochet (curtains). The rededication of the Beit Hamikdash [The Holy Temple] was set for the 25th of Kislev. With this dedication, once again the daily sacrificial service was renewed along with the chanting of Hallel, singing and playing of musical instruments by the Levites. The decisive triumph against the religious persecution led to religious liberty and national self-determination.

The altar was to be consecrated with the renewal of the sacrificial offerings, accompanied by song, the playing of musical instruments, the chanting of Hallel.

The celebration of lighting one candle the first night and an additional candle on each succeeding night is associated with the miracle of an undefiled jar of oil found in the Beit Hamikdash. This jar held only enough oil to light the menorah for one day, yet it supplied enough oil for all eight days. Chanukah lights (oil or candles) are lit both in the synagogue and at home, and should be lit between “sunset and until there is no wanderer left in the street.” The menorah should be placed outside the entrance of the house.

If one lives on an upper floor of a building, the menorah should be set on the window, facing the street. The aim was to publicize the miracle. According to the Talmud women should also light the Chanukah candles since “they were also included in the miracle.”[1]

Three blessings are recited on the first night and two on subsequent nights. The first blessing is for kindling the candle (or oil); the second is for the miracle; and the third (first night only) is the Sh’Hechiyanu. A short prayer, Hanerot Hallalu [See any Siddur] is then recited, followed by singing of Ma’Oz Tzur and other songs.

The halachah mandates the use of an additional candle, called a shammash, to kindle the other candles. This circumvents two bans: (1) one may not light one Chanukah candle with another candle, and (2) One may not use a Chanukah candle for any practical purpose including illumination.

A synopsis of the Chanukah chronicle is inserted into the Shemoneh Esrei and the Grace after Meals.

Tachanun is not recited, nor may one fast or eulogize the dead.

The Whole-Hallel is chanted on each of the eight days.

The Torah, Parashat Ne’si’ im, is read on each of the eight days, each day having its own segment from Numbers 7:1 to 8:4. The Temple dedication is patterned after the dedication of the Tabernacle in the desert. Special Haftarot are set down for the Sabbaths of Chanukah.

Psalms 30 is recited in many synagogues after services.

On Chanukah children amuse themselves with dreidels (a wooden or metal spinning top which has engraved on each of its four sides the letters nun-gimel-hei-shin. Children also receive gifts of chocolate Chanukah money.

Latkes (fried pancakes) and Sufganiyot (jelly filled doughnuts) are eaten by many during Chanukah.


[1] Shab. 23a

From a shiur by HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein , “The gemara in Shabbat 23a states that women have an obligation to light Chanukah candles because “af hein hayu b’oto ha-neis”—they were also part of the miracle (meaning either that they were in the same danger as the men were or that they played a key role in bringing about the salvation). This phrase finds parallels in the gemara within the discussions of a woman’s obligation to hear the Megilla on Purim and to drink four cups of wine on the night of Pesach. As these are all time-bound positive commandments, women should be free from any obligation to fulfill them, but their historical involvement in the events being commemorated brings them back up to a level of obligation.

Shifting gears, if we are to say that Chanukah candles are the exception to the rule, in what way are they an exception? The Pri Chadash suggests that Chanukah candles may not be as strict as Megilla, since it is possible for a person to pay another person a small amount so as to be included in his lighting. Rav Yoseif Dov Soloveitchik suggests a stronger difference between the two. By Chanukah candles, the mitzva is “ner ish u’beito,” not a personal obligation on each individual but rather an obligation that each house have a candle lit. Thus, while a child cannot make a candle into an object of a mitzva (“cheftza shel mitzva”), a woman certainly can do so and thus may light for others. This point is made by the Orchot Chaim, who states that the obligation of a man is with regard to his household, and a woman has the ability to fill this role on his behalf.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

148 comments

  1. “Syrian-Greeks”

    greeks or hellenists?

    “The celebration of lighting one candle the first night and an additional candle on each succeeding night is associated with the miracle of an undefiled jar of oil found in the Beit Hamikdash.”

    i thought the nes pach hashemen is why light in general for eight nights. specifically adding one candle each night is because of ma’alin ba-kodesh?

    “If one lives on an upper floor of a building, the menorah should be set on the window, facing the street.”

    i’m too lazy to look it up, but if one lives high enough (or facing the rear) and can’t be seen from the street, doesn’t one light the other way? or am i remember incorrectly?

    “Latkes (fried pancakes)”

    aren’t they generally potatoe pancakes specifically?

    “The rededication of the Beit Hamikdash [The Holy Temple] was set for the 25th of Kislev”

    if they captured the beis hamikdash on the 15th, and it took 8 days to get new undelfiled oil, shouldn’t they have had it by the 25th?

  2. If we’re quibbling: “By Chanukah candles, the mitzva is…”. Gevalt!!!

  3. “The decisive triumph against the religious persecution led to religious liberty and national self-determination”

    i’m in the middle of book of maccabees. based on this source i don’t think the above statement is accurate.
    it’s a great book for various reasons, but one of the shockers was the 15th of kislev battle was a decisive victory, but it didn’t lead immediately to national self-determination in any real way. aruka ha-derech le-cherut.

  4. IH:

    i were quibbling,

    “Children also receive gifts of chocolate Chanukah money”

    i wish i got off so easy this year

  5. Abba – 1 or 2? 2 is particularly fascinating from a theological perspective (my favorite is 2 Maccabees 12: 38-45). I read both last Chanukah for the first time and was “blown away”.

    There is also a recent critical Hebrew translation: http://tinyurl.com/d6tmy5s

  6. IH:

    first book only. (so far.) i love it.

    i’m using the oxford annotated edition. i have kahana’s old hebrew edition somewhere, but i’m not sure what the purpose would be of using it so i didn’t bother digging it out. not because it’s old, but because it is a translation. so i may as well just use a more recent english translation. (or does he try to “retranslate” back into the original hebrew for the first book? i don’t know.)

    (other chanukkah reading are the relevant selections in jellenik’s bet hamidrash)

  7. Lawrence Kaplan

    Daniel Schwaertz’s recent tranlation of 2 Mac. has been severely criticized by some scholars.

  8. IH:

    for a mere $160 you can have schwartz’s more recent english translation/commentary:
    http://www.amazon.com/Maccabees-Commentaries-Early-Jewish-Literature/dp/3110191180

  9. It should be noted that the common minhag is for women not to light Chanukah candles. See the following:
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=46444&st=&pgnum=63
    http://ph.yhb.org.il/05-12-04/

  10. Not meaning to be picky but…

    “aren’t they generally ……..specifically?”

    Which is it, generally or specifically?

  11. ““Syrian-Greeks”

    greeks or hellenists?

    I’m not sure what you are asking here, but the greek empire was broken up into 3 greek empires. Greece, Syria, and Egypt.

    The spartans, for example, allied with the Jews. The war was against the Syria-greek empire. The roll of the Jewish hellenists was to ask the Syrian-Greeks to do the dirty work.

    “i’m in the middle of book of maccabees. based on this source i don’t think the above statement is accurate.”

    It is accurate. However, it took about 10 years of fighting, and not just 1.

    By the time Simon was the Kohen Gadol, Israel gained independence and religious freedom. Until then, it was a big battle, and freedom only existed in Jerusalem.

  12. Is is kefirah if one doesn’t believe in the literalness of the miracle of the pach shemen?

  13. “It should be noted that the common minhag is for women not to light Chanukah candles.”

    I don’t think that’s accurate for the MO community.

  14. Inasmuch as I do not reside in an MO community, I am not familiar with their Chanukah minhagim, but I have never seen a married woman lighting a menorah even amongst the non-charedi people I am familiar with. Is it really that common for MO women to light? Is this only for singles or married women as well?

  15. Avi, the revolt began in 167 BCE and didn’t really end until 129 BCE. That’s almost forty years.

    I think J. is right. Even in the MO world, married women generally don’t light (or somehow do with their husbands). Daughters do.

  16. Anonymous, it’s not kefirah if you don’t believe in the literalness of parts of Tanach. Kal v’chomer a Talmudic aggadata. You still have to do the mitzvah, though.

  17. ” It celebrates the courageous battles by Yehudah haMaccabee and his forces against the pagan armies of the Syrian-Greeks.”

    did yehudah win? pagan? were the jews they fought also pagan?

    “The triumphant Maccabeans then entered Jerusalem and purified the Beit Hamikdash.” what no fighting in jerusalem? just in the burbs?

    what – no footnotes for your sources on the history here? what happened to the hashmonaim?

  18. Daniel Schwaertz’s recent tranlation of 2 Mac. has been severely criticized by some scholars.

    Do tell more, or provide a reference please. I have only seen a few pages of the Yad Ben Zvi Hebrew edition, but the footnotes I saw were most interesting. Is there a preferred critical edition (either English or Hebrew)?

  19. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: There was a very harsh review of the translation in the Hebrew journal Catharsis. I do not remember the exact journal number now, but it was an early issue, about 4-6 or thereabouts. The reviewer thought that the old Kahana translation, for all its faults, was better. You might want to look at Jonathan Goldstein’s Anchor Bible commentaries, though some of his overall theses are rather idiosyncratic. But the RSV Apocrypha is just fine. I emphasize that this is not my field of expertise.

  20. “Is it really that common for MO women to light? Is this only for singles or married women as well?”

    Yes. Both.

  21. nacum – “Avi, the revolt began in 167 BCE and didn’t really end until 129 BCE. That’s almost forty years.”

    the revolt ended? or is it seleucid domination? there was fighting before 129 and after 129 bce.
    already in 161 bce the roman senate makes an alliance with simon as legitimate authority of judea. the revolt to go back to the way it was before the decrees was successful by 164. in 164 lysias cancelled the persecution. by 162, lysias restored the jewish right to lead their lives according to their torah and recognized the traditional cult of the temple. the question is what were they fighting for after this point?

  22. Perhaps someone can help me out with a question that I have had for many years.

    At the time of Chanukah, there was a large Jewish community in Bavel, yet I have never seen any mention of it sending assistance to the Jews living in EY who fought against the Syrian Greeks for about 30 years. Surely the struggle had to have become known in Bavel within at most year or two. I would have thought that the Jews residing in Bavel would have sent men to join with the Jews in EY and assist them in their struggle. At a minimum they should have sent material support such as money and arms. Yet, I have never seen any mention of this anywhere.

    YL

  23. Abba's Rantings

    AVI:

    “It is accurate.”

    no it isn’t.

    “However, it took about 10 years of fighting, and not just 1. By the time Simon was the Kohen Gadol, Israel gained independence and religious freedom.”

    that was about 25 years later.

    “Until then, it was a big battle”

    correct, so why is the 15th kislev victory considered *the* decisive battle in a war that continued for another few decades? it is important for us within a religious context because it led to the rededication of the beis hamikdash (and hence we celebrate chanukah). but otherwise it doesn’t seem that important historically in the larger context of the war for independence.

    “and freedom only existed in Jerusalem.”

    and even there not completely. it took more than 20 years to vacate the citadel. and at one point the enemies regained enough control for alcimus to be able to destroy to court walls of the beis hamikdash. and the maccabbees had to flee and hide once again in the hills.

  24. “At the time of Chanukah, there was a large Jewish community in Bavel”

    I’m not sure there was. It seems that this question is sort of a polemical wedge, because the presence of a large Jewish community in Bavel seems to establish the genuniness of the Oral Torah more firmly than if there was not such a community. It is for this reason that the Doros Harishonim and others argue that there was such a community, but apart from the fact that not all Jews returned from the exile, I’m just not sure there’s evidence for such a community.

  25. Abba's Rantings

    AVI:

    “I’m not sure what you are asking here, but the greek empire was broken up into 3 greek empires. Greece, Syria, and Egypt.”

    i’m aware of the post-alexander tripartide division. i wasn’t really “asking” anything. just point out they weren’t really greek. certainly not ethnically, and not really culturally either. i still remember the first question from the ancient jewish history AP dealing with the contrasts between earlier classical greek and later syncretic-hellinistic civilization. (and of course it is debatable how deep the hellenism–or grecism, if you prefer–sank)

    anyway, its also a pet peeve that even the term syrian-greek customarily get shortened to greek. and if you ask most people (and probably all children) to point out on a map where the maccabbees’ enemies came from they will point to modern Greece (if they can even find it on a map, that is). and it is debatable how “greek” the the syrian-“greeks” were.

  26. Abba: “correct, so why is the 15th kislev victory considered *the* decisive battle in a war that continued for another few decades?”

    Because of its symbolism for future generations? Was America any more independent on the 5th of July 1776? Yet the 4th of July BBQ is not the best place for debating historical developments. Ditto for Gettysburg.

  27. Thanks, Prof. Kaplan. For the translation itself, I was fine with The New Jerusalem Bible; but I am interested in the Jewish scholarly critical angle on the text, of which Schwartz seems to be what is available.

    For those interested, I have uploaded the images of 3 consecutive pages of Schwartz to http://tinyurl.com/bozdvhm.

  28. Shimon:

    I understand the symbian of 25 Kislev and july 4. I have no problem with celebrating 25 Kislev
    But July 4th is not analogous to the author’s assertion wrt to hanukah that “The decisive triumph against the religious persecution led to religious liberty and national self-determination.”

  29. Abba:

    “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” WSC

  30. Abba’s rantings (or anyone else who happens to know this) can you answer something I’ve never understood: Were the “Syrian Greeks” a group of racially Greek soldiers/settlers who had settled in Syria, or were they “native Syrians” who were just allied with the Seleucid Greek empire? And if they were Syrians, I assume this was before Syrians were Arabs, so what race were these native Syrians? Were they a Semitic people? (Similar to Arabs?) What language did they speak? Do they still exist as a separate racial/ethnic group? What did they look like, olive skinned middle easterners? I was always confused about all this.

  31. Agh, auto correct. Symbian = symbolism

    Shimon:

    We can spin it any way we choose, but it was not the end of the revolt, not even close. I don’t think most ppl realize this.

  32. Abba: “I don’t think most ppl realize this.”

    Most people here, or in general?

  33. Riviera:

    ” by 162, lysias restored the jewish right to lead their lives according to their torah and recognized the traditional cult of the temple. the question is what were they fighting for after this point?”

    1) political indePendence (without debating the merits of Independenxe in its own right, it would ensure that the the newly won religious liberties would not remaIn subject to an overlord
    2) to rid the country of non Jewish settlers and garrisons
    3) to stem the Jewish belle keys
    4) to extend Jewish influence to the periphery

  34. Agh
    Belle keys = hellenists

    Shimon

    This post is excerpted from a larger book that I hope he Plans to market beyond hirhurim readers

    Perhaps in the boOl he elaborates

  35. Mark Gross: just a very simplified note:

    From the times of Alexander the Great and the succeeding Seleucid dynasty (from 305 BCE), the Greek ruling class tried their best to create a cultural melting pot for the various ethnic groups living in the empire. Some of the native population was speaking a Semitic language, some spoke Persian, and everybody in that area more or less looked what you called “olive skinned middle easterners”. The Greek ruling class imported many ethnic Greeks to help the assimilation.

    Later on, most (not all) of the population converted to Christianity. Then to Islam. Most of todays Syrians, Kurds, Iraqis, Iranians or Pathans have ancestors that were once serving the Seleucid empire.

  36. Shimon S.: thank you! Very informative. Sounds like it was a big cholent mix of ethnicities

  37. Who cares what race the “Syrian Greeks” were from? If they weren’t Greek, then neither are we American.

  38. Mark: “Sounds like it was a big cholent mix of ethnicities”

    Indeed, that’s the whole point of the war: the Jews refused to give up their identity and join this “wonderful brotherhood of man”.

  39. More exactly: Some Jews refused.

  40. abba – “1) political indePendence (without debating the merits of Independenxe in its own right, it would ensure that the the newly won religious liberties would not remaIn subject to an overlord
    2) to rid the country of non Jewish settlers and garrisons
    3) to stem the Jewish belle keys
    4) to extend Jewish influence to the periphery”

    not sure how correct this is: can we rely on maccabees II that they were battling hellenism? Even yehudah hamaccabee counted hellenists among his followers – eupolemus (an aristocratic priest) led yehuda’s embassy to the roman senate around 161bce. not so pasut as they say.

    when lysias withdrew from jerusalemi n 162 he also restored judeans to the same status that antiochus III granted them in 200 bce. so to say that he was fighting for independence is sort of odd – things were back to normal. i understand that his comes from maccabbe I whose author was writing during the time of simon which they were seeking for independence at that time and reflects views in simon’s time. but it is worth asking _ which i think i did before – why does yehuda continue to fight – who wanted independence at that time or why? how attractive was that proposition to the general public? it seem quite acceptable – as judaism was established and maintained in judea – to be under the patronage of the persian or macedonian kings; at least no objections in any of the biblical books. also, the idea of independence or freedom seems to be a greek ideal of the greek city – which is of highest value in that society. how anti – hellenists were the hashmoniam were is certainly a good question?

  41. Nachum wrote:

    “Anonymous, it’s not kefirah if you don’t believe in the literalness of parts of Tanach. Kal v’chomer a Talmudic aggadata. You still have to do the mitzvah, though”

    Isn’t it rather arbitrary to classify the relevant Sugya in Shabbos 21,etc, which is quoted by Rambam as a mere “Talmudic aggadata”?

  42. “Isn’t it rather arbitrary to classify the relevant Sugya in Shabbos 21,etc, which is quoted by Rambam as a mere “Talmudic aggadata”?”

    No. It’s rather arbitrary to treat it as if it isn’t a Talmudic aggadeta.

    Note that the Rambam does *not* quote the miracle of the oil. The Gemara says “ונעשה בו נס” but the Rambam leaves those words out.

  43. RUVIE:

    don’t know about 2 Macc, but even in 1 Macc there is reference to hellenist jewish enemies (most prominently alcimus, who did have followers)

    wrt lysias:
    1) lysias himself exhibits bad faith after the negotiations by tearing down the walls of the jewish fortress. not a good portend of what could come
    2) lysias makes the peace but is subsequently murdered by demtreius. demetrius (at the instigation of hellenist jews) doesn’t hesitate to resume the war relentlessly. and he installs alcimus as cohen gadol, which presumably means the religious status quo ante bellum wasn’t really restored after all. so judah had no choice but to continue fighting. and this probably convinced him even more (as i noted above) that the only way to guarantee jewish freedom is to remain masters of their own destiny.

  44. STEVE:

    does it really matter if the neis pach hashemen story is accurate? would there be any less reason to celebrate chanukah if it were not?

    chanukah is about the purification of the beis hamikdash, the resumption of the korbanos, return to shemiras hamitzvos such as shabbos, bris mila, etc., and talmud torah. what does neis pach hashemen have to do with any of this? is it really why we say hallel?

  45. to follow up on my question what were they fighting for after 164bce – really 162 bce -? if the hasmoniam were anti hellenists why when the hellenization of jerusalem by high priest jason in 175 bce was there no revolt at all? nothing happened til 170 bce? if hellenization was the issue why nothing against jason’s actions ensues?
    also, what caused the persecution which was a very rare occurrence in the middle east during greco roman times of antiquity?

  46. abba – “but even in 1 Macc there is reference to hellenist jewish enemies ”

    maccabbes I regards the revolt as the rise of pious torah observant judeans against a seleucid king who had tried to erase their special lifestyle, and the bad jews who supported the king. if you read mac.II the words judaism and hellenist appear and its the first time that these words were used in hebrew or greek – this contrast with how mac I portrays what the revolt is about. hence my questions.

  47. abba – on alcimus – i believe yehuda’s group found him acceptable originally – member of a legitimate high priestly family – and judah had no clai on that position. i believe later alcimus ask for greek intervention. but alcimus was not a hellenizer or a reformer but a mere traditionalist maybe even centrist to the pre 175 status quo.

  48. Ye’yasher kochakhem R. Rubin and respondents.
    Beit Yosef to Orach Chaim 670 understands that the miracle of the oil did occur. That is the premise of his question why there are 8 days to Chanukah. It is not an article of faith for the Orthodox Jew, but I think that to receive rabbinical ordination nowadays, one needs to be a believer in the Beit Yosef. So I guess that’s a roundabout way of saying we should teach our students to believe in the pakh ha-shemen episode.

    Rabbeinu Abba,
    Thank you and ye’yasher kochakha for pointing out the Hallel issue. In the opinion of R. Ovadiah Yosef (Yabi’a Omer OC 6:41) the reason a blessing should be omitted from Hallel on Yom Ha-atzma’ut, in contradistinction to Chanukah, is the miraculous nature of the pakh ha-shemen.

  49. “Ditto for Gettysburg.”

    How fortunate that Gettysburg was won July 3. 🙂 Vicksburg was captured July 4 of the same year. As the Oxford Book of Days puts it, it wasn’t hard to see the hand of God in 19th Century America on July 4 (see also Adams, Jefferson, Monroe).

    “eupolemus (an aristocratic priest) led yehuda’s embassy to the roman senate”

    Well, I wouldn’t draw conclusions from ambassadors, but still: It seems pretty clear that the Maccabim were at least somewhat Hellenistic themselves. (So, too, were most of Chazal: Antigonus lived in the generation before them.) At least four of the brothers had Greek names, for example. Of course, their descendants were obviously so. Modern Orthodox, we’d say, but militant about the “Orthodox” (or, better, Jewish) part.

    “Isn’t it rather arbitrary to classify the relevant Sugya”

    Well, Fred answered better, but I’ll just say that if an arbitrary decision is needed to keep people in the fold, I’ll take it. R’ Leiman likes to quote Edwin Markham:

    He drew a circle that shut me out –
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But Love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle that took him in.

  50. abba – of course many people fail to realize that the maccabbean revolt originally failed and was crushed with the death of yehudah in 161 bce. only in 152 bce with the rise of johnathan as a leader in judea does hashmonaim dynasty achieve lasting success. this independence was always contingent – according to scholars – on seleucid weakness and came to an end when the empire expired in 63 bce.
    in the end maccabbes I is silent to what happened between 161 and 152 bce to help us understand what was going on in judea.

  51. ruvie: As a kohen whose middle name is Elyakim, I’m always glad to hear good things about Alcimus. 🙂

    Let me just point out that there *were* what we would call “charedim” back then. Those “chassidim” who refused to fight on Shabbat, for example, and the Essenes (who really couldn’t stand the Chashmonaim). The former (perhaps through no fault of their own) are a prime example of people without a Torah Shebe’al Peh. The latter are generally not considered part of mainstream Judaism. (The author of Daniel is a bit of a question here as well, but don’t ask me where he fits in.)

    R’ Spira: The question of the Beit Yosef has nothing to do with halakhah. And why belief in the Beit Yosef is a requirement of Yahadut, I don’t know. Ashkenazim don’t follow him. Nor do Yemenites.

  52. We have previously debated the “historicity” of Chanukah, the Nes Pach Shemen and who were the Chashmonaim. Obviously, this is an area where there is IMO no possible reconciliation between Mesorah and the academic Judaic studies POV. For those interested in why the Menorah and Hadlakas HaNeros were singled out as the means of observance, both in the Mikdash and especially today, aside from the recitation of Hallel, see Noraos HaRav.

  53. Sam for R’ Ovadia. I say a bracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh- and on Yom Haatzmaut, and on Yom Yerushalayim- so this doesn’t really bother me. There are no miracles necessarily commemorated on Sukkot either (and certainly not Shemini Atzeret), but all eight days get a bracha. There was no supernatural miracle on Purim, but the megilla is said to substitute for Hallel, and we say a bracha.

  54. S: The RAMBAM says so in so many words that a neis occured, or can be interpreted that he wrote a neis occured:

    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

  55. Steve, if there was a miracle, why do we need to consult any outside sources for reasons?

  56. Rafael, I’m sure the Rambam believe in the miracle. But he’s a man who’s very careful in his language.

  57. RUVIE:

    i don;t know about other sources, but iirc in I Macc alcimus is a rasha gamur. he comes to demetrius as the leader of renegade and “godless” jews (helenists?), with hopes of being appointed kohen gadol, and instigates demetrius against yehuda hamaccabbee. alcimus retured to judea as kohen gadol and as demetrius’s agent to harass the jews. he is at first accepted by the hasidim, who instinctively trust him as a “descendant of aaron,” but he then killed 60 of them, showing his true colors to the jews. he was then put in control of the land and continued to harass the jews, attract hellenists and ultimately tear down the inner courtyard walls of the beis hamikdash (acc. to oxford this gave pagans access to it?)

    (so much for the decisive triumph of 15th kislev.)

  58. Nachum: we don’t. The authority of Shabbos 21b in the Talmud Bavli is the basis today for our lighting, no matter what people say. It is the accepted source for majority of Rishonim and Achronim.

  59. NACHUM:

    please don’t read my previous comment

    RUVIE:

    let’s resume next year after i read II Macc 🙂

  60. I don’t see how we can look at the neis pach shemen as “stam” a Talmudic aggadita. This “aggadita” has a direct bearing and is a complete source for the mitzvoh of hadlakas neiros Chanukah. This carries much more weight then, say, whether Esther HaMalkah was green and had a tail. I don’t see how this can be treated in a manner that, frankly I find dismissive.

    What purpose does it serves for certain groups in the MO world to cast aspersions on the Bavli and the neis pach shemen?

  61. Abba: I know, I know. That’s why I look for good news. There are three or four Elyakims in Tanach, some good, some lousy. I prefer to think I’m named for one of the good ones. 🙂

    Regarding the walls, the Gemara says the same thing, although in their version holes were broken in them.

    Rafael:

    How does the miracle affect any aspect of the mitzvah? Can you point to one detail of practical halacha based on it? I’m not asking rhetorically, I honestly want to know if there is one (or more).

    I don’t know how you can say it’s the source of the mitzvah when Josephus knew of the mitzvah and not the miracle.

    What purpose does it serve? It allows people who want to stay in the fold but can’t accept certain aspects to remain so. Certainly Orthodoxy is willing to tolerate those with wacky political beliefs (as regards, say, Israel or abortion) which are clearly far from normative.

    Then again, much of Orthodoxy isn’t willing to accept anyone who doesn’t believe the world was created on the 25th of Elul 5772 years ago. Ah well.

  62. Nachum-R M Harari is a talmid Chacham who learned at Mercaz HaRav who publishes fine sefarim on the Halachos of the Moadim entitled “Mikraei Kodesh” ( the same title as R TP Frank ZL;s wonderful set with the same name). In the volume on Hilcos Chanukah, R Harary mentions the answer of one anonymous Talmid Chacham that we rely on what Chazal said re Nes Pach Shemen, as opposed to the Sefarim Chitzonim, because we assume that Chazal were working from a Siyatta DShmaya/Ruach HaKodesh based Mesorah, which AFAIK, unless someone can correct me in a polite manner, no one attributes to the author of Maccabees I and II. Obviously, some on this blog and elsewhere view the sugya in Shabbos as insufficiently historically rooted and seek outside justification for or a basis for denying the fact that the Nes Pach Shemen and the military victories either took place or were the key elements that warranted commemoration. I have long wondered about the kavanah of a person who not just has doubt, but denies the existence of either Ner Chanukah or any other act that entails a Birkas HaMitzvah, and recites such a Bracha.

    As Rafael Araujo stated, Shabbos 21a , which contains the historical background, the source for our obligation ( Mehecan Tzivanu), and the details of observance of Hadlakos Neros Channukah , and the commentaries of the Rishonim, Acharonim and Poskim thereto, IMO cannot be easily dismissed or relegated to a “Stam Aggadita.” That IMO is tantamount to rendering such a sugya in the same category as the well known sugya or the three oaths at the end of Ksuvos.

    RYBS stated in the transcribed shiur in Noraos HaRav that the Menorah was a symbol of the Shechinah residing among Klal Yisrael in the Mikdash, and that the lighting of the Menorah today continues to reflect that idea, which RYBS viewed as the crux of the Torah. RYBS also noted (as was noted by Lhavdil Elef Valfei Havdalos Christopher Hitchens) that the Greco Roman world , its allies among the Misyavnim and their spiritual and intellectual sucessors rejected the concept of Bchiras Yisrael.

  63. abba – ” in I Macc alcimus is a rasha gamur. he comes to demetrius as the leader of renegade and “godless” jews (helenists?”

    i was under the impression that its believed that lysias appointed alcimus (or yakim in hebrew) as high priest soon after making peace with yehudah in 162ish bce. no doubt he turned on them and ask for demetrius to get rid of the rebels afterwards. i think we read into mac.I hellenists for “bad jews” and its the view of mac II that we accept or is popular culture when we retell the story.

    also, i wonder if the term hellenist is used correctly to describe the story and whether people mean different things when they use that word. certainly, the hasmoniam were not anti hellenism in its extreme form – they spoke or wrote greek etc.

  64. R’ Nachum,
    Thank you for your illuminating response. It is much appreciated.

  65. Rafael –

    The authority of Shabbos 21b in the Talmud Bavli is the basis today for our lighting, no matter what people say.

    If by Shabbat 21b you refer to כבתה אין זקוק לה and נר איש וביתו etc. then yes. But if you mean the story, no. The story is an explanation of a halakha which is binding regardless. That’s the way it is in kol hatorah kulah. We don’t eat matza on Pesach because the Jews didn’t have time to bake bread. We do so because it is a mitzva. There are reasons/purposes why each mitzva was given, but at the end of the day it’s legislation. Therefore even if someone should deny the historical accuracy of the story in question, he is in no way denying the halakha.

  66. Dov wrote:

    “If by Shabbat 21b you refer to כבתה אין זקוק לה and נר איש וביתו etc. then yes. But if you mean the story, no. The story is an explanation of a halakha which is binding regardless. That’s the way it is in kol hatorah kulah. We don’t eat matza on Pesach because the Jews didn’t have time to bake bread. We do so because it is a mitzva. There are reasons/purposes why each mitzva was given, but at the end of the day it’s legislation.”

    Does not the standard text of the Haggadah includes the element of the lack of time to bake bread?

  67. steve b. “we rely on what Chazal said re Nes Pach Shemen, as opposed to the Sefarim Chitzonim, because we assume that Chazal were working from a Siyatta DShmaya/Ruach HaKodesh based Mesorah”

    so steve b. do you take every mamar chazal to be historically 100% correct based on this? nobody is denying the holiday or the war – but neither did chazal look at history they way we know do. if you believe in every aggadita is historically correct or even that it happened – fine (you can believe and have faith in anything you want : even with evidence to the contrary) just many here think that is factually wrong.

  68. Nachum wrote:

    “How does the miracle affect any aspect of the mitzvah? Can you point to one detail of practical halacha based on it? I’m not asking rhetorically, I honestly want to know if there is one (or more”

    How about the fact that the Birkas HaMitzvah is Lhadlik Ner ( Shel) Chanukkah?

  69. Steve –

    Does not the standard text of the Haggadah includes the element of the lack of time to bake bread?

    Absolutely. But that is not why we keep the mitzva. That is why the mitzva was given to us, and is therefore the kavanah one has when performing the mitzvah. We keep the mitzva because the Torah says so. It’s legislation.

  70. Rafael

    “S: The RAMBAM says so in so many words that a neis occured, or can be interpreted that he wrote a neis occured:”

    I’m aware of what the Rambam wrote. I was responding to Steve’s point that the Rambam includes this Gemara. So I pointed out that he omitted mention of it as a nes, which is the wording of the Gemara. I’m also aware that it “can” be interpreted that he was saying a nes occurred. This is after all the common way of understanding the Rambam since, as far as I am aware, the general impression people have is not the Rambam did not accept the historicity of the miracle of the oil. However, bear in mind that this is the same Rambam who does not accept that an actual nachash or an actual ason spoke. And he does omit the words the Gemara uses to call it miraculous.

  71. “What purpose does it serves for certain groups in the MO world to cast aspersions on the Bavli and the neis pach shemen?”

    That’s a separate question from your point about whether this Aggadah is more likely a historical occurrence than any other.

    As for why “certain groups” want to publicly assert that they do not think this actually happened, I will speak for myself and suggest that some of this sort of thing (which extends to other things, not just the pach shemen) is a bit of pushback for the literal ways in which many other things are taken and promulgated as the obviously correct way to see things and to think about them. Some people also do not want to speak with a forked tongue and to feel free to say what they think, rather than allowing only those with a different opinion to say what they think.

  72. “so steve b. do you take every mamar chazal to be historically 100% correct based on this? nobody is denying the holiday or the war – but neither did chazal look at history they way we know do. if you believe in every aggadita is historically correct or even that it happened – fine (you can believe and have faith in anything you want : even with evidence to the contrary) just many here think that is factually wrong”

    Ruvie – what is wrong with accepting that sometimes CHAZAL got history right? Or, are we now in a stage where everything stated by CHAZAL must be taken with a grain of salt? Also, please tell me how the story in Tal. Shabbos is aggadita in the pure sense. Again, this story is foundation and basis for establishing this mitzvoh. As for Dov’s comments, and taking his analogy further, legislation does not exist in a vacuum. When legislation is proposed, there has to be a reason or something that occured prior that needs a legislature to “fix” the problem and or deal with a matter. With this particular mitzvoh, it was established on the basis of the miracle and without the miracle having occured, and based on the authority established and given to the Talmud Bavli, would not have been instituted. Yes, we do it because it was instituted by CHAZAL. However, the existence of the mitzvoh is not independant of the original reason for its establishment.

  73. Ruvie- It is easy to segregate Aggadic and Halachic statements of Chazal. It is also clear that many so called Aggados Chazal have had an impact on Halacha and which are reflected in the way we perform Mitzvos related to Shabbos and Moadim, as well the Halachos and Minhagim relating to the same. I think that one can argue that Aggados Chazal that have an impact on Halacha certainly should be considered as having more weight than a Midrash Pleiah, or the like. Take a look at R Asher Weiss’s discussion about Asmachtos Chazal in Minchas Asher on Moadim-there are Asmachtos Chasuvos, to use the language of the Pri Megadim, and what Chazal called an Asmachta B’Alma.

    WADR, your comment that “if you believe in every aggadita is historically correct or even that it happened – fine (you can believe and have faith in anything you want : even with evidence to the contrary) just many here think that is factually wrong” sets a false up or down categorical dichotomy which invites one to always reject Mesorah unless and until it is verified academically, and which IMO, at least in Parshanut, as well as in Halacha, presents a choice which basically reinforces doubts and denial, as opposed to leading a person to recognize that the Nes Pach Shemen, military victories, and political outcome were of equal importance, but that Chazal established the Birkas HaMitzvah on Hadlakas Neros Chanukah.

  74. rafael a.- please do not misunderstand. based on what steve b. quoted we are to believe only divrei chazal as being 100% accurate hisrtorically because Siyatta DShmaya/Ruach HaKodesh based Mesorah.

    i do not disagree that chazal sometimes “got history right”. only that steve b. reason compels us to a different version of history. has it been established that this miracle is the basis of the lighting of a menorah. when was the first known story found in writing and when was the first known lighting of the menorah to celebrate the holiday?
    maybe it was a national holiday before it became a religious holiday that was given the seal of approval by chazal ? i don’t know but we really don’t have evidence how it became instituted – do we?
    rafael – you can accept that chazal got it right if there is some evidence that it did – or you can just believe. either way one lights the candles/oil lamps because we rededicated our temple and commemorate a military victory.

  75. Ruvie wrote:

    “i do not disagree that chazal sometimes “got history right”. only that steve b. reason compels us to a different version of history. has it been established that this miracle is the basis of the lighting of a menorah. when was the first known story found in writing and when was the first known lighting of the menorah to celebrate the holiday?
    maybe it was a national holiday before it became a religious holiday that was given the seal of approval by chazal ? i don’t know but we really don’t have evidence how it became instituted – do we”

    Ruvie-IMO,all of your questions beg the issue.The bottom line is that we recite the Birkas HaMitzvah on Hadlakas Neros, but in Al HaNisim, we commemorate the military, political and spiritual victories as well.

  76. Dov wrote:

    “Absolutely. But that is not why we keep the mitzva. That is why the mitzva was given to us, and is therefore the kavanah one has when performing the mitzvah. We keep the mitzva because the Torah says so. It’s legislation”

    I share Rafael’s POV, and would note that RYBS often commented that Taamei HaMItzvos are not the reason for any mitzvah but the spiritual flavor imherent in the performance of any mitzvah.

  77. Dov-IMO, it is a mistake to reduce all of the Mitzvos such as Achilas Matzah as one huge Gzeras HaKasuv. In fact, the the Bach on Hilcos Sukkah stresses that we must have the kavanah when we sit in the sukkah for both Ananei Kavod and Sukkos Mamash when we recite the bracha of Leshev BaSukkah.

  78. steve b. – ” It is easy to segregate Aggadic and Halachic statements of Chazal.”

    can you provide a list to see if your statement is true. did chazal in their mind differentiate between stories like r ‘yohanan and vespesian(destruction of jerusalem) and chanukah oil story? some how i doubt it. i am not talking about hasmachtas or aggaditta that are obviously exaggerations – you are muddying the waters of this conversation.

    i took what you wrote at face value: “we assume that Chazal were working from a Siyatta DShmaya/Ruach HaKodesh based Mesorah” – why would this be limited to nes shemen historically?
    please provide some examples of both to see what you mean.

  79. steve b. – “which invites one to always reject Mesorah unless and until it is verified academically”

    absolutely not. our collective history is what it is- whether it happened or not. why would you assume that anyone believes in what you wrote? there is a reason for doubt in the oil story based on what we know. we can not prove it didn’t happened but it may give one pause about the story and shed light on what may be more important in understanding the dynamics of the time. its a nice story that gives another meaning to the holiday – that chazal inserts this story confirms that a national holiday needs recognizing hashem hand in the scheme of history – thereby becoming a religious one. the oil story does this nicely.

    notice we no longer not celebrate yom Nicanor – the maccabbean holiday for military victory (that happens to be 13th of adar) – i believe its mentioned in megilat taanit.

  80. correction:”notice we no longer not celebrate yom Nicanor” obviously, we no longer celebrate yom nicanor…

  81. RUVIE:

    “notice we no longer not celebrate yom Nicanor”

    speak for yourself. i’m machmir with megilas taanis. what is this nonesense that we no longer observe some mitzva at will because it doesn’t speak to us or has lost its relevance?

  82. “notice we no longer not celebrate yom Nicanor”

    Or, perhaps, we do celebrate it in a re-interpreted form. Not unlike the Omer.

  83. either way one lights the candles/oil lamps because we rededicated our temple and commemorate a military victory.

    No, that would be redundant. We recite hallel and add al hanissim to Shmoneh Esrei to celebrate/recognize the military victory and like the menorah for parsumei nissah. Now, you may have a good kashe why we are mefarsem the neis of pach shemen but not the military victory. Shouldn’t we publicize both of them? Ruvie, nu, maybe you have a teirutz?

    As for Nachum’s point before, the reason of neis pach shemen has a major effect on the halachos of neiros Chanukah. Since the neiros are for parsumei nissa of the neis pach shemen, we have concepts like mehadrin, mehadrin min hamehadrin, roeh es haner (which is not really applicable today). Further, you have a shitah like the Avudraham, who holds that you recite the berochoh of sheasah nissim after you have lit the new candle for the day. Why all the permutations of this mitzvoh? There is a machlokes Achronim whether neiros Chanukah is one long mitzvoh or eight separate mitzvos. I could on but I am probably just babbling by now.

  84. Actually, I just want to add that neiros Chanukah may in fact include the military victor as well, given the fact that women are chayavos in this mitzvoh and they had a part in the military victory (see Rashi on Shabbos 23b citing the heroism of Yehudis) but didn’t have a part in the miracle of the oil. If they didn’t have a part in the relighting of the menorah, what does it mean “af hein hayu b’oso haneis”? It is logical to conclude that either it refers to fact that Yehudis shot the starting pistol for the neis of the military victory, or that she set in motion a chain of events leading to the miracle of the oil.

  85. RAFAEL:

    “but didn’t have a part in the miracle of the oil.”

    neither did 99.9% of the men?

  86. Just to make the obvious point that lurks behind this discussion. Chazal made an intentional decision to exclude both 1 Maccabees (written in Hebrew, but only survived in its Greek translation) and 1 Maccabees (written in Greek) from the canon.

    Thus, while there is some overlap in the story told, Chazal clearly used the story to a different end (unlike, Purim, where the Esther text was included in the canon).

    It seems to me this is a case where mesorah and historicity part ways. We may, however, be able to learn more about Chazal’s decisionmaking context through modern critical analysis of the excluded texts. And this understanding may then shed light on other issues.

  87. typo: and 2 Maccabees (written in Greek) from the canon.

  88. Ruvie wrote;

    “can you provide a list to see if your statement is true. did chazal in their mind differentiate between stories like r ‘yohanan and vespesian(destruction of jerusalem) and chanukah oil story? some how i doubt it. i am not talking about hasmachtas or aggaditta that are obviously exaggerations – you are muddying the waters of this conversation.

    i took what you wrote at face value: “we assume that Chazal were working from a Siyatta DShmaya/Ruach HaKodesh based Mesorah” – why would this be limited to nes shemen historically”

    I think that a careful reading would lead any reader to distinguish between Agaddos that are the basis for Halachos, Minhagim and how we observe certain Mitzvos and Aggados that try to tell us about certain historical epocs without setting forth any Halachic details. Think about how Muktzeh, Tekios on RH, our current practices from RC Av through Tisha B’Av and during Sefiras HaOmer are all derived or seen as having at least a remez in the Talmud, as well as the sources for Eruv Tavshilin-are you maintaining that the same are all Stam Aggados with no halachic impact, as well as denying the various levels accorded to various Asmachtos?

  89. Ruvie wrote:

    “our collective history is what it is”

    IIRC, is that not a nice paraphrase of how Yosef Chaim Yerushalmi described all of Jewish history?

  90. Abba’s Rantings:

    No, but men were involved in it. I don’t think it has to mean all men.

  91. IH wrote:

    “Just to make the obvious point that lurks behind this discussion. Chazal made an intentional decision to exclude both 1 Maccabees (written in Hebrew, but only survived in its Greek translation) and 1 Maccabees (written in Greek) from the canon”

    The simple question is why. The answers to this question are numerous.

  92. Steve — why, indeed. As I said: We may, however, be able to learn more about Chazal’s decisionmaking context through modern critical analysis of the excluded texts. And this understanding may then shed light on other issues.

  93. Steve –

    In fact, the the Bach on Hilcos Sukkah stresses that we must have the kavanah when we sit in the sukkah for both Ananei Kavod and Sukkos Mamash when we recite the bracha of Leshev BaSukkah.

    In no way does that contradict what I am saying.

    Let’s look at it the other way. Suppose we know the reason for a halakha. Okay, with the Torah it isn’t very easy to say that, but how about gezeirot of Hazal. Take the gezaira of Gevinat Akum. L’halakha we assume the reason is because the non-Jews were ma’amid cheese in the stomachs of non-kosher animals. Does that mean we can ignore the halakha when we know that they don’t? Nearly all the rishonim, the Shulhan Arukh, and the Rema say most definitely no.* Why not? Because it is not simply a matter of concern anymore, it is a matter of legislation. Once it has been legislated it is halakha (until another Beit Din overturns it); end of story.

    It has to be this way for a very simple reason. If this weren’t the case and the Torah was just a guide to what is right and wrong, then נתנו דבריכם לשיעורים. You cannot run a society like that. Rules are rules first. Meanings come second. And if it is this way with gezeirot d’rabbanan, kol shekein with dinim d’oraita.

    Consequently, of course eating matza and sitting in the sukka are full of meaning, and according to the man d’amar מצוות צריכות כוונה you must have this meaning in mind when performing the mitzva (and maybe sometimes even according to the other man d’amar). But the mitzva is a mitzva regardless. It is a mitzva because the Torah legislated it so, not because of its meaning.

    As it relates to the story of the oil: Denying the historical accuracy of the story will not change the halakha one bit, because it has already been legislated. Therefore I do not object to someone who wishes to do so, provided he recognize that. As to why they would enact such legislation if the story didn’t happen the way it is recorded – I’m sure someone can think of a theory.

    *This is not relevant to the question of Halav Akum.

  94. Actually, the sharper question is why did Chazal reposition the story at all, rather than just dropping both the text and the ritual?

  95. IH wrote:

    “Steve — why, indeed. As I said: We may, however, be able to learn more about Chazal’s decisionmaking context through modern critical analysis of the excluded texts. And this understanding may then shed light on other issues”

    Perhaps, if we worked harder at understanding the words of Chazal, and the Rishonim and Acharonim, as opposed to texts that they excluded for a wide variety of reasons,all of which are essentially speculative, and none of them definitive in nature, we would gain more insight into what and why we are celebrating.

  96. Dov wrote in part:

    “Consequently, of course eating matza and sitting in the sukka are full of meaning, and according to the man d’amar מצוות צריכות כוונה you must have this meaning in mind when performing the mitzva (and maybe sometimes even according to the other man d’amar).”

    Please see the first Halacha in Hilcos Sukkah in the Tur and the Bach then.

  97. “Perhaps, if we worked harder at understanding the words of Chazal, and the Rishonim and Acharonim, as opposed to texts that they excluded for a wide variety of reasons,all of which are essentially speculative, and none of them definitive in nature, we would gain more insight into what and why we are celebrating.”

    Why not both? And why do say the texts are “essentially speculative, and none of them definitive in nature”?

    As history, they are certainly less speculative and more definitive in nature. Just not theologically.

  98. I am not sure if the archived comments go back to 2006 or beforehand, but when we visited one of our daughters in Israel who was in seminary, we went on a tour of some of the areas of the battlefields of the war against the Selucids, that was given by a RZ young man and woman. There was no discussion about the Nes Pach Shemen. When I privately asked about the same, I was told that the same was merely the version known to Chazal. I also saw Charedi oriented publications that discussed only the Nes Pach Shemen. IMO, discussing either the military victories without discussing the Nes Pach Shemen is at best an incomplete discussion, and at worse, reeks of intellectual dishonesty.

  99. Steve –

    Yes, and here is the link on Hebrewbooks:

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14268&st=&pgnum=532

    I do not see how it would contradict what I wrote. And what I wrote in parentheses was meant to imply this shita.

    Agav, it’s a bit of a problematic shita in my opinion, as Rosh Hashanah 28a (at the bottom) is quite clear that one would fulfill his obligation of eating matza without kavanah, at least according to the man d’amar מצוות אין צריכות כוונה. I’m sure someone deals with this problem. But that is neither here nor there. Even if you wish to say like the Bakh, it would not contradict anything I have said.

  100. I don’t understand your story, Steve. Isn’t your approach to draw a distinction between archeology/history and mesorah? If so, why would you want someone mixing the two together?

  101. “Actually, the sharper question is why did Chazal reposition the story at all, rather than just dropping both the text and the ritual?”

    Again, you are assuming that CHAZAL repositioned the story. You don’t solid grounds to make that claim, other than a bias against CHAZAL that information they provide is historical.

  102. “Again, you are assuming that CHAZAL repositioned the story. You don’t solid grounds to make that claim, other than a bias against CHAZAL that information they provide is historical.”

    That’s not a bias against. It’s reasonable to assume, without further evidence, that an event recorded many centuries after the fact cannot be regarded as historical. This is even more acute when some things are written about the time and events close to them, and they failed to mention this thing which we told is the chief event of all.

    If you don’t share this assumption, terrific. Then you do not have IH’s question, so no need to probe for an answer.

  103. No bias against Chazal whatsoever, Rafael. But, you seem to be biased that the authors of 1 and 2 Maccabees are not historical.

    What I am saying is that Chazal had a different purpose for the history — and that became our mesorah until ha’yom hazeh.

  104. rqfael – “We recite hallel and add al hanissim to Shmoneh Esrei to celebrate/recognize the military victory”

    actually i think that there is a holiday only because of a military victory with a rededication of the mikdash (rededication is of the utmost importance military so/so). the oil story is a side show and one can add probably post churban – the oil story would have never created any holiday: proof would be that do we celebrate any holiday or zecher l’mikdash to any of the miracles that we have recorded that occurred daily in the mikdash?

  105. I see that we have the usual argument between the upholders of traditional teachings and those who also acknowledge external evidence and more contemporary reports. I would add only one point to the debate. The author of the nusach ‘bimay Matityahu’, which is used by all elements and OJ communities – to my knowledge, addresses the military victory, the cleansing of the temple and its dedication, and the establishment of an 8 day thanksgiving holiday without any mention of the miracle of the oil. He states simply that they lit lamps in the temple courtyards. The contrast with the the theme stated in the gemara in T.B. Shabbat should be apparent.

  106. Y. Aharon – similar case can be made for the nusach of “Haneros Halalu”.

  107. Rafael- please look closely at the mei Hanukkah story in Shabbat 21b- they had only to light one day and a miracle happened and it lit from it 8 days. Next year they established yamin tovim with hallel and thanks.

    No mentioned that the holiday was established because of the oil. Actually I doubt that anybody lit candles thereafter for a long while. It was a temple based holiday. The rededication of the temple ( mizbeach) and a new Brit with Hashem. It seems that putting whole stones and forming an alter is a time honored way of recording a Brit in the bible – see shemot chapter 24 – when moshe builds an alter and 12 matzevehs for דם הברית. Also, yehoshua chapter 8 and kings 1 chapter 18.

    The question is why chazal chose the oil story – when we see in maccabbees II there were many miracles that occurred in the story and the oil one doesn’t seem to be at big of a deal relative to miracles. Also, what does the oil really mean in this case and why is the Halacha of putting on the last side of the doorpost as oppose to the same side as the mezuzah and what is the connection to pesach?

  108. Rafael – “tell me how the story in Tal. Shabbos is aggadita in the pure sense. Again, this story is foundation and basis for establishing this mitzvoh…”However, the existence of the mitzvoh is not independant of the original reason for its establishment.”

    As shown above chazal didn’t view the establishment of the holiday because of the oil story per a close reading of talmud Shabbat and it’s not the foundation of the holiday. According to the Rav – I believe – the holiday originally started as a chanukat hamizbeach and unity of the Jewish people holiday. It was temple related holiday that lost its reason or effectiveness after the churban – what independence what unity what mizbeach? Does it become a yom nikanor and fall by the wayside? Chazal probably instituted the lighting of the candles and move the holiday to the home which housed Jewish continuity. The mitzvah of the candles became more important at point in time and relates to the endurance of the Jewish spirit that refuses to be extinguish. At this point – ner ish ubato makes more sense I why and how this holiday becomes of home bound importance. The mitzvah is on the household not really on the individual – does a homeless person really obligated in this mitzvah. The opposite of Korban pesach which starts in the home in Egypt and later becomes a temple based only mitzvah.

  109. Part of what above quoting the Rav came from a shiur I heard tonight by Rms (aka solly) plus some of my own thoughts but he claimed that Rav believed that the candles was instituted post churban when then original reason -rededication of the temple and jewish unity and independence – for the holiday no longer was viable ( this assumes I understood the shiur correctly).

  110. “Intellectual dishonesty”? “Reeks”? Kol haposel…

    A few points:

    “or a basis for denying the fact that the Nes Pach Shemen and the military victories either took place or were the key elements that warranted commemoration”

    There’s a word for this sort of logical fallacy, but I forget what it is. No one denies that the military victories took place. You are trying to make the people who are trying to make logical arguments look ridiculous, or perhaps trying to obfuscate and/or strengthen your position by adding an element.

    “Lhadlik Ner ( Shel) Chanukkah?”

    I have no idea what you mean by this. It means “to light the lights of Chanukkah,” that is, to light the candles which it is a mitzvah to light on Chanukkah. Nu?

    “Since the neiros are for parsumei nissa of the neis pach shemen, ”

    They certainly are pirsumei neis. How do you get *which* nes specifically? Does the Gemara say anywhere? Again, I’m asking in all honesty.

    (Again, the mitzvah preceded not only the Gemara, but even Beit Hillel, by centuries. Bear that in mind.)

    I should point out that both Steve and Rafael inserted the word “stam” before my use of the word “aggadita.” I never use the word “stam” in relation to an aggadita. They are all valuable, even if not completely accurate.

    One last thought, based on a dvar torah I heard last night: At the beginning of Avoda Zara, Chazal do a bit more than hint that Chanukkah may derive from a very different basis indeed. It is such a seemingly outrageous suggestion that I will not repeat it here. Look it up, the story of Adam HaRishon and Saturnalia.

  111. Many of the acharonim deal with the seeming disconnect between Al Hanisim and the Gemara. The Maharal claims that the hallel v’hodaah is certainly for the military victory and the nes of the candles was to show that the military victory was from Hashem. In other words, the nes of teh candles is to connect the military victory to Hashem.

  112. Another very interesting point is that Chanuka is mentioned only once in all of Mishnayos (Bava Kama perek 6 Mishna 6) and that one reference is very offhand (if you light your menora outside your store and it burns something R’ Yehuda says you are not liable for damages). This begs the question why was Chanuka excluded from the Mishna?

  113. My comment about Chanuka appearing only once in Mishnayos was not correct.

    Chanuka actually appears a few more times, all of them offhand references:

    1. Bikurim 1:6 – If you bring Bikurim from Succos to Chanuka mevi v’ayno koreh
    2. Rosh Hashana 1:3 that the messengers go out for Kislev because of Chanuka
    3. Taanis 2:10 – A public fast cannot be set on Chanuka
    4. Megilla 3:4,6 – regarding laining
    5. Moed Katan 3:9 – regarding what signs of mourning can be done on Chanuka
    6. Bava Kama 6:6

    However this still begs the question, why is there no description of Chanuka and it’s halachos in the Mishna?

  114. “It is such a seemingly outrageous suggestion that I will not repeat it here. Look it up, the story of Adam HaRishon and Saturnalia.”

    Is that the story of Adam Harishon seeing that the nights are getting longer and longer, and then shorter and shorter? Or is there something different there?

  115. “However this still begs the question, why is there no description of Chanuka and it’s halachos in the Mishna?”

    I’m curious, does Shavout have it’s own Mishnas?

  116. Avi: That’s the story. Basically, the Gemara is suggesting that the various winter holidays have a common origin, which is similar to what modern scholars like to suggest. (Although, k’darkam, chazal take the monotheism-polytheism link back one step to monotheism again.) The use of eight days is suggestive; the speaker last night connected it to the Beit Hillel/Beit Shamai debate (less/more light in both cases).

    Marty: It’s been discussed. Among others:

    1. It ended badly, in various ways.

    2. Yehuda HaNasi had a family issue here, as he was from Beit David.

    3. So soon after Bar Kochba, they didn’t want to rock the boat by making a big deal out of Chanukkah.

    4. Chanukkah *wasn’t* such a big deal. (Some claim it wasn’t even observed.) Lots of days (and subjects) don’t get Masechtot, and Chanukkah isn’t even in Tanach.

    5. There is Megillat Taanit, which some call “Masechet Chanukkah,” which is in a gray area between Tanach and Talmud.

  117. Masechet Bikkurim discusses Shavuot, and it pops up here and there. No Masechet, of course. (Ditto Tu B’Shvat, etc. etc.)

  118. See הרי קדם סימן קעב where the Rav claims that the rambam believed that the takana of lighting a menorah is a post churban act only. That is why the rambam differentiates between this takana of days of feast and hallel to the takana of the lighting because feast and halel was instituted in that generation of the holiday while the lighting was after the churban as a zecher to the menorah in the temple.

    See earlier comments by others (s. etc) on the difference between the genera and rambam. Also, there is an article by dr. David Berger somewhere on hirhurim on the miracle of the oil and maccabbees II ( nice but not really that convincing – apologetics) on why the miracle is not mentioned.

  119. What I want to know is, what happened to the feast? All the jelly donuts I’ve eaten would be easier to justify if they were a mitzvah!

  120. r. mirsky in higyonei halacha tries to resolve some of this tension with nes pach hashemn

    “I’m curious, does Shavout have it’s own Mishnas?”

    it barely makes it into the shulchan aruch. one short siman appended as an afterthought to hilchos pesach (a la the atzeres explanation?). presumably one would expect more mention in the mishnah, with beis hamikdash references.

  121. So hoe do we know the proper shiur of cheese cake? I guess it’s a mimetic tradition.

  122. Marty – I just heard that Maharal quoted in a parashah shiur I heard last Sunday and it works well in brining the neis pach shemen and the military victories together.

    From Ruvie: “actually i think that there is a holiday only because of a military victory with a rededication of the mikdash (rededication is of the utmost importance military so/so). the oil story is a side show and one can add probably post churban – the oil story would have never created any holiday: proof would be that do we celebrate any holiday or zecher l’mikdash to any of the miracles that we have recorded that occurred daily in the mikdash?”

    Who says that lighting the menorah is zeicher l’mikdash?

    IH: No bias against Chazal whatsoever, Rafael. But, you seem to be biased that the authors of 1 and 2 Maccabees are not historical.

    What I am saying is that Chazal had a different purpose for the history — and that became our mesorah until ha’yom hazeh.

    I am biased because the weight to be given to CHAZAL vs. books outside the canon is key. I find it interesting that so many are ready to abandon the neis pach shemen as one basis for Chanukah in favour of books that, while they have some historical and religious value, do not have the same authority and weight as Talmud Shabbos. If the Talmud is on a collision course with the Sifrei Maccabees, our tradition has nicely balanced this: we celebrate the neis pach shemen and the military victory.

  123. Rafael, ok, but that debate is not with me. See my original comment: IH on December 21, 2011 at 5:41 pm

  124. rafael – “If the Talmud is on a collision course with the Sifrei Maccabees, our tradition has nicely balanced this: we celebrate the neis pach shemen and the military victory.”

    i don’t think there is a collision course with maccabees but its not mentioned (or anywhere else to much later post churban source)- its the silence so it could give one pause about the story. it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. so i think its ok if someone doubts the historical nature plus we have those – like rambam – who say the holiday was instituted not because of the miracle and the candle lighting is a post churban act.

  125. RAFAEL:

    r. mirsky builds on that maharal in the relevant chapter in the aforementioned book

    JOSEPH KAPLAN:

    no mention of cheese cake, but see the rama/MB for interesting tidbits on the milichigs minhag

  126. rafael – ‘Who says that lighting the menorah is zeicher l’mikdash?’enorah lighting at home

    this does not mean – that i meant – that the miracle of the oil is not represented in lighting the the menorah. but it seems according to the rambam – via the rav – there is no menorah lighting at home for pirsemei nisah when the holiday was established. see also the baal hamoer (in masechet shabbat) that the menorah lighting are kodesh – (see hanarot hallelu kodesh haem..) because kadshim mamash…being – according to the rav – “keneg shemen v’narot shel heichal”

    one can say there may be a duality – (tzei dinim anyone?)

    also in the harei kedem i mentioned above the rav writes: ואילו תקנת הנרות נתקנה בדורות מאוחר’ם יותר לאחר החורבן כזכר למנורה שבמקדשץ
    lets not gorget that hallel is also a form of pirsumei nisah.

  127. I’d like to come back to the linkage between Chanukah and Purim. In 1 Maccabees Chapter 7, we read:

    26 Then the king sent Nicanor, one of his honored princes, who hated and detested Israel, and he commanded him to destroy the people. 27 So Nicanor came to Jerusalem with a large force, and treacherously sent to Judas and his brothers this peaceable message, […] 33 After these events Nicanor went up to Mount Zion. Some of the priests from the sanctuary and some of the elders of the people came out to greet him peaceably and to show him the burnt offering that was being offered for the king. 34 But he mocked them and derided them and defiled them and spoke arrogantly, 35 and in anger he swore this oath, “Unless Judas and his army are delivered into my hands this time, then if I return safely I will burn up this house.” And he went out in great anger. 36 At this the priests went in and stood before the altar and the temple; they wept and said, 37 “You chose this house to be called by your name, and to be for your people a house of prayer and supplication. 38 Take vengeance on this man and on his army, and let them fall by the sword; remember their blasphemies, and let them live no longer.” […] 43 So the armies met in battle on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. The army of Nicanor was crushed, and he himself was the first to fall in the battle. 44 When his army saw that Nicanor had fallen, they threw down their arms and fled. 45 The Jews pursued them a day’s journey, from Adasa as far as Gazara, and as they followed they kept sounding the battle call on the trumpets. 46 People came out of all the surrounding villages of Judea, and they outflanked the enemy and drove them back to their pursuers, so that they all fell by the sword; not even one of them was left. 47 Then the Jews seized the spoils and the plunder; they cut off Nicanor’s head and the right hand that he had so arrogantly stretched out, and brought them and displayed them just outside Jerusalem. 48 The people rejoiced greatly and celebrated that day as a day of great gladness. 49 They decreed that this day should be celebrated each year on the thirteenth day of Adar.

    NRSV (from: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrsa/1-maccabees/7.html)

    Thoughts?

  128. Nachum wrote:

    “Lhadlik Ner ( Shel) Chanukkah?”

    I have no idea what you mean by this. It means “to light the lights of Chanukkah,” that is, to light the candles which it is a mitzvah to light on Chanukkah. ”

    My point was remains- Obviously, we all know the simple meaning of the Bracha as translated, but why did Chazal choose Hadlakas Neros as the focal point for a Birkas HaMitzvah,? I think that one answer is that as the Meshech Chachmah points out, Hallel Gamur is not recited on any military victory or even on Shivi Shel Pesach. Another answer is that Hadlakas Neros, whenever it was instituted, as RYBS pointed out, is rooted in the reason for the Menorah in the Mikdash ( think in terms of Kol Tikun DRabanan Kein D’Oraisa Tiknun), namely to demonstrate that the Shechinah dwells amog Klal Yisrael due to the fundamental concept of Bchiras Yisrael-which RYBS described as “the crux of the Torah.” Bchiras Yisrael lasts-the political and military victories were not of a lasting nature and as the Ramban points out in Parshas Vaechi, the Hasmoneans erred in appointing themselves as kings. However, if you look at the Hasagos HaRamban to Sefer HaMitzvos, Shoresh Rishon, as well as the Chiddushei Ritva to Shabbos on the issue of the Bracha involved, the issue was how to recite a Bracha on a mitzvah that had no source in the Torah. I would like to know how Ramban’s comments in the Hasagos to the Sefer HaMitzvos can be reconciled with Ramban’s own comments re Hadlakas Neros and Channukah at the beginning of Parshas Bhaalosecha, which seem to imply that there is at least a remez of Hadlakas Neros Channukah.

  129. Ruvie wrote in part:

    “According to the Rav – I believe – the holiday originally started as a chanukat hamizbeach and unity of the Jewish people holiday”

    WADr, that is not what RYBS said in one of the verbatim shiurim published in Noraos HaRav. RYBS was quite emphatic about Menorah symbolizing Bchiras Yisrael and the Shechinah dwelling among Klal Yisrael even after the Churban via Hadlakas Neros Chanukah.

  130. for similarities and differences between chanukah and purim see: by nati helgot

    http://www.vbm-torah.org/chanuka/chanuka.htm

    also his concluding remarks:
    Conclusions We have seen how although the institutions of Chanuka and Purim share many important similarities, they can also be seen as being based on fundamentally different issues. These conceptual differences are carried through by the Rishonim and Acharonim into practical consequences – nafka minot – into the realm of practical halakha, thereby illustrating a central tenent of the halakhic process: theoretical issues are not merely matters of intellectual curiosity. Rather, their consequences are of the utmost importance for our daily lives, even on the celebratory days of Chanuka and Purim. While we rejoice on these days, the halakha reminds us that we must always remember the exact basis for our celebrations.

  131. apologize for my typing errors – r’ nati helfgot

    rafael – i hope my posts answered your questions.

  132. IH wrote:

    “I don’t understand your story, Steve. Isn’t your approach to draw a distinction between archeology/history and mesorah? If so, why would you want someone mixing the two together”

    My point was simple-overemphasizing one element of Chanukah at the expense of another because of hashkafic reasons, with Charedim accentuating Pach Shemen and RZ and academics focusing on the military and political aspects IMO strikes me as intellectually dishonest. As far as Ruvie’s comments re R D D Berger’s article, to paraphrase a comment of the CC re the difference between one person’s Kasha Atzuma and another’s Ain Haci Nami, one’s person’s convincing arguments are another’s apologetics.

  133. Abba wrote:

    “it barely makes it into the shulchan aruch. one short siman appended as an afterthought to hilchos pesach (a la the atzeres explanation?). presumably one would expect more mention in the mishnah, with beis hamikdash references”

    Please see the well known comments of Ramban and the Chinuch-Sefiras HaOmer is a Chol HaMoed of sorts between Pesach and Shavuous, which mark the liberation from Egypt,the preparation period for and the purpose of the Exodus-Kabalas HaTorah. Thus, Shavuos is actually the culmination of Pesach, as opposed to having a separate identity of its own.

  134. STEVE BRIZEL:

    yes. it is so well known that this is why i referred to it atzeres in my comment. shavuos is the shemini atzeres of pesach.

  135. Steve b – “As far as Ruvie’s comments re R D D Berger’s article…”

    Sorry steve but it didn’t think it rose up to the level that I expect from r d Berger ….apologetics is probably too strong so I stand corrected on my terminology. I am curious if any one agrees on why he thinks it was never listed as one of miracles – for sure the appearance of angels to the hamon am is bigger.

  136. Ruvie — thanks for the reference to R. Helfgott’s interesting shiur, but it doesn’t address the point I was raising. To be more explicit compare the story in 1 Maccabees 7 with Megilat Esther 9.

  137. Oh, the only book of the Tanach not found among the DSS is Megilat Esther, although “Cave 4 yielded remains of a writing akin to Esther, a kind of proto-Esther (4Q550), published by J.T. Milik, we may infer that the Book of Esther was not deliberately excluded from the Qumran canon.” (Esther is also missing from the 2nd century canon of the Greek Old Testament of Bishop Melito of Sardis. ref: Geza Vermes, The Story of the Scrolls, p. 102).

  138. OTOH, Prof. Leiman says that Megilat Esther is included in Origen of Alexandria’s list (ref: The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture, p. 42).

    Per Prof. Leiman: Melito is ca. 170 and Origen ca. 185-225.

  139. For completeness. Prof. Leiman explains this discrepency as being due to the uncertain status of Esther in the Church which he explains in a long footnote.

  140. Ruvie-Thanks for your comment re R D D Berger’s article. FWIW, MO should consider itself blessed that such a Talmid Chacham who resists the easy answers, documents the anguish and struggles of his own spiritual searches and is so resolutely intellectually honest will continue to write,speak and comment on the issues facing the MO world and his area of expertise within Jewish history as well, and especially the worlds of MO and its interaction with the world of secular Jewish history. To paraphrase a comment of the R Velvel ZL about Dr Wallach ZL, a legendary Torah observant physician in Israel, Shetihey Harbeh Kmoscha Bsocheinu.

  141. Dr. Berger’s post

    http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2006/11/human-initiative-and-divine-providence.html

    To be fair to Dr. Berger it is titled a sermon not an academic paper.

  142. Steve b. – “WADr, that is not what RYBS said in one of the verbatim shiurim published in Noraos HaRav. RYBS was quite emphatic about Menorah ”

    Please see הרי קדם quoted above. Also, some of what I wrote was RMS (aka solly) view of the RAV’s shitah plus some of his. Again, I may have misunderstood or read into it. But for sure the Rav held that hadlakat neirot was post churban by chazal – its black and white that the Rav believe that was rambam’s shittah. Please correct me if I am wrong ( I am an am haaretz after all). Happy lighting.

  143. Ruvie-Halevai more drashos would be written in such a manner. FWIW, R D Berger is a great writer and an always fascinating read, whether in his scholarly articles, his articles in magazines such as Tradition and JA, his book reviews, or in his book on Chabad Messianism. His writings display a committment to Midas HaEmes, no matter what the price.

    With respect to the book on Chabad Messianism, it is important to know that R D D Berger was invited by R Steinzalz to give shiurim in the FSU just as glasnost beginning to have its main effects in the late 1980s or early 1990s. At that juncture, R D D Berger publicly spoke about his efforts and praised the work of Chabad in the FDU-but the same obviously occurred before the publication of his book on Chabad Messianism.

  144. Ruvie-I am familiar with the shiur that you referenced in Harei Kedem and see no contradiction between the same and the shiur in Noraos HaRav. Assuming that Hadlakas Neros is a post Churban Takanah, RYBS understood the same as being rooted in the same purpose as Hadlakas HaMenorah in the Mikdash-to demonstrate Bchiras Yisrael and that the Shechinah dwelled among Klal Yisrael.

  145. FWIW, I would suggest that although Harerei Kedem is a fine sefer, it is always worthwhile to compare the same with the volumes of Noroas HaRav for shiurim on the same or similar subjects so as to see how RYBS may have emphasized a point differently or explained the same point.

  146. S:
    I don’t see where the rambam conveys doubt about the historicity of the episode of the pach shemen lasting 8 days. It’s noteworthy that he doesn’t describe it as a miracle. Still, he recounts the event, miracle or not, as historical fact:
    ב וכשגברו ישראל על אויביהם ואיבדום, בחמישה ועשרים בחודש כסליו היה. ונכנסו להיכל, ולא מצאו שמן טהור 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 הימים האלו שתחילתן מלילי חמישה ועשרים בכסליו, ימי שמחה והלל; ומדליקין בהן הנרות בערב על פתחי הבתים, בכל לילה ולילה משמונת הלילות. וימים אלו, הן הנקראין חנוכה. והן אסורין בספד ותענית, כימי הפורים; והדלקת הנרות בהן, מצוה מדברי סופרים כקריאת המגילה.

    this is a literal rendition of the event as historical.
    What hint at an allegorical meaning is there in what he writes above?
    if rambam leaves out the description of the event, which he presents as literal and historical, as miraculous in order to make a point, isnt the more natural argument and/or line of speculation that rambam believed the historical event had a naturalistic explanation?? That would not differ much from other events described as miracles that he believed had naturalistic explanation of a sort. In that case a “miracle” is something improbably happening at the opportune moment for klal yisrael, and rambam would be avoiding use of the word “miracle” which can suggest explanations outside the natural order.

    Note: I am not arguing that rambam’s understanding of the event is binding, or that based on other things rambam writes elsewhere one can’t make the case that a literal understanding of the historicity of the pach shemen lasting 8 days isn’t binding. I simply don’t see how rambam’s omission of the descriptive term miracle gives rise to the idea that he didn’t accept the historicity of the event.

    “As for why “certain groups” want to publicly assert that they do not think this actually happened, I will speak for myself and suggest that some of this sort of thing (which extends to other things, not just the pach shemen) is a bit of pushback for the literal ways in which many other things are taken and promulgated as the obviously correct way to see things and to think about them. Some people also do not want to speak with a forked tongue and to feel free to say what they think, rather than allowing only those with a different opinion to say what they think”

    How relevant is the rambam’s own opinion on the historicity of the episode of the pach shemen. Wouldn’t the true support for non-literalists be found in his (and others’) larger approach to aggada , rather than his approach to this one aggada? Or does that break down in this case, given the practice of lighting the menorah and the ubiquity of the acceptance of the miracle of the pach shemen, combined with a sense that little has changed between rambam’s time, given his outlook, and our own and our outlook, to make the agadata more or less plausible? (or has something changed?)

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