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]