Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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Publicizing the Miracle- Part II

By: Rav Yechezkel Yakovson

Summary of Part I: The nature of publicizing the miracle of Chanukah  (pirsumei nisa) is subject to a fundamental debate amongst the commentators.  Rashi and the Rambam understand that the focus is applied upon the  individual facilitating the pirsumei nisa. Thus, the optimum location for  kindling the candles is between the courtyard and the home and the superior  level of kindling the candles (mehadrin min hamehadrin) is done in  conjunction with the intermediate level (mehadrin)- one kindles candles in  accordance with the date and the number of inhabitants of the household. The  individual who is lighting the menorah is cognizant of both factors and will  generate a publicity of the miracle.

The Tosafot opine that pirsumei nisa is directed outwards to passersby and  members of the general community. Thus the optimum location of kindling the  lights is between a courtyard and a public domain. Mehadrin min hamehadrin  is autonomous of mehadrin; one who lights in accordance with the relevant  night of Chanukah should not kindle lights in relation to the members of the  household, as this may confuse passersby, diminishing publicizing the  miracle.

What lies at the crux of this debate? We notice that the halacha relates to  both aspects of pirsumei nisa- for the individual and for people at large.

The gemara (Masechet Shabbat 24) rules that in times of danger, one kindles  the lights on a table in the privacy of the home. The pirsumei nisa is  manifested solely amongst the individual and those in his household. Yet, a  pedestrian (who has not kindled the lights himself) recites a blessing  (birchat haroeh) upon viewing a menorah. This is a function of the external  pirsum hanes. Thus, pirsumei nisa contains two components. The commentators  debate which constitutes the primary strand.

In the fourth chapter of Hilchot Chanuka, the Rambam (in Halacha 12) rules  that a destitute individual is required to sell his clothes to enable  himself to kindle a menorah. He utilizes the phraseology "to announce  (lehodia) the miracle". In the following halacha, the Rambam relies upon an  explicit gemara in Masechet Shabbat (23b) that kindling the lights of  Chanukah takes precedence over reciting Kiddush with wine on Shabbat. The  Rambam states the importance of "remembrance of the miracle (zikaron  hanes)". "Lehodia" implies an external pirsum hanes. "Zikaron" connotes a  personal reminder of the miracle. What generated the change of terminology?

The commentators search for the source of Halacha 12, that one is required  to sell his clothes if that is necessary to facilitate kindling the lights  of Chanukah. The Magid Mishneh advances the following thesis: A destitute  individual is required to sell his clothes in order to acquire 4 cups of  wine for the Passover seder. Certainly that is the case in relation to  Chanukah.

The Lechem Mishneh objects to this thesis. Granted, kindling the lights of  Chanukah is equivalent to the four cups of wine of the seder. How is it  superior?

The pirsumei nisa generated from the four cups of wine is focused upon the  family and guests partaking of the seder in a private dwelling. Thus it  constitutes and internal pirsum hanes. Kindling the lights of Chanukah  includes the external aspect of pirsum hanes as well. Thus, in Halacha 12  the Rambam utilizes the verb "lehodia" that indicates the superiority of the  pirsumei nisa of Chanukah in relation to the four cups of wine of Passover.  If in the latter case a destitute individual is required to sell his  clothes, certainly that is required to generate the pirsumei nisa of  Chanukah. Halacha 13 is not predicated upon superiority in the context of  pirsumei nisa (rather., on maintaining harmony in the home- Shalom Bayit).  Thus, the concept of remembering the miracle (zikaron) suffices.

The Shulchan Aruch (Siman 671) adopts the view of the Tosafot that one who  lights in accordance with the day of Chanukah should not kindle lights in  relation to the member of the home. The Rema accepts the opinion of the  Rambam that both factors- date and members of the household- constitue  mehadrin min hameiadron. Rav Velvel Soloveitchik (the Griz), comments  however the Rama differs from the Rambam, as he rules that each member  kindles the lights by themselves.

The Griz maintains that this argument between the Rambam and the Rema is  predicated on a previous difference of opinion. Can an individual perform  hidur mitzvah that is removed from the fulfillment of the mitzvah itself  (should a mohel who has interrupted the circumcision- after having removed  the requisite sections to be removed in circumcision-, resume the process of  removing particles from the foreskin that do not invalidate the  circumcision)? The Rambam answers in the negative; the Rema in the  affirmative. Thus, the Rambam limits this halacha to the owner of the home.  The Rema maintains that other individuals (such as members of the household)  are able to create pirsumei nisa; consequently they may kindle the lights by  themselves.

Perhaps the Rema intended to fulfill the directives of the Tosafot as well.  The Tosafot ruled that a single individual may not light both in terms of  the date and in reference to the members of the household due to the ensuing  confusion. However, the Rema maintains that if members of the houselhold  kindle the lights in distinct locations the relevant night of Chanuka will  be noticed. This will generate pirsumei nisa in the context of mehadrin min  hamehadrin. This fulfills the opinion of the Rambam while avoiding the  objection of the Tosafot.


Categorized under: 1: Chagim > Chanuka
Uploaded: 12/26/2005 11:12:08 AM