Translation:Arukh ha-Shulchan/Orach Chaim/670
In the Second Temple period, when Antiochus ruled, the evil [ministers] made decrees on the Jewish People and abolished their holy religion. They did not let them be involved in Torah or the commandments, and stretched forth their hands against their possessions and [violated] their daughters. They entered the Holy Temple and commited obscene acts in it, and made impure the pure. They oppressed Israel and pressured them greatly; until God the God of their fathers had mercy upon them and saved them from their hands and rescued them through the sons of the holy and pure Hasmoneans, the High Priests, Matityahu and his sons, who waged war upon Antiochus and were successful.
The victory was not achieved through natural means, for the Hasmoneans and their pious company were very few, and Antiochus challenged them with a great may people, many elephants, and with chariots and horsemen. But God, Who is desirous of His nation Israel, gave over the mighty into the hands of the weak, the numerous into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, and the wicked into the hands of the righteous. And the heretics from among Israel who sided with Antiochus, they too were killed, and were delivered into the hands of those who involved themselves with the Torah. Thus, the Name of Heaven was aggrandized and sanctified in the world, and the light of Torah became revealed in its pure essence, and the Name of Israel was aggrandized among the nations.
The final day of the [first] miracle was on the twenty-fifth of Kislev. Another further miracle was also occured through Divine intervention. [The source for this] comes from the verse: “The commandment is the lamp, and the Torah is the light”, as we learn in [the Talmud, tractate] Shabbat (21.2):
- "What is Hanukkah? That which our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev: there are eight days of Hanukkah. One may not eulogize on them, nor to fast during them. For when Antiochus’ men entered the Holy Temple, they made impure all of the oil that was in the Sanctuary, and when the Hasmoneans came to power and defeated them, they searched but only found one jug of oil which was left with the seal of the High Priest, and there was only in it enough to light [the Menorah] for one day. A miracle happened with it, and they lit from it for eight days. The next year they established [those days] and made them holidays with [observances of] praise and thanksgiving."
To analyse: When they re-purified the Beit Hamikdash , the entire Jewish people were Tamei Mesim (impure because of contact with the dead) as a result of the war. Tamei Meisim may only become pure after being sprinkled on the third and seventh day, and it would have taken another day to finish making the oil. (Beit Yosef). And if even by a remote chance the pure oil would be able to have been ready in four days, they would need eight days traveling back and forth to transport it (Ran). [Therefore,] they did not have anything to light the Menorah with!
Now bringing the daily sacrifices presented no problem, because a communal sacrifice overrides the ritual impurity of the congregation. They were therefore able to light the Menorah for this reason, for lighting the Menorah also overrides the ritual impurity of the congregation, as we learn in Vayikra (24.2) in Parshat Emor, where it says "You will prolong the candles before Hashem constantly", and "Constantly" is expounded to include Shabbat and communal impurity.
Though this be so, the oil itself still needed to be in a state of purity, as the permit of the community to disregard its impure state is only stated regarding the impurity caused by contact with dead, and not other types of impurity [that may contaminate foodstuffs], as is explained in Gemara Pesachim (67.1). Oil, like other foodstuffs, becomes impure by these other means, through being touched or carried by one impure. At that time all the picked olives had been rendered impure, which meant that only olives not yet picked were pure [as they can not become impure while attached to the tree], and eight days would pass before they could be obtained.
Therefore, when this lone jug of oil was found sealed with the High Priest's seal, secreted away in a manner that let it remain undiscovered and unmoved it was understood to be pure (movement by one impure would render it impure, see Tosfos in Shabbos 21.2). Furthermore, had it been spotted it certainly would have been snatched up, for [a small, well hidden jug with the High Priest's seal] might be thought to contain precious stones or the like (Ran). Through this the Holy One Blessed by He performed a miracle for the Jews, for even though there was only enough oil for one day they were able to light the menorah for eight days, after which they were able to replenish their supply of pure oil. Therefore these days were established for praise and thanksgiving. (See the Bach, though what I have written succinctly covers the basic explanation [of the holiday].)
Although the miracle (of Hanukkah) lasted only seven days, as the first day there was oil to light with (we still celebrate the first day) because the Jews divided the oil into eight portions (and lit one portion each day).[Accordingly, each portion should have lasted up to two hours, yet each lasted all night]. This resulted in a miracle occurring on the first day as well. (Beit Yosef). This is, however, an alternative explanation: Since the Greeks forbade them from performing the Mitzvah of Berit Millah,(which ideally occurs on the eighth day of the baby’s life) we celebrate eight days of Chanukah (Shiltei HaGiborim's notes on Mordechai 456, 2nd column). And there is yet another explanation: The first day of Hanukkah celebrates the fact that we were able to elevate the Temple (the Beit Hamikdash) after the evil Antiochus nullified it’s purity by bringing idols and other impure objects into the Beit Hamikdash [Shiltei HaGiborim as well].
In truth, there is an earlier source for these eight days. The Midrash explains that the labor of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was completed on the 25th of Kislev, but it was not dedicated until Rosh Chodesh Nissan, so as to coincide with the month in which the forefathers (Abraham, Issac, and Jacob) were born. Then, the Holy One Blessed Be He rewarded them (for their dedication) in the days of Matisyahu. (Midrash quoted in the Maharsha on Gemara Shabbos 21.2)
Therefore, the [sages] modeled Hanukkah after the dedication of the Mishkan, which had seven days of inauguration, followed on the eighth by the service commencing under the administration of Aaron and his sons, as the Torah explains. Similarly, when King Solomon dedicated the Beit Hamigdash the same pattern was followed, as it says in Divrei HaYamim II (7.8-9): "And King Shlomo made a holiday for seven days, and on the eighth day he held a solemn assembly..." See there. Accordingly, in similar fashion, the anniversary of these events was proclaimed a holiday as well. This is (also implied in the words) "חנוכה-Hanukkah" which comes from the words "חנוכת הבית- dedication of the Temple". Within the word Hanukkah itself there is a hint implying the connection with the 25th (of Kislev): חנו־כ"ה - "they dedicated it- on the 25th." (Ran)
There is another reason which is explained in the Sefer Chashmonyaim: The decrees against the Jews prevented them from engaging in the eight days of sacrificial offerings for Sukkot and Shemenei Atzeret in that year. As a commemoration of the Temple service that was missed, Hanukkah was establish as an eight day period. Subsequently, when Heaven ordained the miracle of the menorah it was demonstrated to the people that the creation of this eight day holiday had been a proper act.
(This is the meaning of the liturgical text '...the following year they established...', meaning to say: '...after they realized that Heaven had consented to their act of creating this eight day holiday, through the oil that miraculously lasted eight days,...'. This is why they chose to commemorate this miracle by lighting a menorah on Hannukah.)
On Hanukkah, it is forbidden to fast, except if one had a bad dream that they wish to fast to try to nulify the dream, which is even permitted on Shabbat and festivals. However, one would be required, as on Shabbat and Yom Tov, to 'repay' this missed fast by fasting on a different day.
There are those that prohibit fasting on the eve of Hannukah as well, such as the Bach (Tur, chapter 686), whose reason, as explained in chapter 573, is that although we have nullified the exemptions from fasting on all the holidays which are listed in Megilat Taanit, we did not nullify the exemption provided by Hanukkah and Purim (see there).
Concerning the holidays that are mentioned in Megilat Taanit, the stated ruling is that it is prohibited to fast the day before and after them, though in regard to the day after there is an opinion in the Talmud that it is permitted to fast, and therefore we are not strict concerning this. However, on the day before these holidays, it is prohibited (to fast). There are also those that are strict concerning the day after as well (Bach).
However, the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (chapters 573 and 686) rule that both before and after these holidays it is permitted to fast, because while we apply the laws of Megilat Taanit to Hanukkah and Purim, they are not applied to the days before or after, for in this respect the law was nullified for Hanukkah and Purim.
There are those that fast on the eve of Hanukkah in place of fasting on Rosh Chodesh Tevet eve which falls out during Hannukah (Magen Avraham). Those who follow this custom should not alter their practice, although ideally one should not follow this custom and should certainly not institute a public fast day, either before Hanukkah or after it.
Nevertheless, if one wishes to rely on the ruling of the Tur and Shulchan Aruch and fast who can protest against him, as 'All hearts may seek G-d, as long as their intent is for the sake of Heaven.'
It is prohibited to give a eulogy on Hanukkah. The only exception to this rule is concerning a Talmud Chacham (Torah Scholar). This ruling even applies to a festival, so it obviously applies to Hanukkah. According to some, when the Talmud Chacham passes before you, you should say the prayer Tzidduk HaDin (צידוק הדין ), the justification of the Divine decree. Others disagree with this practice, allowing only religious-themed tributes to be said over him. (Livush).
It is forbidden to fast on the anniversary of a death (yortzeit), or the day of one’s marriage. As stated earlier, the only exception is a fast over a dream.
On Hanukkah, it is permitted to do work.
When the Talmud that says :"And you shall make Holidays of praise and thanks", it is not referring to real holidays, but is rather referring to days of joy. Since Purim does not receive the status of a holiday, as is explained in the Megillah, certainly Hanukkah does not.
Women do have the custom not do work as long as the candles are lit, and we should not be lenient with this (Tur), as part of the miracle occurred through a woman during the period when (the Syrian-Greeks) decreed that before a virgin was married she was required to spend the night with the local Greek officer, as Rashi explains in Gemara Shabbat ( 23:A). This story continued with the miracle that occurred through Yehudit, who silenced the [Syrian-Greek general] with milk, causing him to sleep [and then killing him]. For this reason, there are those that make sure to eat cheese on Hanukkah, even though (the story of Yehudit) did not happen on Hanukkah.
However, if they follow the practice which insists that they not do any work on all of the days, some say that this is custom should be abolished, but according to others it should not be abolished. Still others assert that if women have the custom to abstain from work only on the first and last day the custom may stand (Magen Avraham, comment 2).
We have not heard of anyone following these customs, and our women only abstain from work while the candles are lit.
The practice of of increasing festive meals that we have seen are not actually religiously mandated (called Seudat Reshut), as these days were not fixed for drinking and rejoicing as on Purim. The reason for this is because Haman’s decrees were aimed at their physical beings “to destroy, kill and to wipe out” (the Jews). Therefore, we gladden the body. However, Antiochus aimed to nullify Torah and the commandments and although (his decrees) also sickened and affected the body, in the end, his ultimate goal was to destroy the soul. Therefore, we need to gladden the soul with praise, thanks, and songs (of God's acts), and gladdening the body is not considered. (This answers the question of the Taz in comment 3). However, there are those that say that there is a small commandment to indulge oneself with (festive) meals. One reason for this is because the happiness of the soul is, to a small extent, dependent on the happiness of the body. Another reason is in order to commemorate the dedication of the Mishkan, by which was established rejoicing and gladness (of the body). Another reason is that when one sings praises in one’s meal’s, the meal inherently becomes a Seudat Mitzvah (sanctified meal).
However, those that rejoice by gambling, playing cards games and the like - their punishment is great. Unfortunately, due to our many sins this particular plague has spread within the House of Israel. Woe on to us that we have allowed this to happen in our days... and how many sins are caused by this behavior! May He who is merciful forgive our sins...And one who is able to abolish this practice - his reward is great.