Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chanuka....For Which Miracle?

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Although most people are under the impression that the primary miracle of Chanuka and the reason we light the Chanuka menora is the miracle of the oil, this actually might not be the case.

As Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach writes:[1]

"The primary purpose for lighting the Chanuka candles is in order to praise the Holy One Blessed Be He for the great miracles which He performed for our forefathers in the military victory. Therefore, when lighting the candles one is to concentrate on thanking God for the military victory. " (emphasis added)

Click here to read moreIn fact, there is much more evidence to suggest that the primary miracle and emphasis of Chanuka is the miracle of the military victory. It is also noted that the "al hanissim" prayer which is recited in the shemoneh esrei and birkat hamazon focuses primarily upon the military victory. The "haneirot halalu" recited after lighting the menora does not mention anything about the miracle of the oil, either. So too, according to many authorities, the "she'asa nissim" blessing recited each night of Chanuka refers to the military victory and not the miracle of the oil.[2]

There is even a view that immediately after reciting the first blessing of "l'hadlik", one should then recite the "haneirot halalu", and only then continue with the "she'asa nissim" blessing and the lighting of the menora. The reason for this approach was in order to ensure that one would have in mind the military victory when lighting the menora.[3] Although the halacha does not follow this view, it certainly demonstrates the significance and centrality of the military victory.

It emerges therefore, that the requirement to praise God on Chanuka (i.e. the recitation of hallel) is much more connected to the miraculous military victory rather than the miracle of the oil.[4] Indeed, it is noted that we don't find any precedent where the rabbis instituted an obligation to praise God for a miracle which is already commemorated with its own mitzva (i.e. the lighting of the menora). Furthermore, although the lighting of the menora is certainly intended to recall the miracle of the oil, it might just be that doing so is actually intended to help us focus on praising God for the military victory.[5]

In fact, it might be especially important to emphasize the military victory. This is because with regards to the miracle of oil, it's obvious that it was a miraculous event. However, cynics could argue that the military victory was completely natural, won by might, determination, and a series of fortunate coincidences. The same is true regarding the Six Day War and other Israeli military operations – clearly miraculous, though there will always be those who insist it was Israeli military might alone which is to be credited for the victory and not any Divine intervention. Perhaps this is the reason God also created the miracle of the oil in the first place - to remind us that just like the miracle of oil was clearly from Him, so too the military victory.


[1] Halichot Shlomo 16:9
[2] Halichot Shlomo p. 306 note 19
[3] Masechet Sofrim as explained in Halichot Shlomo p. 106 note 20
[4] Rivevot Ephraim 2:180:10
[5] Halichot Shlomo p. 305 note 17 and p. 307 note 46

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