More Discussions for this daf
1. Questions from Daf 13-21 2. R Shimon Ben Gamliel "Ma'aseh Rav" 3. Mistake in Question
4. Chashmona'im 5. Yonah's Kikoyon 6. Rav Huna and Rav Chisda
7. Time Chanukah Lights Must Burn 8. Miracle of Oil 9. The Parei ha'Chag of Sukkos and the Chanukah lights
10. Ner Ish u'Beiso 11. Mehadrin and Pirsum Nes 12. Mehadrin
13. Insights on the Daf - Vilna Gaon on the Rif 14. The eight day miracle 15. The argument between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel how to light the Chanukah lights
16. Hillel and Shamai 17. How to light the Chanukah candles: 18. Neros After 30 Minutes
19. Next year... 20. Eight days of Chanukah 21. שיטת אביי
22. טעמי ב"ש וב"ה

David Goldman asks:

I have read your page

I find it unusual that no commentators explain the lack of mention of the miracle of the oil in midrashim, the Yerushalmi, or even other gemaras in the Bavli for a miracle that some say was related to Sukkos or greater than the miracle of Pesach! Indeed, the commentators explain extensively the meaning of the miracle of the oil and chazal themselves don't even do so.

Tosafos in Shabbos 24 a says Al Hanisim is for the tsibbur as pirsum nissa.

It is not Chazal who call lighting the candles pirsum ness. It is Rashi in Shabbos 21b who calls it that.

Kesef Mishnah calls the four cups pirsum ness.

And yet chachamim discuss how to use the candles as pirsum ness based solely on Rashi, but that's not from Chazal.

If we leave aside Rashi, how do other rishonim view the candle(s)??

The gemara ONLY calls reading the Megilla pirsum ness. Rashi even calls heseva on Pesach pirsum ness! Neither the Kesef Mishna nor Rashi explain the comparison of reading aloud the Megilla to merely lighting a candle or doing heseva (which we know there are rishonim who said explicitly there is no heseva bizmanenu and must not have agreed with Rashi about it being pirsum nissa.

Plus, there were many other events in history which were not considered by Chazal or even rishonim as relevant to pirsum nissa, i.e. the salvation under King Chizkiyahu.

1) The brachas we say every night for the candles say nothing about the miracle of the oil but only for a mitzvah of a Chanukah candle and then NISSIM LE'AVOYSENU etc.

2) The nusach of the Geonim in All Hanisim says nothing about the miracle of the oil.

3) The Talmud Yerushalmi says nothing about the miracle of the oil.

4) Midrashim say nothing about the miracle of the oil.

5) The Bavli says nothing significant about this tremendous miracle beyond the few words in Shabbos. One would think there would be many stories about this.

6) We have no knowledge as to whether Jews made a special significance of that story in observing Chanukah. The eight days has nothing to do with the miracle of the oil story at all.

7) No other sources mention it (except for Megilas Antiochus which brings the statement of the Bavli). So why does the Bavli even mention it in a few words without the usual introduction of Tannu Rabannan? Just Chanukah mahi. It does not quote the name of any Tanna in this regard.

8) The machlokes of Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai indeed has nothing to do with the miracle of the oil.

9) Since the basic mitzva is ONLY to light one candle a night with the HIDDUR of increasing the candles each night, this has nothing to do with the actual miracle of the menorah that burned all eight candles every day.

10) Rambam, who doesn't challenge the story of the oil does not claim that lighting candles has anything to do with the miracle of the oil. All we find in the gemara is a REPORT of the miracle in the Bavli with no extensive discussion about it at all, no "Tannu Rabbanan."

David Goldman, USA

The Kollel replies:

Your question is very detailed but the crux of the issue is as you rightly point out that the miracle of the oil which is so central to the ritual aspect of Chanukah, as well as the obligation of Pirsumei Nisa, does not seem to find adequate expression in Chazal. (This issue is discussed by many of the modern commentators.)

Your presumption that lighting candles is not called Pirsumei Nisa is not accurate. In Shabbos 23b, the Gemara clearly states that Pirsumei Nisa is the reason for lighting the candles. However, it stands to reason that there were other reasons for the candles as well.

The Chasam Sofer is one of the first to point out that Chanukah hardly appears in the Mishnah. His well-known proposition is that Rebbi, who redacted the Mishnah, did not approve of the Hasmoneans seizing the monarchy from his family which was descended from King David. However, for this to be Peshat it would be surprising that a religious holiday's customs would be marred by personal reasoning. It is far more likely that Chanukah in its initial form needed to be kept someone quiet after the Roman conquest, the destruction of the Temple, and the quelling of the Bar Kochba rebellion, all of which occurred in the times of the Tana'im.

Originally, Chanukah celebrated the victory of the Maccabees. This is proven in the Scholion, the commentary on Megillas Ta'anis which mentions only the victory as a reason for the eight-day festival and does not include the miracle of the oil of the Menorah. The Rambam also hints at this at the beginning of Hilchos Chanukah. The Jews lit candles to celebrate the victory, but this became more difficult as time went by and there was a need to focus on something different.

Chazal therefore emphasized the oil as it represents a number of aspects: The difference between the Jewish people and the nations, the wish to preserve purity, the reliance on miracles which is vital while the Jewish people are in Galus and have no autonomy. Even Al ha'Nisim takes on a passive style, as the miracles of the war are ascribed to Hash-m. This kind of miracle can be accepted by the ruling Romans and still emphasizes the national miracle in some way.

This explanation can answer most of your questions. Do not be tempted to say that the miracle of the oil was "invented" in the Talmud, as some modern savants wish to say. The miracle was known but was not commemorated immediately. This is also the reason for the Mehadrin aspect which came later (Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel lived at the time of the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdash and therefore commemorated this miracle.)

Yoel Domb

David Goldman asks:

Thank you, R. Yoel. Perhaps I wasn't clear. I meant that the concept of Pirsum Nisa is stated only by RASHI, not by the gemara, which only ascribes pirsum nissa to reading the megillah. Indeed Rashi ascribes "pirsum nissa" to heseva and the Kesef Mishna to the four cups at Pesach (without any explanation of how these are equivalent at all to the reading of the megillah).

I long wondered how the appearance of (at least) a single candle could be comparable to reading aloud a description of miracles. Certainly chazal could have described the candle(s) as pirsum nissa, but they didn't. So if we see that the shita of Rashi is not binding obviously, then the alternative reason for lighting outside the house according to the Mishnah would simply be because in those days candles illuminated the house, and chazal stated that the candles of Chanukah are not to be used for illumination.

When Jews stopped placing the candles outside they moved them to the window, which would also be a place where the candles would not be used for light. And then bideved, placing them away from the window just as a reminder of the miracle of the rededication of the Temple (leaving aside the hypothesis of Rashi as pirsum nissa).

Yet commentators spend so much time describing halachas and explanations about the candles that are not even mentioned in the mishna or have any extensive discussion anywhere else. The truth of the story itself is ambiguous since the story is not introduced with the name of a tanna or amora, and not as "tannu rabbanan." It's just reported as a shmua and left at that. Yet later commentators sought to make of it much more than the gemara or Yerushalmi or midrashim themselves!

And even if Rebbe decided to mute the significance, the later gemaras and midrashim could certainly have elaborated on it.

The Kollel replies:

The Gemara says "Tanu Rabanan..." immediately after the question of the Gemara, "Mai Chanukah," and in the Kisvei Yad it also says "Tanu Rabanan" or "Tanya," so we are talking about a Tannaic source.

I also cited the Gemara which says "Pirsumei Nisa Adif" regarding the Chanukah candles (Shabbos 23b). This is proof of how the Amora'im understood the Ner Chanukah.

The reason why there is no Megilah on Chanukah is explained in the Gemara in Megilah 7a, where the Gemara searches for a source to allow a Megilah to be written for Purim. Without such a source there is no permission to write down the story of Chanukah and it would be a dangerous precedent to add other material after the Bible had already been canonized. (People could then ask that Ben Sira, and other early writings, be considered a holy work.)

The candle placed in the window or outside is certainly Pirsumei Nisa, and that which is placed on the table functions as a reminder to the family themselves of the unique event.

The Talmud, however, does not see any reason to elaborate on the historical aspects of Chanukah which, as I wrote previously, evolved over time.

Yoel Domb