After the Talmud relates the brocha for the Chanukah
candles ("who has sanctified us by His commands and commanded us concerning
the Chanukah candles"), the sages ask: "Where has He commanded
The miracle of Chanukah occurred long after the Tanach
was written. Its laws are not found anywhere in the Written Torah.
The Talmud answers: "Do not turn away from the
word which they [the judges] will tell you..." (Devorim [Deut. 23:11])
The Torah has commanded us to abide by the Rabbinic rulings (Shabbos 23a
and Sukkah 46a).
In general, the Torah did not demand that women perform
positive, active mitzvos. One reason given in the pamphlet "Mitzvos
Sh'hazman Grama": Mitzvos come in order to correct the evil inclination.
Since women have a more noble nature than men, they do not require the
correction provided by the commandments.
"Mikraei Kodesh" (writings of Rav Tzvi
Pesach Frank) discusses an interesting topic. Women share in the obligation
to light the Chanukah candles. The reason is explained in the Talmud by
Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi: The candles come to remind us of the miracles
at Chanukah, and women shared in the benefit brought by the miracles. (According
to Rashi and Rashbam, righteous women generated the miracles -- they were
actually seen as the prime cause for the miracles' occurrence.) The Chavas
Yair asks, "Why do we need the reason of Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi --
that women shared in the benefit of the miracles? We have anyway decided
that the command for the candles came from the verse 'Do not turn from
the word which they will tell you...' (Devorim [Deut. 23:11]). This verse
is expressed in the negative -- as a crime, if one disobeys -- and women's
responsibility for crimes, is equivalent to that of the men." In other
words, women are obligated in all Rabbinic decrees, just as men are, because
defiance of the Rabbinic decrees is a violation, a crime. If so, why did
the Talmud give another reason -- that "women shared in the benefit
brought by the miracles?"
The "Aderes" (Rav Eliahu Dovid Rabinowitz
Te'umim) answers surprisingly: In truth, the assumption expressed by the
question is correct. Women are actually obligated in the Chanukah laws
because of the responsibility to abide by the Rabbinic decrees. As seen
elsewhere, Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi -- alone -- was of a different opinion.
Therefore, he needed a different reason that women would be obligated in
the Rabbinic laws of Chanukah. However, the final ruling does not concur
with his view. Rather, as the Chavas Yair said, women share the obligation
of the Chanukah lights because they share the duty to abide by Rabbinic
The Source of the Chanukah Laws,
In reference to the question, "Where has He
commanded us?" regarding Chanukah, another answer was given by the
Gemara. "Ask your fathers and they will tell you, your elders, and
they will say to you." Devorim [Deut. 32:7]
The Hebrew for elders is "ziknecha." The
Talmud already said -- "zakein" -- "zeh sh'kaneh chochmah"
-- "this (is the one) who acquired wisdom."
"Ask your fathers and they will tell you, your
elders, and they will say to you," refers to the combination of the
fathers and the wisemen.
The "fathers" refers to the natural ability,
given from parents to chidden -- the sanctity of Yisrael. The "wisemen"
refers to the Torah's oral traditions, which must be taught.
When is there a synthesis between "fathers"
and "wisemen?" When the child produces novel ideas from his own
wisdom (illustrating the natural ability of "fathers" -- the
sanctity of Yisrael) which finds pleasure in the eyes of the "wisemen."
[Rav Yitzchak Hutner, Pachad Yitzchak, Chanukah]
was an innovation. Rav Shlomo Kluger stated that
Chanukah was the only miracle which occurred spontaneously, without having
been predetermined. Taking on the greatest military power of the ancient
world -- the Selucid Greeks of Syria -- spontaneously, the Kohanim inspired
new miracles. Fiercely courageous, undauntingly inspired, quashing all
thought of despair, the Cheshmonaim pressed on.
The laws of Chanukah, too, were innovative. Inspired
not by rebellion, but by adherence, in accordance with the abilities of
the fathers and finding pleasure in the eyes of the wisemen, they provide
invigoration and inspiration.
Ramban [Parshas Vayechi], found fault with the family
of the Cheshmonaim, because they held on to the Kingdom for so long, when
it should have returned to the house of Dovid Hamelech [King David]. This
is an example of something the Musar exponents have told us -- faults indicate
the praise. Avraham was faulted with a minor failing in faith, but Rav
Leib Chasman taught that the reason for the blame over such a minor issue
was to show how deeply appreciated was the faith of the man. So much was
expected from such an individual -- who set the standard -- that the tiniest
appearance of lack of faith was found unworthy. [Ohr Yaheil, Lech Lecha]
So, too, with the Cheshmonaim. Their audacity became
their blame, when it carried on into the following generations. Here, indeed,
we find their praise. Innovate with adherence, rebel for steadfastness.
Their adherence to the monarchy was in order to maintain the authority
of Torah and constancy of Jewish self-government.
So much was expected from such determined individuals,
that the appearance of any inconsistency with the fathers or the wisemen
was enough to require censure.
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Beis Medrash Yeshivas Chafetz Chayim Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156