Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  Tour of the Temply By Rabbi Yoav Elan
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Chanukah: Finding the Oil

One of the most widely-known miracle of the Chanukah story involves the finding of the flask of pure oil. When the Jews returned to the Temple it appeared that all of the sealed containers of pure olive oil had been contaminated by the Syrian-Greeks and there was none left with which to light the Menorah. By Divine Providence a single sealed flask of oil was found and this miraculously fueled the lamps of the Menorah for seven days while more oil was prepared.

From the description of the Temple given in Tractate Middos (the tractate dedicated to recording the measurements of the Temple) we learn that the main storage area for oil was located in the southwest chamber of the Women's Courtyard the Chamber of the Oil. Certainly all of the containers in this chamber would have been defiled, and it is more likely that the flask was found somewhere else. Here I present two opinions given by the commentators as to where this flask may have been found.

1. In the Sanctuary

The Talmud states that "when the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all of the oil in the Sanctuary." From here we learn that oil was stored in the Sanctuary as well. There were thirty-eight cells, or small rooms, built around three sides of the Sanctuary and the special olive oil used for the Menorah may have been stored here.

The Sanctuary. Area of the
small rooms is highlighted.

Some maintain that the flask of oil of the Chanukah story was found in the Sanctuary. There was a room in the Sanctuary (possibly one of the cells) or, according to a slightly different version, a niche in the wall, which was closed off by a door and sealed with the seal of the High Priest. This area had somehow escaped the notice of the Syrian-Greeks and when it was later opened by the Jews it was found to contain a single flask of olive oil. According to this view, it was not the flask itself which was sealed with the seal of the High Priest but rather the area in which it was found.

2. Beneath the Altar

Southwest corner of the Altar

At the southwest corner of the Altar's top were two receptacles where the wine and water libations were poured. The libations flowed down through the Altar into a deep subterranean cavity called the Shissin. Once every seventy years the Kohanim would enter the Shissin through an access hole in the Courtyard floor in order to empty it of the congealed wine. One opinion maintains that the sealed flask of oil was found within the Shissin, apparently hidden there by a quick-thinking Kohen before the Temple was taken. As for why the Jews were exploring the Shissin at this time, the Altar was in the process of being rebuilt and it is therefore likely that they stumbled upon this flask of oil as they were removing the old stones from the lowest level of the Altar.

________

To submit questions or comments for the author, please visit the blog post of this class.



 






ARTICLES ON LECH LECHA:

View Complete List

Spiritual Lamarckism
Rabbi Dovid Begoun - 5766

Case Closed
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5760

Suicide Moms
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5762

> Recognizing the Source of Our Good
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

The Mind
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

That Fire Within
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Paradoxical Lot
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Avraham Foreshadowed Self-Sacrifice To Make Aliyah
- 5768

A "Sneak Preview" of History
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

ArtScroll

Uniquely Human
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5762

The Perfect Covenant
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

Ask for Spiritual Wealth
Shlomo Katz - 5762

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

I Believe
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5766

The Unique Level of Avraham
Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky - 5763

The Mind's Eye
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Avraham Initiated The 2000 Years of Torah
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information