Re: Ritual Purity of Menorahs

Elliot S. Gordon (elliotgordon@juno.com)
Sun, 17 Nov 1996 21:59:06 PST

The original post in part read:.
>>>..... The white menorah in question had one high >>candle holder then
>>>progressed downward at a forty-five degree angle to the >>lowest candle
....

To which I replied in part:
>>Yes, the shape would be a problem, since 8 candles representing the eight
>>days should be on one equal level. That signifies the equal importance of
>>each day of Chanukah....

Peter Kreps asked,
>What if while the candle holders were on a slant you used candles of unequal
>lengths causing all the wicks and flames to be at the same height? Would
that
>be kosher?
>
>And if each day is supposed to be of equal importance, why do we light one
>candle on one night, two on the next and so on? Why not light just one
candle
>each night. I know there was a debate between Hillel and Shammai about
>whether to start with one and work up to eight or to go the other way
round.
>But why light different numbers on different nights at all?

Further my earlier post on this subject: The Shulchan Aruch in Chap 671
par. 4, explains that lights in a circle or in a zig zag are unacceptable
because the flames may unite into one large flame instead of remaining
individual lights. He does not discuss uneven heights. In the Chaye Adam
Chap. 144, par. 10 he states that, "so too if one lights with wax candles
he should set them on an equal level, and not one high and another low."
C.A. gives the reason being the need for "hidur" (doing the mitzvah in a
beautiful and appealing manner).

Since my reason is not mentioned in either place, I must have heard this al
pi drush (homiletically) and it is not required for the mitzvah. Thus the
menorah in question while not ideal, could be used in the absence of any
other.

As well, if the menorah is tastefully designed, and the _flames_ are all at
an equal height, it would appear from Chaye Adam that you could have
shorter and longer candles _even_ if other menorahs are available.

Hidur, is the essence of the mitzvah of the menorah lights. As Rav S.Y.
Zevin z"l states in Hamoadim Bahalacha, The miracle of the oil was not
necessary according to halacha. Under the extreme circumstances of the
time, it was permissible to light the Temple Menorah with "spiritually
unclean" oil. However the Hashmonaim would not have it thusly, and
insisted on doing whatever possible to light the menorah "lifnim mishuras
hadin, behidur" (beyond the requirements of halachah, with extra beauty).
G-d rewarded them by showing his special love for Israel. He caused the
Tahor ("spiritually clean") oil which was a small quantity only enough for
one day, to be slowly consumed and last for 8 days.

Regarding the equality of the days and the question of why a different
number of lights each day. The equality of the days is established in
halachah. Unlike Pesach and Sukkos where we find intermediate days with
less kedusha (holiness) than the first and last days, Chanukah all the days
are equally important and have the same mitzvos. (note: according to
chassidus, the 8th day is spiritually more "powerful" owing to the
significance of the "spiritual" number 8 over the "physical" cycle of 7, a
subject beyond the scope of this thread. Halachically to my knowledge there
is no difference.)

However, clearly a miracle that continues day after day is more wondrous
and joyous an experience than one that occurs quickly and is over! How do
we show recognition for this? Bais Shammai stated that we look at the
present and future potential. Thus on the first day of Chanukah the
miraculous potential we are celebrating is the greatest. It diminishes each
day as we approach the end of the holiday.

Bais Hillel states that we look at the resulting miracle that has been
experienced; with each passing day the wondrous miracle is increasing.