Volume 41 Number 73
                 Produced: Tue Jan  6  5:55:33 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chanuka Miracle 8 Days or 7?
         [Stan Tenen]
Chanukah (2)
         [Michael Kahn, Avi Feldblum]
Hanukkah miracle
         [Sammy Finkelman]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Mon, 05 Jan 2004 09:58:27 -0500
Subject: Re: Chanuka Miracle 8 Days or 7?

Shemona derives from Shemen. It's geometry. An oil droplet is
near-spherical, and the closest natural sphere we have, our skull, has 8
major bones. When you divide a sphere by use of the "6 directions of
space" (the x,y,z coordinate system), you get 8 octants.

The same is true for the other names of the numbers. They are derivative
of basic geometric forms. Today, we call these "symmetry distinctions",
and they're the basis of group theory.

Be well.



From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Mon, 05 Jan 2004 12:34:43 -0500
Subject: RE: Chanukah

>While the laws of Chanukah may be halakhah, the Gemara does not say
>they are kept because of *this* reason.

Someone else wrote this too. But at least according to Rashi's
interpretation of the Gemara it is inaccurate. Shabbos 21b asks "Mai
Chanuka" or "What is Chanuka"to which Rashi explains, "Al Eiza Nes
Kavuha" or "For which Miracle was it established?" The Gemara responds
by recounting the miracle of the oil. Thus the Gemara is telling us that
the LAWS OF CHANUKA were established due to the miracle of the oil.

Also, to which miracle do the bracha of Shesah Nisim refer to? Since it
is said upon lighting the menora I think It is obviously referring to
the miracle of the oil. Isn't it hypocritical to recite such a blessing
if you don't believe such a miracle took place.

The story of the miracle of the oil is an Agada with Halachik

>Megilla Chanukah/Antiochus is late; much later than the Books of

What is your source for this? Rav Saadya Goan and the Bhag held it to be
an early source.

From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2004 05:54:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Chanukah

I would like to point out that there are often more than one way to
interpret the same set of texts. For those who view it as likely that the
emphasis on the miracle of the oil is a late development for various
reasons, the structure of the same Gemara is viewed as a proof text. The
question that is raised is why is it necessary to ask the question of
"Mai Chanuka?". We do not find a similar statement about the other
holidays. If the reason for Chanuka was so clear, why is presented in this
format. This is not the standard format you would expect for simply
presenting an historical background to a holiday. The speculation that is
raised by this, is that the miracle of the oil was NOT the dominent nature
of the holiday till that time, and Chazal, for what ever reason, chose to
change the nature of the holiday from whatever it was previously to one
that focused on the miracle of the oil.

It is critical to understand that in the scheme of miracles that have been
performed by HaShem for Am Yisrael, to have the oil last for 8 days does
not rank up there as such an unusual miracle as to merit an 8 day holiday.
Therefor it is important to try and understand what Chazal was focusing
the holiday on. The miracle is likely a vehicle or symbol, not the reason
for the holiday.

Given the above, it is far from clear to me that when we make the bracha -
she'asa nisim la'vosainu - that He has performed signs/miracles for our
ancesters - that the core of the beracha is referring to the miracle of
the oil. The lighting of the menora is the vehicle that Chazal has chosen
to embody the message of Chanuka. The beracha is on the message of
Chanuka, the menora and miracle of oil the medium through which Chazal has
established as the halachik framework to symbolize the message.

Hopefully one of the more professional or amatuer historians will respond
to the issue of Megillat Antiochus, but it is fairly certain that the text
we have today and call by that name is a middle ages document.

Avi Feldblum


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Sun, 01 Jan 04 13:07:00 -0400
Subject: Re: Hanukkah miracle

This may be a little wordy

From: Bernard J. Sussman <sussmanbern@...>

BS>  So my question: Is it an absolute requirement of Judaism to believe
BS> in the story of a single day's jar of oil miraculously lasting eight
BS> days?  Or is it permitted to believe a less miraculous story of the
BS> Hasmonean victory and rededication of the Temple??

It is probably not an absolute requirement at all. First of all, it is
the Torah which we have to accept as true, but not words of Hazal, which
aren't even part of the Kesuvim. We also believe that the Torah was
passed down to us correctly and we abide by their decrees and
decisions. That goes as far as Halachah is concerned, but I think Rav
Sherira Gaon or Rav Hai Gaon wrote to people from Europe or North Africa
that we don't have to accept Aggada and in fact cannot since various
aggadahs contradict each other.

(Halacha is different for two reasons. It is practice, so people don't
get it wrong so easily, and people are more motivated to raise their
voices and start a possible machlokes - cf Nazir 50a, right at the top.
Rabbi Yose disputed (only) because it concerned what was the correct
Torah, but had this been a matter of Agada he would have kept silent.)

There is good reason for wondering whether any departure from normal
laws of nature could have happened then. But there is no reason to
believe that the story of oil didn't happen, or that any of the Talmudic
sources or statements are wrong. What there *is* reason to believe is
that have been some profound misconceptions here, which caught even
great Rabbis, at least after the Gaonic period.

The first misconception is that they used the original Menorah that was
in the Temple before it was defiled. Not only is there no good reason to
believe that in the first place (the Menorah was made of gold and
weighed a Kikur [talent], which is between 1500 and 1600 ounces, and
there would have been no special use for it in the idolatry carried on
at the Temple in the intervening time, and it is very reasonable to
suppose it had been taken away) that idea is flat out wrong! The Gemorah
specifically states that they used iron bars - shifudim shel barzel
(Menochos 28b near the bottom and Rosh Hashonah 24b at the top.)

The current text in Rosh Hashonah says the iron was coated with zinc -
or a word translated as tin, zinc or pewter. Pewter is an alloy of tin
with various metals - lead, brass (copper and zinc) or copper.  But that
probably should be coated with wood. Wood is what Soncino says the
Munich manuscript says. An extra Beiz can turn "with wood" (Beh-etz)
into "with tin" (or whatever that word bah-atz means) (Beh-bah-atz)

Asterisks and the corresponding notes in the Gemorah seem to indicate
Shabbos 29 would be a third place this is reported, but I can't find
anything there related.

I believe this fact is also contained in Pesikta Rabbati, which dates
from the earlier Gaonic period and of course is a compilation of much
earlier things. There is an excerpt quoted in Phillip Goodman's "The
Chanukah Anthology" but I don't have that book now.  (Pesikta Rabbati,
while that should be considered a good reliable Rabbinic source, is
obscure these days)

I realize some people might think it was a *later* Menorah that was made
of iron, or wood and silver and so on, but why if they had the original
menorah would they lose it later or replace it? We never read anything
anywhere like that. Even if the Menorah mentioned in the Gemorah was
only from a later period, how much more so was the first one the
Hasmoneans had not made of gold, and make-shift?

Some people, in later years, remembered only the wood, or that later
regular usage was the only one important Halachically as far as not
being able to copy it is concerned and that's why Rabbi Yose ben Yehuda
said they made it out of wood. (If you have the word "Be-atz" instead of
"etz" what follows in Rosh Hashonah 24a looks like they are describing a
totally different object, rather than adding an important detail.)

The one on the 25th of Kislev that year might have been the one made of
iron rods - probably at that stage not coated with wood, since Menochos
28b doesn't mention the coating. It might be that that's the way it
started out - and then they kept it and made it look a bit more
beautiful. A reason for keeping the same Menorah for a period of time
might have been that it was made Kodesh, and that couldn't be taken
away, and that might mean to the Hamoneans that it *should* be used, at
least till they got richer.

In any case, we come to the conclusion that it was a replacement Menorah
they used in the 148th year of the Seleucid era. (164 BCE.)

The second big misconception is that the replacement Menorah the
Hasmoneans made was the same size as the original Menorah. While there
is nothing that says that it was not, the Gemorah in Menachos 28a says
that once the gold goes, the size (a KIKUR - Shemos 25:39) also goes. It
seems to me this Halakhic principle would not have been taught had not
in fact, at some point, or points, the Menorah been smaller. So it is
reasonable that when they made it out of bits of iron it would have been
smaller too.

And if the whole lamp would have been smaller, the oil-containing parts
could have been smaller too. Is there any halachah anywhere that says
what the size of the flame should be?

And if you didn't have enough oil, and there were no Halakhic
objections, and you really wanted it to last eight days, what would
*you* do? Why, try to make a smaller flame!! What else? Why not?

Assuming, that is, there was no Halakhic obstacle. And there probably
isn't any, once you are already missing a full scale golden Menorah,
(cast in one piece)

Now, simply reducing the dimensions by a half in all directions probably
wouldn't do that - the speed of burning or quantity consumed may very
well depend a lot more on other things.

David Charlap wrote in mail-jewish in Volume 37 Number 15 that:

" Oil lamps will also burn for several days if the resivoir [sic] is
large enough and the wick's length is not too long."

So this could have been done other ways. They could have been careful to
make small wicks - and indeed if what they used didn't resemble at all
what the Menorah described in the Torah looked like, it is somewhat
likely it was carefully designed so as to have the oil last longer.

(Another misconception that some people had was that they arrived there
on the 24th of Kislev, but actually, of course, they had time, and the
rededication was *scheduled* for the 25th of Kislev, because that was
the third anniversary of when it had been defiled. But you probably need
I Maccabees to know that.)

I will leave more for later maybe. I haven't finished with the
misconceptions here. You need a few more to get where we are today. Why
is it called a Nes? Well, you see, that depends on what the word Nes
means. The Gemorah in the begining of Perek V of Bava Basra, discusses
what the word "nes" used in the Mishnah means. It seems like it was one
of those words whose meaning was lost or unclear. It refers you there
(daf 73a) to Yechezkiel where the word is used at 27:7 where it is
referring to the flag at the top of a ship - and the word means a
sign. The word I think only appears twice in the Chumash - once at
Shemos 17:15 at the end of Beshalach and once at Bamidbar 26:10, and it
doesn't mean miracle - it means a sign, because both in the case of
Moshe's hands and in the case of the earth opening up at Moshe's voice
we have a sign - an indication of attention from God. And Rashi in fact
says that at Bamidbar 26:10. It does not, by itself, indicate any
departure from the tevah, and there wasn't anything even close to that
mentioned in the battle with Amalek.

In all of Tanach I don't think you'll find an example where it means
miracle, and even in Modim in the Shemonah Esrei it probably does not
mean that. It certainly doesn't mean that earlier in the Shemonah Esrei
in Tekah B'shofer.

[Added from second message:

Actually this [Yechezkiel 27:7] is translated a number of different
ways, like ensign or sign. the Soncino Bava Basra says "sail" and that
one seems to make the most sense. Why would someone be interested in
buying a flag? No, nes means sail, and it came to be applied to anything
made of cloth high on a ship nd came to have the meaning of flag, and
from there "sign" - an indication of presence.

The fact that the oil burned continoiusly for eight days was considered
a sign because apparently most of the people there had not placed much
hope in that - whatever they were trying. That could be one reason.

Perhaps only a minority at first looked at that as a special sign.

It is only mentioned in the context of the lights but not in the general
story of Chanukah.]

Neither does the word niflaos mean moracle. The word or root peleh in
Modim means "something that we can't figure out" (plug it in into all
the instances of the use of that root) and also not miracle. The closest
to miracle would be Mofeis possibly.

It's true people understand the word nes that way now, but it might very
well be that that very statement about the oil is responsible for the
change in the perception of the meaning of the word "nes" The thing is,
the Megillas Taanis (which is what the Gemorah at Shabbos 21b is
quoting) is extremely condensed.

More on this later maybe. I want to go into:

1) The size of the container. One day's worth might be more than
   16 or 24 hours. They might have a ruling that once opened it was
   not used again another day because of the posisbility it might have
   been made Tomai.

2) What was considered remarkable about the burning.

3) The initial observance of the Hanukkah lights - it was one light to
   commemorate the light(s) that didn't go out and why they established
   it (to get people to remember the whole thing)

4) Who wrote the words about oil (Hananiah ben Hezekiah ben Gurion) and
   what I know about him. He was very important but was made obscure,
   (possibly close to Beis Shammai?) but about 30 years before the
   destruction of the tenmple he must have bene the greatest Tannah.

5) What Josephus says.


End of Volume 41 Issue 73