Volume 50 Number 57
                    Produced: Thu Dec 15  5:43:47 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

"Minor" Holiday (12)
         [Art Sapper, Irwin E. Weiss, Art Werschulz, Akiva Miller,
Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz, Aharon Fischman, Nathan Lamm, Bruce
Abrams, Freda B Birnbaum, Ben Katz, Daniel Werlin, Robert


From: <asapper@...> (Art Sapper)
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 10:24:39 -0500
Subject: "Minor" Holiday

Tzvi Stein writes:
> I've often chafed at hearing the mention of Chanuka as a "minor
> holiday".  I have even heard the even more annoying term "very minor
> holiday". Whenever I do, I am reminded of a statement made by my Rosh
> Yeshiva that "Chanuka is everything". It ocurred to me recently that the
> only people I ever hear calling it a "minor holiday" are non-Orthodox
> Jews or non-Jews.  I have never heard a frum person call it a "minor
> holiday".  This is quite ironic when you consider the fact that some of
> the most "major" holidays we have, such as Succos, are hardly observed
> or even known by many non-Orthdox Jews.  I even heard a national
> (non-Jewish) radio commentator make the "minor holiday" remark as part
> of a tirade about the "attack on Christmas".
> Does anyone have any insights on the source for this?  All I can think
> of is that it's some weird Jewish inferiority complex, resulting in 
> them thinking there is no way we could have a holiday better than a
> non-Jewish one.  If there's a Jewish holiday at the same time, it must
> be "minor".

I keep (or try to keep) the mitzvoth, and I insist - precisely as a
point of accuracy and THEREFORE Jewish pride - in calling Chanukah a
"minor" holiday.  As to whether it is a minor holiday: It is not a
biblical holiday (unlike Purim), one may work on it, and there is almost
nothing in the Talmud about it.  Unlike Tisha B'Av, it does not mark a
biblical event.  It was also so late in developing that one group of
Indian Jews, and all Ethiopian Jews, never heard of it.  In Europe, its
observance was low-key.  It rose in public attention only because it
falls at about the same time as Christmas.

I am not saying that Chanukah is unimportant.  On the contrary, as I
discuss below, preserving its true (anti-assimilation) character, is
ever more important.  My point is that its importance pales in
comparison to Shabbath, the shalosh regalim, and the Yomim Noraim.

Whether Chanukah is a minor holiday is not important in relations
between observant Jew and observant Jew, or between Jew and G-d, but
between Jew and non-Jew or non-observant Jew.  When a new fellow worker
remarks with surprise that I have come to work on Chanukah - since he
has been misled into believing that Chanukah plays as large a role in
Judaism as Christmas plays in Christianity - the most illuminating and
useful thing I can say is that Chanukah is a minor holiday, and that the
Sabbath and the other holidays are much more important.  I can say from
repeated personal experience with non-Jews and especially unobservant
Jews that this usage highlights and elevates in their minds the
importance of Jewish holidays such as Shavuoth and Shemini Atzereth,
which almost no non-Jews and few unobservant Jews otherwise would
otherwise know anything about.  This usage also preserves the from
distortion Chanukah's true character by preventing the assimilation of
Chanukah to Christmas.  This point that should be especially important
when it comes to Chanukah, for the principle reason for the struggle of
the Maccabees was to battle assimilation and distortion of Judaism and
of the Jewish people.

From: Irwin E. Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 08:19:08 -0500
Subject: "Minor" Holiday

Tzvi Stein writes to observe that Chanukah is irritatingly characterized
as a minor holiday.  (Vol 50 #56).  I guess it depends on what one means
by a "minor holiday".  It is a holiday upon which we may work, unlike
some holidays.  We can cook, unlike some holidays.  But, of course, the
miracles of Chanukah are not minor at all, and Chanukah is 4 times as
long as Rosh Hashanah!

It's an expression without much meaning, since "minor" is a relative
term.  I don't like it either, particularly when non-Jews characterize
it that way.  I don't characterize their holidays as minor or major,
because it's not up to me.  To me, all of their holidays are minor.

Purim Katan......that is pretty minor.
Irwin Weiss
Baltimore, MD

From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 10:43:07 -0500
Subject: "Minor" Holiday

I don't think I have a "weird Jewish inferiority complex", but I have
often referred to Hanukah as a "minor holiday".  By this, I mean the

(1) It's not established by the (Written) Torah.

(2) One is allowed to do melacha on Hanukah.

(3) If you use the number of aliyot associated with the Torah reading as
    your measure of importance, then Hanukah is at the same level as a
    Monday or Thursday morning.

I would describe Purim as a "minor holiday", for the same reasons.

FWIW, note that Rosh Hodesh doesn't satisfy (1), it does satisfy (2).
WRT item (3), it has the minimal number of aliyot among all moadim that
are d'oraita.  So, Rosh Hodesh might be described as being "less minor"
than Hanukah, but "more minor" than the the other holidays (and

Art Werschulz (8-{)}   "Metaphors be with you."  -- bumper sticker
GCS/M (GAT): d? -p+ c++ l u+(-) e--- m* s n+ h f g+ w+ t++ r- y? 
Internet: agw STRUDEL cs.columbia.edu
ATTnet:   Columbia U. (212) 939-7060, Fordham U. (212) 636-6325

From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 18:13:04 GMT
Subject: Re: "Minor" Holiday

My experience is the exact opposite, that it is the non-Jews and
non-learned Jews who think that it is major.

I myself often refer to Chanuka as "minor". No kiddush, no havdala, no
musaf. For the men, there's not even a suggestion to avoid going to
work, such as we have on Purim. Women are advised not to work, but even
there, only while the candles are burning, not all day.

But I wouldn't call it "Very minor". That category is for Tu B'Shvat, Tu
B'Av, Lag B'Omer, Purim Katan, and such.

None of this should be construed as disagreeing with his Rosh Yeshiva's
statement that "Chanuka is everything". There certainly are some very
important things that can be said about Chanuka, just as there are very
important things about Lag B'Omer, Purim Katan, and every other day of
the year.

Everything is special, but some are more special than others.

Akiva Miller

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 10:51:29 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: "Minor" Holiday

The use of the term "minor" is to set Chanukah apart from Rosh Hashana
and Succos on the one hand and l'havdil xmas on the other.  The goyim
who try to make a "holiday season" push Chanukah as if it is on the same
level to us as xmas is to them.  That is the mistake that people using
the term "minor" are trying to correct.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<Sabba.Hillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water

From: Aharon Fischman <afischman@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 09:37:19 -0500
Subject: "Minor" Holiday

When discussing the upcoming 'holiday' season, many of my co-workers are
under the impression that Chanukah is as important to us as x-mas is to
them (and wondering if I have to take time off like other holidays).  I
correct them not to minimize Judaism, but to put it in it's proper
perspective amongst the other holidays of the year.

Aharon Fischman

From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 12:30:24 -0800 (PST)
Subject: "Minor" Holiday

Tzvi Stein takes issue with those who refer to Chanuka as a "minor"
holiday and suggests that those who refer to it as such have an
inferiority complex vis a vis Christmas.

With all due respect, I'm afraid he has it exactly backwards. In
halachic terms, Chanuka certainly is "minor". It's DiRabbanan and
Melacha is allowed. I don't see how it can be placed above the level of
Succos (except from a sociological point of view, which is meaningless
in halacha). Until about a hundred years ago, Chanuka was truly minor-
see Herman Wouk's "This Is My God" for a good picture.

Don't get me wrong- I love Chanuka and appreciate its message
greatly. The problem is, that message should only show us *not* to call
it a "major" holiday just because it falls when it does.  In other
words, it's those who insist that it's major who may suffer from an
inferiority complex, in not being able to say that we have many major
holidays; they just don't fall in the winter.

Nachum Lamm

From: Bruce Abrams <bruce_abrams@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 14:20:20 +0200
Subject: RE: "Minor" Holiday

As an orthodox Jew, I believe the characterization of Chanukah as a
minor holiday is largely accurate, as it is strictly Rabbinic in nature.
More basically, though, I believe that when most orthodox Jews similarly
characterize it a minor, it is as a backlash against the commercialism
of the "Holiday Season" outside of Israel.

Since Christmas is a very major holiday on the Christian calendar, the
overblown commercialism of the festival is understandable, although
still inappropriate (according to most Christian religious leaders).
When (mostly) non-Orthodox Jews blow up the scale of Chanukah to match
the over blown commercialism of Christmas, it is inappropriate not only
in the same way that Christmas commercialism is, but more so in that
Chanukah doesn't occupy the relative stature (on our calendar) that
Christmas does(on their calendar).

In other words, even if the over blown commercial celebration of
Christmas was appropriate (due to the holiday's importance, Chanukah
isn't the holiday on our calendar that should be getting the same
treatment from us.  That it does is only due to its proximity to

Bruce Abrams

From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 11:10:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject: "Minor" Holiday

I think many people use it to try to make the distinction, to non-Jews
or nonobservant Jews, between full-blown holidays when we need to leave
early, take a vacation day, etc., and the less full-blown ones when we

Freda Birnbaum

From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 14:42:46 -0600
Subject: Re: "Minor" Holiday

         WADR I believe Mr. Stein is mistaken and upset over nothing.
I, as an observant Jew, ALWAYS refer to Chanukah as a minor holiday,
ESPECIALLY when I discuss it to Christmas, with non-Jews.  I explain
that Chanukah has become magnified in Christian countries because it
falls out usually at the same time of year, that Jews in Israel don't
give Chanukah presents, and that because we are allowed to work and
because it is post-Biblical it does not rank with Passover, the High
Holidays, etc.  Just because most non Observant Jews do not celebrate
Succot does not make Succot a minor holiday, nor is Chanukah any less
joyous or any less wonderful as a "minor" holiday.  It is, of course,
the first holiday to celebrate religious freedom, and it commemorates
the first time anyone fought for (and won) freedom of religion.

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Children's Memorial Hospital, Division of Infectious Diseases
2300 Children's Plaza, Box # 20, Chicago, IL 60614
e-mail: <bkatz@...>

From: Daniel Werlin <dwerlin06@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 03:04:24 -0500
Subject: "Minor" Holiday

I don't think there is any need to suggest some sort of Jewish
inferiority complex by designating Chanukah a minor holiday when
discussing the holidays of others during this time.  In the Jewish
calendar, people travel across the world to be home for Pesach and the
Yamim Noraim, but not Chanukah (granted, they don't generally do so for
Shavuot either).  Further it is not d'oraita [Biblical] and is, I
believe, mentioned only 5 times in the Mishnah, and then only in
passing.  It's not until Megilat Taanit and the Gemarah that Chanukah
gets full treatment.  In that respect, it is somewhat of a "second
class" holiday.

Although the message of Chanukah is important, especially today, and we
should observe Purim and Chanukah just as scrupulously as Yom Kippur,
there is no berachah of kedushat ha-yom [sanctification of the day] as
there is for d'oraita holidays.  I think one could safely refer to
Chanukah as a minor holiday without either a) believing its minor status
derives from comparison to Christmas, or b) being a non-observant Jew.

Dan Werlin

From: Robert Rubinoff <rubinoff@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 20:00:03 -0500
Subject: Re: "Minor" Holiday

I always just assumed it was an attempt to avoid having Chanuka treated
as the "Jewish Christmas" - saying "why are you making a big deal out of
this holiday just because it comes around the same time as *your* major
holiday?"  It's not a matter of an "inferiority" complex, it's just a
reaction to people treating Chanuka as if it were the most important
Jewish holiday of the year, which it clearly is not.  (And it shouldn't
really be considered an insult to call it a "minor" holiday - note that
there is a tractate of Mishnah/Talmud called "Mo'ed Katan" ["Little



End of Volume 50 Issue 57