By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
Miketz - Shabbat Chanukah
December 6, 2002
You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many
into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked
into the hands of the righteous, and the arrogant into hands of those who
labor in Your Torah. . . . Afterwards Your children came into the holiest
place of Your House, and they cleared Your Temple, they purified
Your Sanctuary and they lit lights in the courtyards of Your Sanctuary.
They established these eight days of Chanukah, to give thanks and to praise (L’HALLEL)
Your great Name.
Something is missing from the "Al Ha’nissim" prayer that we recite during
Chanukah namely, the obligation to kindle the Chanukah lights. Instead, it
seems that the festival was established primarily for praising Hashem, which
we perform through the recitation of the Full Hallel, as the Talmud (Shabbat
The next year they established the [days] as a festival with
Indeed, Rambam describes Chanukah in a similar fashion:
Therefore the Sages in that generation enacted that these eight
days beginning with the 25th of Kislev be days of joy (simchah) and praise (Hallel),
and one lights then the lights…
First, Chanukah is defined as a period of joy and Hallel;
afterwards, the lights are mentioned, not mainly as a way of expressing the joy,
but, as Rambam continues, to demonstrate and to reveal
the miracle (Laws of Chanukah 3:3).
[It is worth noting that Rambam teaches the laws of Hallel
recited throughout the year in the balance of Ch. 3 as though Hallel is most
quintessentially identified with Chanukah returning to the specifics of
Chanukah candle lighting only in Ch. 4.]
What is the purpose of the Rabbinic command to recite Hallel in general? Rav
Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), in Shiurim L’zecher Abba, mari zal (I, p.
120 ff.), asserts that the basis of Hallel is joy (simchah). It is similar to,
and flows from the same conceptual source, as the vocal and instrumental music
of the Leviim in the Temple serving Hashem with simchah, as it says:
And it was, that the trumpeters and the singers were as one, to
make one sound to be heard to praise (L’HALLEL) and to thank Hashem (Divrei
HaYamim II 5:13).
Full Hallel is recited on the three pilgrimage festivals of the Torah because of
the commandment, “and you shall be joyful (V’SAMACHTA) on your festival” (Devarim
16:14). However, this commandment does not refer to the Rabbinic festival of
This is the question raised by the Talmud (Arachin 10a-b). There, the premise is
established that a day must be a festival (mo’ed) in order to obligate the
recitation of Hallel. (This excludes Shabbat, which is not a mo’ed, nor is there
a commandment of simchah.)
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are mo’adim; however, no Hallel is recited on these
days, because, as the Sages say (ibid.):
Is it possible that the King sits on the throne of judgment and
the Books of Life and the Books of Death are open before Him, and Israel would
sing before Him?
The simchah of the High Holy Days is muted (cf. Laws of Chanukah
3:6), and thus Hallel is inappropriate.
Another element that must exist in order to obligate Full Hallel is a
prohibition against creative work (issur melachah). The Talmud derives this from
a verse in Yesha’yah (30:29). There, the prophet predicts the miraculous defeat
of Sancheriv, after which Israel will praise Hashem:
The song [Rashi: this refers to Hallel] shall be for you like
the eve when the festival [a day when melachah is forbidden] is sanctified, and
the joy of the heart like one who walks with a flute to come to the mountain of
Hashem, to the Rock of Israel.
Only where there is issur melachah is there Full Hallel.
Consequently, Full Hallel is not recited on Rosh Chodesh, although it is a mo’ed,
because melachah is not forbidden. (This is not the place to discuss the
practice of reciting "half" Hallel on Rosh Chodesh.)
Chanukah is not a mo’ed, nor is it a period of issur melachah. Whence, then, is
the obligation to recite Hallel?
The Talmud’s answer is surprising:
because of the miracle.
But, is the miracle such a powerful element that it obviates the
Talmud’s requirements of mo’ed and issur melachah?
Rav Soloveitchik answers that there are two ways simchah obligates the nation to
1. Externally: when the Torah decrees simchah.
2. Internally: when there is a feeling of simchah.
External simchah obligates Hallel on festivals, just as it
requires meat, wine and wearing attractive clothes (Rambam, Laws of Festivals
6:17-18). Internal simchah must be expressed through Full Hallel on Chanukah
because it is a "fulfillment of the heart."
One of Rav Soloveitchik’s proofs is that which the Talmud says regarding Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur: even if a day is a mo’ed of issur melachah, any
impediment to a genuine fulfillment of simchah will nonetheless preclude Hallel.
Additionally, the verse from Yesha’ya quoted above further supports this
contension, because it speaks of Hallel, both with reference to external simchah
“the eve when the festival is sanctified” as well as internal simchah “and
the joy of the heart.” The salvation from the threat of Sancheriv becomes,
therefore, the archetype for Hallel as an expression of simchah engendered by a
miracle that saves the Jewish People. (This is also not the place to discuss why
Purim a time of a national miracle that produces simchah is not a day for
Hallel.) Even if no other conditions exist, nationwide simchah that comes from
within obligates us to praise Hashem through Hallel, because it is natural
"Al Ha’nissim" explores the causes and the essential character of Chanukah. Rav
Soloveitchik teaches that Chanukah was established by the Sages in order to give
expression to natural, national simchah through Hallel.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!" - Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
The Dream and The Goal
Much of the book of Bereishit, as understood by Ramban, anticipates the
relationship between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel.
Specifically, in Parshat Miketz, we are taught that
leaving Eretz Yisrael is considered a descent, yerida (Bereishit 42:2-3);
while returning home to Eretz Yisrael is defined as an ascent, aliya
(ibid. 44:17). Furthermore, we ultimately come to realize that the sale of
Yoseph, which eventually resulted in Yaacov and family going down to Egypt
in fulfillment of the Divine decree (ibid. 15:13-14), was a necessary
preparatory stage for full redemption.
Yoseph the vice-king plays out two critically important roles of
leadership; he actively deals with matters of state along with matters of
economics (ibid. 42:6). On the one hand, Yoseph is personally living out
his own dreams of Parshat Vayeshev (ibid. 37:7-9) - that of provider
linked with that of ruler. However, in the spirit of "our forefathers'
actions are preludes to Jewish destiny," Yoseph inculcates his personal
dreams with future national aspirations. Agricultural resuscitation in
Eretz Yisrael, along with independent political revival have been singled
out by our sages as clear indications of the impending approach of
redemption (Sanhedrin 98a-99a). Yoseph remembers the dreams and recognizes
their long-range significance; tragically, the other brothers do not.
On the last day of Chanukah, having progressed to the lighting of the
eighth candle, it is time to rediscover the dreams of old, dedicated to
the attainment of tomorrow's goals at the final chanukat Bet HaMikdash.
By Rabbi Dr. Aaron Adler, Jerusalem
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320