Parshas Vayeisheiv 5759 - '98

Outline Vol. 3, # 8

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 3 # 5

After the Talmud relates the brocha for the Chanukah candles ("who has sanctified us by His commands and commanded us concerning the Chanukah candles"), the sages ask: "Where has He commanded us?"

The miracle of Chanukah occurred long after the Tanach was written. Its laws are not found anywhere in the Written Torah.

The Talmud answers: "Do not turn away from the word which they [the judges] will tell you..." (Devorim [Deut. 23:11]) The Torah has commanded us to abide by the Rabbinic rulings (Shabbos 23a and Sukkah 46a).

Women's Obligation

In general, the Torah did not demand that women perform positive, active mitzvos. One reason given in the pamphlet "Mitzvos Sh'hazman Grama": Mitzvos come in order to correct the evil inclination. Since women have a more noble nature than men, they do not require the correction provided by the commandments.

"Mikraei Kodesh" (writings of Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank) discusses an interesting topic. Women share in the obligation to light the Chanukah candles. The reason is explained in the Talmud by Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi: The candles come to remind us of the miracles at Chanukah, and women shared in the benefit brought by the miracles. (According to Rashi and Rashbam, righteous women generated the miracles -- they were actually seen as the prime cause for the miracles' occurrence.) The Chavas Yair asks, "Why do we need the reason of Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi -- that women shared in the benefit of the miracles? We have anyway decided that the command for the candles came from the verse 'Do not turn from the word which they will tell you...' (Devorim [Deut. 23:11]). This verse is expressed in the negative -- as a crime, if one disobeys -- and women's responsibility for crimes, is equivalent to that of the men." In other words, women are obligated in all Rabbinic decrees, just as men are, because defiance of the Rabbinic decrees is a violation, a crime. If so, why did the Talmud give another reason -- that "women shared in the benefit brought by the miracles?"

The "Aderes" (Rav Eliahu Dovid Rabinowitz Te'umim) answers surprisingly: In truth, the assumption expressed by the question is correct. Women are actually obligated in the Chanukah laws because of the responsibility to abide by the Rabbinic decrees. As seen elsewhere, Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi -- alone -- was of a different opinion. Therefore, he needed a different reason that women would be obligated in the Rabbinic laws of Chanukah. However, the final ruling does not concur with his view. Rather, as the Chavas Yair said, women share the obligation of the Chanukah lights because they share the duty to abide by Rabbinic law.

The Source of the Chanukah Laws, II

In reference to the question, "Where has He commanded us?" regarding Chanukah, another answer was given by the Gemara. "Ask your fathers and they will tell you, your elders, and they will say to you." Devorim [Deut. 32:7]

The Hebrew for elders is "ziknecha." The Talmud already said -- "zakein" -- "zeh sh'kaneh chochmah" -- "this (is the one) who acquired wisdom."

"Ask your fathers and they will tell you, your elders, and they will say to you," refers to the combination of the fathers and the wisemen.

The "fathers" refers to the natural ability, given from parents to chidden -- the sanctity of Yisrael. The "wisemen" refers to the Torah's oral traditions, which must be taught.

When is there a synthesis between "fathers" and "wisemen?" When the child produces novel ideas from his own wisdom (illustrating the natural ability of "fathers" -- the sanctity of Yisrael) which finds pleasure in the eyes of the "wisemen." [Rav Yitzchak Hutner, Pachad Yitzchak, Chanukah]

was an innovation. Rav Shlomo Kluger stated that Chanukah was the only miracle which occurred spontaneously, without having been predetermined. Taking on the greatest military power of the ancient world -- the Selucid Greeks of Syria -- spontaneously, the Kohanim inspired new miracles. Fiercely courageous, undauntingly inspired, quashing all thought of despair, the Cheshmonaim pressed on.

The laws of Chanukah, too, were innovative. Inspired not by rebellion, but by adherence, in accordance with the abilities of the fathers and finding pleasure in the eyes of the wisemen, they provide invigoration and inspiration.

Ramban [Parshas Vayechi], found fault with the family of the Cheshmonaim, because they held on to the Kingdom for so long, when it should have returned to the house of Dovid Hamelech [King David]. This is an example of something the Musar exponents have told us -- faults indicate the praise. Avraham was faulted with a minor failing in faith, but Rav Leib Chasman taught that the reason for the blame over such a minor issue was to show how deeply appreciated was the faith of the man. So much was expected from such an individual -- who set the standard -- that the tiniest appearance of lack of faith was found unworthy. [Ohr Yaheil, Lech Lecha]

So, too, with the Cheshmonaim. Their audacity became their blame, when it carried on into the following generations. Here, indeed, we find their praise. Innovate with adherence, rebel for steadfastness. Their adherence to the monarchy was in order to maintain the authority of Torah and constancy of Jewish self-government.

So much was expected from such determined individuals, that the appearance of any inconsistency with the fathers or the wisemen was enough to require censure.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Beis Medrash Yeshivas Chafetz Chayim Kiryas Radin

11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: yaakovb@torah.org

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.