Monday, December 29, 2008

a zar lighting menorah

The Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 98) writes that for many years he was troubled by the Rambam's opinion (Hil Bi'as Mikdash ch 9) that a zar is permitted to light the menorah. The only way this would seem practically possible is if a kohen removed the menorah from the heichal (which a zar is not permitted to enter), a zar lit the menorah, and a kohein then returned the menorah to its proper place. However, this scenario cannot work. The gemara tells us with respect to lighting our Chanukah menorah that the hadlakah and not the hanacha, the lighting and not the placement of the menorah is the mitzvah, and therefore lighting must be done in a spot which is kosher for the mitzvah to be fulfilled. For example, assuming the menorah needs to be placed in public view by a doorway, one cannot fulfill the mitzvah by lighting in one's basement and then carrying the menorah and placing it in its proper location. If so, writes the Minchas Chinuch, the same should hold true with respect to the menorah of the mikdash --lighting done outside the heichal by a zar and then moving the menorah into the heichal should constitute an invalid act of lighting and not fulfill any mitzvah. How then can the Rambam declare that a zar is permitted to light?

One can perhaps answer this question of the Minchas Chinuch with R' Chaim Brisker's explanation of that same Rambam. R' Chaim suggests that the Rambam does not view the act of lighting the menorah in the mikdash as a mitzvah at all. There is a requirement for the menorah to be lit, a chiyuv in the cheftza of the menorah, but how that result is achieved, the process of lighting, is not in-and-of-itself a mitzvah act. It is for this reason that a zar can light.

The Minchas Chinuch's comparison between the halacha of lighting our Chanukah menorah and the mitzvah of lighting the menorah in the mikdash is a false analogy. With respect to the Chanukah menorah, the act of lighting is itself a mitzvah, and must therefore be done in a proper location. With respect to the menorah in the mikdash, the act of lighting is just a preparatory condition but is not itself a mitzvah.

Returning to the issue we raised in yesterday's post, we can now argue that the fact that according to the Beis Yosef the menorah oil was divided into eight equal parts of insufficient oil does not prove that one gets credit for performing a mitzvah with less than the proper shiur, e.g. eating less than a k'zayis of matzah. Lighting the menorah is not inherently a mitzvah act (compare with the Beis HaLevi mentioned yesterday) and hence a lack of shiur is not an impediment to lighting. The same cannot be said of eating matzah where the act itself is a mitzvah.

7 comments:

  1. why can't you simply say that the menora doesn't need a shiur of oil. It needed to be lit all night. How much oil you needed could theoretically depend on the quality of oil. If someone developed in olive that produced oil that allowed you to use just a drop of oil for the night, that would be sufficient. In the case of chanuka, they did have such oil only it was b'derech neis.

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  2. why can't you simply say that the menora doesn't need a shiur of oil. It needed to be lit all night. How much oil you needed could theoretically depend on the quality of oil. If someone developed in olive that produced oil that allowed you to use just a drop of oil for the night, that would be sufficient. In the case of chanuka, they did have such oil only it was b'derech neis.

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  3. I don't understand... when they lit the oil they had no idea that a nes was going to happen. The hava amina must have been that af al pi kein there is a kiyum in the hadlakah even if it doesn't last.

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  4. let me take a different approach. there is a discussion in the achronim whether kitutei mechtas shiurei (or however you spell it in English) applies to candles/oil that is made from issurei hanaah (ayin Sha'ar Teshuva in Hil Chanukah). The sevara brought down by some achronim to say this halacha doesn't apply is that we don't need a set amount of oil for chanukah-we just need the oil to last 1/2 hour. How much oil you put in is irrelevant-it is just a hecha timtza to get to 1/2 hour.

    one could argue hu hadin in the Beis HaMikdash-you just need oil to last the night. what the shiur is irrelevant

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  5. As far as the Chashmonaim were concerned they did not have enough oil to last the night, so what were they hoping to accomplish?

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  6. the first candlesticks for channukah came from the holy fingers of god into Israel, "and they doth find my hand in gold, for I have given Yishrael my soul, and this represents my soul, light it in woe and we will have woe, so, light it in hope...."

    http://dadoichzlig.blogspot.com

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  7. >> As far as the Chashmonaim were concerned they did not have enough oil to last the night, so what were they hoping to accomplish?

    I agree that is a good question, but that question exists whatever you hold regarding the halacha of having a shiur

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