Friday, March 06, 2009

Tetzaveh: R' Chaim's question on the menorah that kept burning

Speaking of Brisker torah... The Midrash Tanchma on this week's parsha cites R' Chanina Sgan haKohanim's testimony that a miracle occurred in the Mikdash and the menorah burned from one Rosh haShana to the next without needing to be relit. In R' Shternbruch's sefer "Ta'am v'Da'as" he quotoes that R' Chaim Brisker was puzzled by this Midrash. If the menorah burned without interruption, how did the Kohanim fulfill the daily mitzvah of hadlakas hamenorah?

The Imrei Emes answered this question based on a din in hilchos Shabbos. Adding oil to a lamp so that it burns longer violates the melacha of mav'ir. Therefore, explained the Imrei Emes, all the kohanim needed to do on a daily basis is add some oil to the already burning menorah and that is considered lighting!

R' Shternbruch adds that this may answer the question of how hadlakah was done, but it does not resolve how the daily mitzvah of dishun hamenorah, cleaning the wicks was done. Me thinks that R' Shternbruch gives up too much ground to the Imrei Emes. Those learning Bava Kamma are probably wondering (based on 60a) whether what constitutes mav'ir in the meleches machsheves world of hilchos Shabbos can also be called mav'ir in other domains as well. Be that as it may, there is another point missing in R' Shternbruch's discussion. Recall that we learned Chanukah time that R' Chaim holds that there is in fact no chovas hagavra to light the menorah; the mitzvah is for the cheftza of the menorah to remain lit. The Rambam paskens that even a non-kohein can light the menorah provided it is then moved into its proper location -- as long as the menorah ends up burning in its proper place who lights and where they light is just a hechsher mitzvah. When R' Chaim uses the word hadlakah, I would venture to say he employs he precisely the way the Rambam uses it (Hil. Temidim ch 3.), especially given that R' Chaim himself (GR"CH al haRambam) focusses on these very words -- "hadlakas haneiros hi hatavasam"! Given that background, it seems obvious that it's not the absence of hadlakah=lighting which troubled R' Chaim, but it is the absence of hadlakah=cleaning the burnt wicks and preparing for a new lighting, the absense of a process of hatavah, which R' Chaim found so troubling. That was the original intent of the question, and that point is not addressed by the Imrei Emes' otherwise clever answer.


  1. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Unless pouring in oil is also a maaseh hatavah. Who says it has to include removing the old wick and oil? If pouring in oil counts as hatavah, then you could use the Imrei Emes but not mi'taamei.

  2. Anonymous5:30 AM

    Is it possible what I think I heard once from a French rabbi? That Kohanim would be every time mechabe the Temple Menorah so that they could light it again? I think I really heard this many years ago, but then how would that fit with the commandement of tamid? Isn't there a contradiction? Or probably it's my memory...