Monday, December 02, 2013

birchos ner chanukah -- what define the ner as a cheftza shel mitzvah

The gemara (Shabbos 21b) questions how one can hold kavsa ain zakuk lah when there is a din that the candles have to burn ad she’tichleh regel min hashuk.  The gemara gives two answers: 1) you have until ad she’tichleh regel to light, but once you light you are not responsible if the candles go out; 2) you have to put in enough oil to last ad she’tichleh regel. 

Assuming the two answers are in disagreement, a nafka minah would be whether someone who comes home after the time of tichleh regel min hashuk can light.  According to the first answer, ad she’tichleh regel is a time limit; according to the second answer, it’s just a shiur in how much oil you need.  Tosfos paskens that since the issue is a machlokes, you can light late m’safeik, while the Rambam disagrees. 

Shulchan Aruch (672:2) ruless that l’chatchila one should try to light on time in consideration for the Rambam’s view, but b’dieved one can rely on the view of Tos and light all night.

The Be’er Heitev (based on MG”A) points out that the S.A. seems to omit an important qualification.  Since lighting later involves a sfeika d’dina, it would seem that you should light without a bracha.  Yet, the S.A. just says that if you are late, b’dieved you can light -– no word aboutthe bracha (see M.B. is Sha’ar haTziyun).  Why does the mechabeir omit this important detail?

R’ Ya’akov Emden answers that there is a difference between brachos on ner Chanukah and all other brachos.  If you just light a candle, esp if you in chutz la’aretz where we light indoors, the only thing that distinguishes what you are doing as being l’shem mitzvah as opposed to just wanting to have light in the room is the fact that you recite brachos on the hadlakah.  Unlike the bracha on shofar, or the bracha on lulav,where it is clear what the cheftza shel mitzvah is and the bracha is just added icing on the cake, when it comes to ner chanukah it is the bracha that defines the ner as a cheftza shel mitzvah.  It is therefore part and parcel of the hadlakah itself.  Whenever you do a hadlakah, even m’safeik, the brachos must be part of the ma'aseh mitzvah.


  1. Another approach: note from על הניסים "וקבעו שמונת ימי חנוכה להודות ולהלל
    It appears that the essence of chanukah is להודות ולהלל, and not the hadlakas
    neiros. So chanuka is the yom tov of hallel, which explains why the Rambam
    was kove'ah hilchos hallel in hilchos chanukah.

    Thus, the yom tov is not a chag of hadlakas neiros, but of hallel. So the hadlakas
    neiros is actually a heicha timtza for saying the shevach - i.e., the bracha. [We don't
    make a brocho on the brocho anymore than we make a brocho on tefilla...]

    Thus, a hadlaka without a bracha is not any kind of mitzva, but more in the geder of
    a minhag when there is a sofek.

    And a seu'das chanuka is only a seu'das mitzva if it is a hechsher for sevach v'hodo'a.

    This approach allows me to understand how there could be such a major machlokes in the
    seder hadloko - and more importantly, in the reasoning behind it - between Bais Shammai
    and Bais Hillel. Each was giving an ultimately emotional reason - what engendered in them
    greater shevach vho'da'ah.

    1. > Each was giving an ultimately emotional reason - what engendered in them greater shevach vho'da'ah.

      I'm curious to hear more. Are you referring to some/one of the reasons in the gemara? I am not sure how it could relate to parei hachag or ma'alin bakodesh. I suppose it could relate to yamim hanichnasin vs. yotz'in, but even there I am not sure exactly how it corresponds to two ways of inspiring shevach v'hoda'ah -- could you spell it out? I am interested in this topic.

      Thanks, and yashar koach.

    2. GU, you made my day with that hesber.
      The Bach I think asks on the lashon hagemara that after talking all about the miracle that of the oil it ends that l'shana acheres kav'um v'asa'um for hallel and hoda'ah. Ikar chaseir min ha'sefer -- it should say they were kove'a a takanah for hadlakas neiros! But if like you wrote, the hadlakah is just a means to that end of hallel v'hoda'ah, it fits perfectly.

      The takanah of birchas ha'ro'eh also makes much more sense now. If the ikar is saying the bracha on candles, not the actual hadlakah, then even if someone else did the hadlakah, at the end of the day it doesn't matter.

    3. Re Reb Steven: As background, the Drush of the Malbim at the beginning of Parashat Chukas [in the Malbim Chumashim], where he presents his overarching explanation of the fundamental difference between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel in Avodas Hashem - whether to withdraw from Olem Hazeh into Kedusha or to bring Kedusha into Olam Hazeh. He ties in multiple halachic machloksim into this structure, amazingly, as well as the petirah of Rabbah. A prerequisite study for this topic.

      Bais Shammai felt the sevach to Hashem is engendered by reducing our influence, and thus our interaction, with umos ha'olam - the parei hachag decreased as we approached the am l'vadad yishkon of Shemini Atzeres. As we withdraw into kedusha, we need be mefarsem less to olam hazeh and focus on our own olam d'kedusha in a private communion with Hashem. Similarly yomim hanichnasim: we are praising Hashem that we only have x number of days to be involved in this interaction with olam Hazeh pirsum. [Note that the gemara uses the shiur of amgushim in the shuk, v'dok].

      Bais Hillel says the shevach is davka bringing kedusha into olam Hazeh, and each day adds kedusha to this world. And since the object of this avodah is this olam Hazeh kedusha, ma'alim bakodesh.

      This also ties into Rav Zevin's axiom: B"H looks at the apparent reality and action, which is to make this world kodesh. B"Sh looks at the underlying concept - to drive out tum'a. Basically, a before or after the chait approach.

      This is something developed over decades between myself, my chaverusot, and my talmidim - primarily at Aish Hatorah and Ohr Someyach, and would require hours to discuss even at this protean stage of development. If I only direct you to the drush of the Malbim, I will feel that I have accomplished from the POV of both B"H and B"Sh.

      And remember that Bais Shammai b'makom Bais Hillel aino mishna. But in a different makom, mishna u'mishna.

      Re Reb Chaim: I am happy to have been mekayem simchas hachag. The simcha of Purim is the hadar kiblu'ha. The simcha of chanuka is the simcha of chinuch.

    4. As an addition to my previous reply, I heard from Rav Shabsi Bulman that this particular Malbim was a favorite of his father, Rav Nachman Bulman ZTvK"L, who reviewed it constantly.

  2. Both the original post, and the comment from great Unknown, dovetail very nicely with the custom in masechet sofrim (perek 20, halacha 4) that incorporates "haneirot hallalu" within the text of the brachot -- after the birchas hamitzva but prior to shehcheyanu and she-asa nisim.

    In other words: as the post (b'shem Rav Yaakov Emden) suggests, a key function of the brachot is to designate the candles as ner shel mitzva, and the text of haneirot hallalu clearly helps do just that. Furthermore as GU further suggests, part of the kiyum hamitzva is in expressing praise as a reaction to the ner shel mitzva -- and indeed we do so right away even within the framework of the brachot as part of haneirot hallalu,

    1. This approach is also mashma from the lashon haRambam (4:12) that the hadlakah is "l'hosif b'shevach haK-l v'hoda'ah lo al hanisim she'asah." You light in order to have a context to give shevach v'hoda'ah.

    2. Note the conclusion of Haneiros Hallalu: the entire hadlaka, and commemoration of the nes, is kdei l'hodos...

  3. And, although it is not Purim, I must add that much of this yesod [perhaps most/all of it: my memory is far from reliable] I derived from a drasha by HaRav HaGaon Rav Noach Heisler, Rav of shechunat Sanhedria HaMurchevet in Yerushalayim, TvTBB"A.

  4. It's interesting that even though the neiros are a means of bring you to hallel, they have inherent significance as well, as the gemara says Haragil b'neir. I guess it's no different than ner shabbos, which is primarily a vehicle to bring shalom bayis.

  5. Mentioning כדי להודות, I heard someone say that RSZA zt"l said that the hadlaka is כדי להודות ולהלל, so immediately following lighting one should sing songs of praise to HaShem (מעוז צור). I'm just wondering why ed don't say that כדי is going only on the previous words of אלא לראותם בלבד. Unless one can say it goes on lighting and seeing?

    1. Prob because you don't usually have the l'hodos ulhallel on the re'iya alone (birchos ha'ro'eh I think is pretty rare).