Chanukah: Learning How to Say Thank You
Taste of Talmud
In Tractate Arachin 10b, the Talmud teaches us the rules for reciting the Hallel. We do not say the full Hallel on Holidays on which we perform work. As it says in Isaiah 30, “The song will be for you on aHolidaywhich is sanctified.” Only days on which work is prohibited are considered to be “sanctified”. The Talmud asks, if this is true, why is it that the full Hallel is recited on Chanukah (during which work is permitted)? The Talmud answers that because of the great miracle that took place at this time we still say the full Hallel. How does this answer the question? Every Hallel is said to remember a miracle, so why is this miracle different than all other miracles of all the days of the year? For that matter, we could ask why it was necessary for there to be a miracle with the oil at all? Once they were free of the Greek oppression they were not obligated to use pure oil in the menorah until they could get new oil. The Pnei Yehoshua answers that the miracle of the oil was a sign of Hashem’s pure love for the Jews. As the miracle was repeated daily Hallel is recited each day in recognition of the renewed expression of Hashem’s loving concern for our psychological and spiritual salvation by giving us these miracles after He had saved us physically. When we sing the full Hallel on days when we are allowed to do work and we take those extra few minutes to tell Hashem how much we love Him, and how grateful we are for all His kindnesses, we reciprocate the feeling of pure love Hashem showered upon us in those days in this time.
Taste of Halacha
The Shulchan Aruch writes in Simman 422, that during the recitation of Hallel you may extend a greeting to a person whom you are obligated to honor and return a greeting to anyone. The Rema notes that this is only true on Rosh Chodesh when half Hallel is recited. On days which full Hallel recited the rules are different. These rules, found in Siman 488, state that in the middle of a chapter you are allowed to greet your father or Rebbi and return a greeting of an honorable person; in between chapters you are allowed to greet honorable personages and return anyone’s greeting. The Mishna Berura lists the places that are considered to be “between chapters” in Hallel as: 1) Before Betzeis Yisroel, 2) Before Lo Lanu, 3) Before Ahavti, 4) Before Hallelu es Hashem Kol Goyim, and 5) Before Hodu LaHashem Ki Tov. While in the middle of singing our praise to Hashem we must be careful not to interrupt unnecessarily.
Taste of Tefillah
In the Al Hanisim prayer, which is inserted on all 8 days of Chanukah in the Amidah and Birchas Hamazon we say, ”in the days of Mattisyahu the son of Yochanan the Kohain Gadol from the family of Chashmonaim, and his sons”. Rav Shlomo Brevda asks why do we describe Matisyahu the Kohain Gadol in such great detail? One would think that the main focus should be thanking Hashem. For example in the Haggadah of Pesach, nary a mention of Moshe Rabbeinu is made for this very reason. We do not want people to focus on the people who were the messengers but rather on Hashem alone. So why on Chanukah do we focus so much on the people who were Hashem’s messengers for our salvation? Rav Brevda answers with a lesson from the Medrash Tanchuma. The Medrash says we learn from Pharoh that one who denies the benefit he receives from flesh and blood will eventually deny the existence of Hashem, i.e. “and Pharoh did not know Yoseph”. This was followed by Pharoh’s denial of G-d, when speaking to Moshe, “Mi Hashem”, who is Hashem? On the other hand, a person who is grateful to people will also be grateful and recognize the goodness of Hashem. This is why in the Al Hanisim when we are expressing our thanks to Hashem we begin with a recognition of the efforts of Matisyahu and his sons. However, in the Haggadah, in telling the story of the miracles inEgypt, in order to focus on the oneness of Hashem and His mastery over all aspects of creation we focus on Hashem alone.