THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LARGE FIRE AND A SMALL ONE
QUESTION: The Mishnah lists the types of wicks and oils which may not be
used for the Shabbos lights. Since those wicks and oils do not burn well,
we fear that one may try to improve the flame and thereby transgress the
Melachah of kindling. The Gemara cites a Beraisa that states that one may,
however, make a *large* fire out of these wicks and oils (for example, to
heat one's home on Shabbos or to use its light). The reason is that since
there is a large amount of fuel for the fire, there is no fear that the
flame will dwindle and that one might attempt to fix it.
2) USING BAD WICKS OR OILS FOR CHANUKAH
According to this distinction between a large fire and a small one, why did
the Gemara earlier (20b) reject Rebbi Yochanan's statement? Rebbi Yochanan
said that when lighting a fire with the "kindling wood of Bavel" prior to
Shabbos, one does not need to wait until most of the wood is aflame. The
Gemara asked that if in order to light even a *wick* before Shabbos, most
of it must be aflame, then certainly when lighting a bonfire with the "wood
of Bavel" it is necessary that most of it be aflame.
According to our Sugya, though, it would seem that a large fire burns
*better* than a small one. Since there is a difference between a large fire
and a small one, why does the Gemara challenge Rebbi Yochanan, with the
assumption that kindling wood for a bonfire must be lit before Shabbos even
more carefully than a small flame? (SEFAS EMES, 20b)
ANSWER: When the Gemara in our Sugya differentiates between a large fire
and a small one, it refers to the quality of the flame once it is lit. The
flame burns better when it is powered by a large amount of fuel, and
therefore one is permitted to light such a fire on Friday to burn during
Shabbos. However, it does not *catch fire* better, and therefore one may
only light it on Friday if he a majority of the fuel will catch fire before
QUESTION: Rav Huna rules that one may not use the inferior wicks and oils
mentioned in the Mishnah (20b) for kindling the Chanukah lights, neither on
weeknights nor on Shabbos. The Gemara explains that the reason why they may
not be used on weeknights is because there is a rule that if the Chanukah
lights go out, one is obligated to relight them, and we fear that one may
neglect to relight them (Rashi). The reason why they may not be used on
Shabbos is because Rav Huna maintains that it is permissible to use the
light of the Chanukah flames, and therefore we fear that one may tilt the
lamp in order to improve its flame on Shabbos.
3) THE FEAR THAT THE CHANUKAH LIGHTS WILL GO OUT
How did the Gemara know that Rav Huna is of the opinion that it is
permissible to use the light of the Chanukah flames? Perhaps he maintains
that it is forbidden to use their light, and the reason why these wicks and
oils may not be used for the Chanukah lights on Shabbos is for the same
reason one may not use them on weeknights! Bad wicks may not be used on
Shabbos because of the rule that if the lights go out, one is obligated to
relight them, and he cannot relight them on Shabbos!
(a) TOSFOS (DH u'Mutar) answers that since Rav Huna specifically *mentions*
Shabbos in addition to the weeknights, he is implying that there is a
separate reason to prohibit the use of these wicks and oils on Shabbos.
That reason is that it is permissible to use the light of the Chanukah
(b) The RASHBA explains that the in truth it *cannot* be inferred from Rav
Huna's statement that he permits the use of the Chanukah lights.
Nevertheless, the Gemara said that according to Rav Huna it is permissible
to use the Chanukah lights because it assumed that Rav Huna probably agrees
with his Rebbi, Rav Chisda, who clearly says that it is permissible to use
the Chanukah lights.
(c) The RAMBAN points out that RASHI seems to be suggesting another answer
to this question. Rashi says that the concern created by the rule that one
is obligated to relight the Chanukah lights of they are extinguished, is
that one will *forget to relight them*. That is to say, the "wrongdoing,"
so to speak, is not at the moment that one lights with these inferior wicks
and oils. Rather, the "wrongdoing" is later, when the flames go out, when
the person neglects to relight them (or to fix them, see next Insight).
Therefore, on Shabbos when there is no obligation to relight them, one may
light with these wicks and oils to l'Chat'chilah. (That is, the problem
with bad wicks is not that the lights will go out, but that *if* they go
out one may forget to relight them. Since one is not allowed to relight the
wicks on Shabbos, he will be considered "Anus" if the lights go out, and he
has not done anything wrong by using the poor wicks.)
QUESTION: Rav Huna rules that one may not kindle the Chanukah lights with
inferior wicks and oils because he maintains that "if it goes out, one is
beholden to [fix] it," and we fear that one may neglect relighting it.
However, in the previous Sugya, we never heard of any concern that the
flame of these wicks and oils tends to *go out*, but only that the flame
flickers and does not hold well. Indeed, the reason why one may not light
with these wicks and oils for Shabbos is because the flame flickers and we
fear that one may try to fix it, but not because the flame will go out and
one will have to eat in the dark. Why is Rav Huna concerned that the flame
will go out? (RAV YAKOV D. HOMNICK, in NACHALAS YAKOV on Maseches Shabbos 1:1)
ANSWER: The BEIS HA'LEVI asks a different question on Rashi. Why is there
such a strong concern that a person will neglect his obligation to relight
the Chanukah candles, until the Rabanan had to forbid lighting them with
these wicks and oils? Furthermore, why does Rashi write, "Perhaps he will
neglect *to fix it*," and not write simply, "Perhaps we will neglect *to
The Beis ha'Levi answers that there really is no fear that the flame will
go out and that one will neglect to relight it. Rather, since this type of
flame tends to flicker, we are concerned that it may dwindle to the point
that it does not provide the large flame necessary to publicize the miracle
of Chanukah (Pirsum Nes). Since it is still burning, a person will not
bother to fix it to make it large, because he will assume that this flame
is good enough.
This is why Rashi said that "perhaps he will neglect *to fix it*," and not
"*to relight it*," because there is no fear that he will not relight it if
it goes out entirely, the Beis Halevi explains.
Rav Homnick suggests that this answers our original question as well, for
we see that the problem with using these wicks and oils on Chanukah is
identical to the problem with using them for Shabbos. We are afraid that
the flames will flicker, but not that they will go out.
4) "MEHADRIN MIN HA'MEHADRIN"
5) ADDING A CANDLE EVERY DAY
QUESTION: The Gemara gives three levels for the performance of the Mitzvah
of kindling Chanukah lights. The third level is "Mehardin Min ha'Mehadrin,"
or the best way to beautify the Mitzvah, in which there is an additional
candle each night (either in progressive order, according to Beis Hillel,
or in regressive order, according to Beis Shamai).
The BRISKER RAV (Chidushei ha'Griz, Hilchos Chanukah) asks how could the
Sages make an enactment of Hidur Mitzvah, beautifying a Mitzvah, by
lighting an additional flame each day? The Gemara in Bava Kama (9b) says
that one is obligated to perform Hidur Mitzvah up to a maximum expense of
one-third of the cost of the Mitzvah itself. Here, though, the Hidur
Mitzvah is much more than one-third of the Mitzvah itself (a total of 36
lights instead of 8)!
(a) RASHI explains that "Mehadrin" does not mean "Hidur" (beautifying), but
it refers to those who "pursue" Mitzvos. Its root is the *Aramaic* "Hadar"
(which is equivalent to the Hebrew "Chozer"). The Sages established that
there are *three* distinct ways to fulfill the Mitzvah, and not that the
second and third ways are merely embellished ways of performing the
(b) RABEINU CHANANEL, however, compares this Hidur Mitzvah to the one
discussed in Bava Kama. The Brisker Rav in Hilchos Chanukah says that the
Hidur Mitzvah in Bava Kama refers to the *obligation* (that the Sages
enacted) to spend money for the sake of beautifying a Mitzvah. The Sages
only obligated one to spend up to a third of the total cost of the Mitzvah.
Here, though, there is *no obligation* to spend more money to do the
Mitzvah in a nicer way. Rather, the Sages established that if one *desires*
to do the Mitzvah in a nicer way, this is how he should do it.
QUESTION: Why, though, should there be such a large (albeit voluntary)
Hidur Mitzvah for this particular Mitzvah, when normally Hidur Mitzvah is
only until one-third of the cost of the Mitzvah?
ANSWER: The BEIS HA'LEVI suggests the following answer. The question of the
Beis Yosef is well known -- why do we celebrate eight days of Chanukah if
the miracle was only for seven days, since there was already enough oil in
the jar to last for the one day? One answer is that the miracle indeed
occurred each day for eight days, because each day only *1/8th* of the jar
of oil was poured into the Menorah, yet it lasted for the entire night.
However, since they were required to pour in enough oil to kindle the
Menorah for the entire night, how could they pour in only an eighth of the
normal amount? The answer is that they also made the wicks thinner, 1/8th
of their normal size.
If so, what was the miracle that 1/8th of the oil was able to make the
Menorah burn the entire night? If the wick is 1/8th of its usual size, and
the oil is 1/8th of the usual quantity, of course it will burn for the
normal amount of time! The miracle, explains the Beis Ha'levi, was that
even though the quantity of oil was less, and the size of the wicks were
decreased, the flame that burned was as large and beautiful as always.
Since the miracle involved a *beautification* of the flame of the Menorah,
rather than the existence of the flame itself, the Rabanan established a
special Hidur Mitzvah in their enactment to kindle Chanukah lights, to
commemorate the miracle that occurred.
OPINIONS: Beis Hillel maintains that the "Medahrin Min ha'Mehadrin" way to
perform the Mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah lights is to "add
progressively" ("Mosif v'Holech"). What exactly does this mean?
6) CHANUKAH AND SUKKOS
(a) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Chanukah 4:1) says that one who acts like the
Mehadrin Min ha'Mehadrin lights an added candle for *each person* in the
house each night (for example, if there are ten people in the house, on the
second night of Chanukah the head of the house lights 20 candles).
(b) TOSFOS (DH v'ha'Mehadrin) asks that the whole purpose of adding extra
candles is to create a feature that shows that an additional day of miracle
occurred. If one sees 20 candles in someone's house, and 30 candles in
someone else's house, it is not recognizable that there was an additional
day of miracle. Therefore, Tosfos understands that Mehadrin Min ha'Mehadrin
means that the head of the house lights *one* candle for each day of
Chanukah that has already passed (according to Beis Hillel), and not one
for each person in the household.
How can we answer Tosfos' question (mentioned in (b), above,) on the
The VILNA GA'ON (OC 671) points out an oddity in the RIF in our Sugya. The
Rif's style is to write only Halachic conclusions and rulings. Here,
however, he records the story in the Gemara of the two elders of Sidon, one
of whom practiced like Beis Hillel, and one of whom practiced like Beis
Shamai, who gave reasons for Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai. Why does the Rif
record this story when it does not seem to have anything to do with the
Halachah (it merely expresses the *reasons* for the Halachah, but it is not
the style of the Rif to record reasons).
The Vilna Ga'on explains says that Tosfos proof for adding only one candle
per day per household, is based on the *first* of the two reasons suggested
by the Gemara for the Mehadrin Min ha'Mehadrin: in order to create a
feature in the lighting that shows that an additional day of miracle
occurred. According to the second reason suggested by the Gemara (Ma'alin
b'Kodesh...), there is absolutely no reason to limit the addition to one
The Rif understood that the two reasons given for the Mehadrin Min
ha'Mehadrin actually were arguing Halachically over the question of how to
light the extra lights -- should it be done like Tosfos (one
candle/day/household) or like the Rambam (one candle *for each member of
the household*/day/household). The conclusion of the Gemara can be inferred
from the story of the elders in Sidon, which is a "Ma'aseh Rav" (a
practiced Halachah, which carries more weight than a theoretical one).
Since the elder in Sidon ruled that the additional candle is because of
Ma'alin b'Kodesh, we should rule like the Rambam and add another candle for
each member of the household each day.
This explains why the Rif quoted the story of the two elders (since it
affects the Halachic practice), and why the Rambam was not bothered by
Tosfos question (since we rule like the elder of Sidon)!
QUESTION: The Gemara says that the reason for Beis Shamai's opinion that
one lights Chanukah candles in regressive order (eight on the first night,
seven on the second night, and so on), is because the number of cows that
were brought as a Korban Musaf each day of Sukkos were also brought in
descending numbers (thirteen the first day, twelve the second day, and so
on). What do the lights of Chanukah have to do with the Korbanos of Sukkos?
7) THE DURATION OF THE MIRACLE OF CHANUKAH
(a) REBBI YEHONASAN M'LUNIL explains that on Chanukah, the Chashmonaim felt
that the miracle of their triumph was greater than the miracle of Pesach.
On Pesach, the physical existence of the Jews was threatened, but during
the time of Chanukah, the *spiritual* existence of the Jews was threatened
as well, because the Greeks wanted to obliterate all traces of the Jewish
religion. Because of this, it was decided to make the holiday of Chanukah
longer that that of Pesach. They therefore made it as long as the longest
holiday in the Torah, which is Sukkos (8 days).
(b) According to "SEFER CHASHMONAIM" (one of the "external," non-sacred
Kesuvim), the Chashmonaim were not able to observe Sukkos properly because
of the war. Therefore, they made the Chanukah festival eight days long to
make up for the lost days of Sukkos.
QUESTION: The Gemara says that the jar of oil contained enough oil for one
day. If so, we should have only *seven* days of Chanukah, because the first
day was not a miracle. Why do we celebrate *eight* days of Chanukah? (BEIS
YOSEF, OC #670 -- this is the famous "Beis Yosef's question.")
8) A SEALED JAR OF OIL
The Beis Yosef (670) offers three answers to his question:
(a) They divided the oil into eight parts, so that a miracle indeed
occurred every day, when 1/8th of the oil lasted for the entire night.
The Acharonim challenge each of these three answers.
(b) When they poured out the oil from the jar it remained full, so the
miracle was noticeable even on the first night.
(c) After the first night, although they poured all the oil into the
Menorah, none of it burned and the Menorah remained full of oil for all
(a) How could they divide the oil into eight parts and use one-eighth every
night? We are required to put in the Menorah enough oil to last the *entire
night* (and they did not know that a miracle was going to occur, nor would
they have been permitted to rely on a miracle occurring)?
The TOSFOS HA'ROSH himself asks the question of the Beis Yosef and gives
the *same answers*, but makes slight additions in order to avoid the
questions of the Acharonim.
(b) If the jar remained full when they poured the oil, on the eighth night
there was no miracle because on the eighth night they emptied the jar.
(c) The oil that had miraculously lasted for seven nights was finally
consumed on the eighth night. If so, on the eighth night there was no
(a) The requirement to put in enough oil to burn the entire night is only
if one has enough oil. If one does not have enough oil, it is better to put
in a little each night and not use it up in one night.
Other Rishonim suggest other answers to "the Beis Yosef's question":
(b) The miracle is that the oil which is burning in the Menorah is "miracle
oil." Consequently, there was a miracle on the eighth night as well, since
the oil that burned on the eighth night was oil that existed only as a
result of a miracle. Although, according to this, on the first night there
was no miracle with the oil itself, because the oil itself burned,
nevertheless, the fact that the oil did not disappear made the
miracle-to-be *apparent* already on the first night.
(c) Actually, even though they filled up the Menorah, only a small amount
of the oil (1/8th) burned each night. The Menorah remained lit for the
entire night, yet the rest of the oil was not consumed. So on the eighth
night as well a miracle was experienced, since the Menorah was aflame the
entire night even though only 1/8th of the required amount of oil was left.
(d) The ME'IRI says that the first day of Chanukah was established to
celebrate the redemption from our enemies, and the miracle that a jar of
oil was even found.
(Literally hundreds of other answers to the Beis Yosef's question are
discussed by the Acharonim.
(e) The SHE'ILTOS (Parshas Vayishlach) and
answer that the amount of oil that was found was *not even* enough for one
day. They had the word "Afilu" ("even") instead of "Ela" ("except") in the
sentence of the Gemara: "There was not [oil] in it *even* to light for one
QUESTION: What difference does it make if the jar of oil was sealed? If a
non-Jew touches the jar or carries it, it becomes Tamei!
ANSWER: Although various answers are given in the Rishonim, it could simply
be that when the Gemara says that they found "a jar... that was resting in
the seal of the Kohen Gadol," it does not mean that the *jar itself* was
sealed, but that the jar was resting in a *sealed place*, such as an
underground safe, so that the non-Jews had no access to it. This is the
intention of TOSFOS (DH she'Hayah). This may also be what RASHI (DH
b'Chosmo) means when he says, "[The jar of oil was] *hidden away, and
sealed* with his seal, and [therefore] they knew that no one had touched
it." (RAV Y.D. HOMNICK in SEFER NACHALAS YAKOV)