Monday, December 26, 2005

The contrast between על הניסים and the gemara's account

When we look at על הניסים we see that it focuses exclusively on the נס of the war. It doesn't mention the נס of the candles whatsoever. The gemara in Shabbos however, focuses almost exclusively on the נס of the candles while neglecting the war. What is going on?

The Maharal asks how can we say hallel for the נס of the candles? Hallel is to thank Hashem for saving us, the נס of the candles was not in that category. He answers that really we say Hallel for the נס of the war.

The Pnei Yehoshua asks why was the נס of the candles needed after all, טומאה הותרה בציבור and they were all טמא? The answer is that you are right, the נס was not needed, it was a נס of לכתחילה.

With this we can understand our original question. על הניסים is part of the הודאה section of shemno esrei. There we thank hashem. Therefore we talk about the נס of the war. The נס of the candles has no place there it is not something that we need to thank hashem for. The gemara however, has a different focus. The gemara is trying to get us to focus on the yad hashem. The נס of the war was a hidden נס. It was done in a natural way. Chazal were afraid that if they focused on the נס of the war people would forget the yad hashem and think כחי ועוצם ידי (we can understand this well, just look after the 6 day war). They viewed the fact that hashem made a נס of לכתחילה as supporting this position. The נס of the candles was not needed so chazal understood that it was there to teach us something else. Namely, that just like the נס of the candles was a נס, so too the victory of the war was a נס. Therefore Chazal placed an emphasis on the נס of the candles so that we would understand that the war was a נס as well and not lose focus and fall into the trap of כחי ועוצם ידי about the war.


Bill Selliger said...

See R. Zevin's Moadim B'halacha for a different interpretation in the name of the Netziv (on the She'iltos)

A Jew Who Once Learned said...

Elegant explanation of the "contradiction" between Al Hanissim and the Gemara without falling into the "heresy" trap of so many who say this proves that the story of the nes of the oil was a later addition by Chazal, unknown when Al Hanissim was written.

Well done!

ADDeRabbi said...

what's the gemara trying to answer? why we say hallel, or why these days, and specifically 8 days, and commemorated with candles.

bluke said...

The gemara is trying to get us to focus on what Hashem did for us and therefore the Gemara focuses on the Nes of the candles which hopefully will affect our thinking about the war as well.

Shmuel said...

Personally, after doing some research, I prefer the heretical approach. But to each his own. A long debate on this was held recently on under "The Little Menorah that Didn't" and you may see my little contribution there.