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Monday, October 12, 2009

Sukkos and Chanuka

I like to think that the end of one Yomtov is the time to start looking forward to the next one. Now that Sukkos is over, and MarCheshvan is about to begin, there's a long, empty time until the next Yomtov. But at the Ne'ilas Hachag of Simchas Torah, I heard a very nice dvar Torah from a young man, Joey Nussbaum, and it bears repeating both because of the connection between Sukkos and Chanuka and because of the explanation it provides to a perplexing Gemara in Shabbos.

We all know the Beis Yosef's question about why we celebrate eight days, when the miraculous long-burning oil only lasted seven days more than it normally would. The Aruch Hashulchan addresses this question in OC 670:5. He brings from the Sefer Chashmona'i that in the year before Matisyahu's rebellion, Antiochus had prevented the korban celebration of Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres. Therefore, when the Jews were able to re-inaugurate the Beis Hamikdash, they intentionally celebrated for eight days, in order to show that they were making up for the lost days of Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres. The eight days of burning, then, were simply a heavenly ratification of their decision to establish this eight day holiday. (This is actually made clear in the Megillas Chashmona'im.)

With this we can finally understand what Shammai means by saying that we should start with eight candles and go down one every day just as was done with the bulls that are brought on Sukkos. Everyone reading the Gemara is puzzled by this association, because this reverse progression is unique to Sukkos, and why would Chanuka davka reflect the singular rules of Sukkos? But now we understand that Chanuka was viewed as a stand-in, as a commemoration, of the Sukkos holiday and korbanos that they had been prevented from bringing.

This also explains why we find dinim of hiddur on Chanuka that we generally don't find in other dinim. The reason is, again, because Chanuka is, to some extent, a quasi-Sukkos, and Sukkos is a holiday when hiddur on the esrog and all the minim is stressed to an unusual extent.

Micha Berger of commented that he heard this association from Rav Aharon Soloveichik in 1993, and expanded on it with something else he heard from him. What follows is from Micha's website, Aspaqlaria, at the above link.
R. Chaim Soloveitchik holds that there is a distinct difference between the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel that came with the first commonwealth and that of the second.
The first Temple did not create a permanent qedushah (holiness). The reason given is “that which was acquired through conquering is lost through conquering. The First Commonwealth built on land acquired in the wars of the days of Yehoshua and the Shoftim (Judges), was itself conquered.
The Second Commonwealth was “merely” an immigration of a group of Jews who decided to live in the land as Jews. It is predicated on the mitzvos done there, the education of children raised there. That kind of sanctity can not be undone. “Qidshah lisha’atah viqidshah le’asid lavo – it was sanctified for its time and sanctified for all time to come”. Even today, Har Habayis (the Temple Mount) has the sanctity of the Temple.
R. Aharon understands his grandfather’s words in the light of this distinction. The first commonwealth was founded on kibbush. It therefore had an inherently inferior qedushah. The second commonwealth was built by chazaqah. When Hashem tells Zecharia, “Not by force and not by might but by My spirit”, He is saying that the second Temple should be build on chazaqah, not kibbush, to lead to a permanent sanctification. “Neqeivah tesoveiv gever.”
Rav Aharon Soloveitchik notes Chanukah’s connection to Sukkos. According to Seifer haMakabiim, on the first Chanukah people who had just missed being oleh regel, going up to the beis hamiqdash, with their esrog and lulav, did so then at their first opportunity. Beis Shammai taught that one should light 8 lights the first night of Chanukah, 7 the second, learning from the 70 bulls offered for the mussaf on Sukkos, which also declined in number each day: 14 the first day, 13 the second, etc… Rav Yosi bar Avin or R’ Yosi bar Zevida explains that Beis Shammai are emphasizing the link between Chanukah and Sukkos. (We follow Beis Hillel, and teach that the ideal is to increase as the holiday progresses. They do not deny the connection; but rather Beis Hillel asserts an overriding halachic principle — that we increase in holiness over time.)
The concept of being a geir vetoshav is at the center of the similarity between the two holidays. Sukkos is a time when the toshav leaves his home to experience geirus in the Sukkah. Chanukah is also about the ger’s Chazaqah, the rededication of the second Beis haMiqdash. Not about winning the war – the war wouldn’t be over for years – but about being able to live in Israel as Jews, with access to the beis hamiqdash.


micha said...

There is, in addition, a thematic connection discussed by R' Aharon Soloveitchik zt"l. (I heard this in a lecture he gave in town. I do not recall the date, but R' Aharon ended with a heated argument against the Oslo Agreement, so I'm guessing just before Chanukah 1993.)

Sukkos and Chanukah both epitomize the concept of "geir vetoshav".

I tied this thought from R' Aharon together with one from RYBS and their grandfather, R' Chaim, in an Aspaqlaria post on parashas Chayei Sarah.



Barzilai said...

Thank you, Micha. I incorporated your comment into the post.

Eli said...

I hope not to upset anyone by commenting this vort is well- and long- known in jewish-studies academic circles. I'm not sure who was the first to make the Parey-Hachag connection (I think Albeck makes this point, maybe earlier), but it appears in Hebrew Encyclopedia (אנציקלופדיה עברית - the standard encyclopedia used in Israel; relevant volume published some 50 years ago) under Chanukka as something well known.

In fact there was a whole debate (some 60 years ago) as to the authenticity of Makkabim II (written in Greek in Alexandria) vs. Makkabim I (written Hebrew in EY) which had some political-ideological agendas involved. Among other things, the chanukka-sukkot relation was mentioned in particular.

Barzilai said...

Good to know.

I'll bet you that 99% of the Yeshiva world is not aware of it because it's not emphasized in the Yeshivishe sefarim outside the brief reference in the Aruch Hashulchan.
So it's kind of analogous to Columbus thinking he discovered a new world, even though it wasn't much of a chiddush to the Indians. By the way, today is Columbus Day in the US.

Anonymous said...

The connection between sukkos and chanuka is made clear in the book of macabbees when chanuka is called "sukkot b'kislev" and where it says they took lulavim on sukkos. This is the real reason why chanuka is 8 days long.