Thursday, December 21, 2006

Chanukah #6

The Medrash Tanchuma states that one cannot use the oil left over from the 8th night of Chanukah for mundane purpose. The Medrash follows with an apparent aside, mentioning that those Jews who only follow what the Torah states, but not what the Rabbis state are not acting properly. Why do these things follow each other in the Medrash?

There is an apparent contradiction in the Shulchan Aruch between that which R' Yosef Karo states in Orach Chaim on this matter, and that which he states in Yoreh Deah. He states in Orach Chaim that in a case where one accidentally spilled leftover oil from the 8th night into a regular jar of oil that has less than 60x the amount of Chanukah oil, one is not allowed to add the appropriate amount in order to make it nullified. While we know that one is not allowed to be mivatel an issur lechatchila (see articles on Scotch), it's possible to think that that would only be in a situation where one wants to purposely put milk in his chulent, but in a case where they became mixed inadvertently (albeit to a level less than shishim), it wouldn't. This Shulchan Aruch is teaching us that the rule of ein mivatlin issur lechatchila also applies when one wants to add the appropriate amount to a mixture that was inadvertently mixed (again, albeit to a level less than shishim.

However, the Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah says that regarding issurei d'rabannan (which certainly Chanukah oil falls under), if the mixture becomes inadvertently mixed even to a level less than that of shishim, one can go ahead and add the extra amount of oil, and this does not violate the rule of "ein mivtalin issur lichatchila." What gives?

The Shach there says that because this Chanukah oil is "huktza l'mitzvasa/"set aside for a mitzvah", we are more stringent, and do not allow one to add the extra amount in order for bittul to take effect. It follows from that that in a regular case of an issur d'rabbanan where the mixture is mistakenly mixed to a level less than shishim, one can, in fact, add the amount necessary for bittul to take effect. But what's pshat in the fact that something that is "huktza l'mitzvasa" is more stringent than in a regular case of an issurei d'rabannan?

Rav Shlomo Kluger gives an explanation. He says that since there are brachos involved with mitzvos, they are on a higher level. After all, the same lashon of "vitzivanu" is used for a d'oraisa mitzvah (ie, Lulav, Sukkah, Tzitzis) and d'rabbanan mitzvos (Megillah, Chanukah, etc.) alike. He further explains that we can see that the fact that d'oraisas and d'rabbanans are tied together with brachos are important from the dispute Rambam/Baalei haTosfos regarding whether a Bracha l"Vatala is an issur d'oraisa or d'rabbanan. The side that holds (I forget who holds which way) that brachos, which are inherently d'rabbanan, can still violate an issur d'oraisa says that one who does so is over on "Lo Sasur", which teaches us not to deviate from the teachings of our Rabbis. One explanation of this prohibition is that since G-d has the power to put people into power to be the ones making these important decisions, he is effectively giving his stamp of approval on that which the Rabbanan say. So to go ahead and not follow what the Rabbis say is tantamount to not following what G-d says. This is the reason that Chanukah oil is more stringent than a regular case and the reason that the Medrash follows the bit about the leftover oil with the piece about listening to what the Rabbanan say.


Blogger Dan Rabinowitz said...

Due to these concerns, some had the custom of making a bonfire out of the leftover oil. In some of these they created a game where the people would jump back and forth over the fire.

3:58 PM, December 26, 2006


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