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Rabbi Willig's Message

The Rambam (Chanuka 3:3) describes the eight days of Chanuka as days of joy (simcha) and Hallel. However, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 670:2) rules that the festive meals are optional as Chanuka was not established for partying and joy (mishteh v’simcha).

These two statements appear contradictory, as the Maharshal (Baba Kama 7:37) notes. If so, why did the Shulchan Aruch not rule in accordance with the Rambam as he usually does?

In Kuntres B’Inyanei Y’mei Chanuka (p.39), Rabbi Chanoch Karelenstein answers that there is no dispute. Only on Yom Tov does the Rambam rule that a person is obligated to eat a festive meal (Yom Tov 6:17). On Chanuka, the days are days of joy, but festive meals are not mandatory.

The Tzl”ach (d’rush 34) teaches that the Greeks intended that Hashem’s presence (the Shechina) would be removed from Am Yisrael. Therefore, on Chanuka, we must prevent that from happening. Those who talk in shul defile the holy atmosphere, as the Greeks defiled the holiness in the Bais Hamikdash.

This timely reminder, to be quiet in shul all year, but especially on Chanuka, reflects our primary obligation on this holiday: to enable the Shechina to dwell in our midst. Since the Shechina dwells only when there is joy (Shabbos 30a) we must make Chanuka days of joy.

The Haftora of Chanuka begins: Sing and be joyous BasZion for I am coming and I will dwell in your midst (Zecharia 2:14). We must be joyous on Chanuka so that Hashem’s presence will dwell in our midst.

During these days of Chanuka 5778, let our homes be filled with joy, with festive meals, and with Torah, which gladdens the heart (Tehillim 19:9). And in our shul let us resolve to improve decorum to foil the plan of the Greeks who attempted to remove the Divine Presence from our midst. And let us pray for the ultimate restoration of the Shechina to Am Yisrael in the rebuilt Bais Hamikdash.

Rabbi Mordechai Willig

Link Rabbi Willig at YU torah online and at Torah Web.