Rabbi Yitzchak Weiss was the Rabbi and Av Beit Din in Vrbové, western Slovakia. He was a student of Rabbi David Neumann Lackenbach, the Rabbi and Av Beit Din of Pressburg (modern day Bratislava) and a student of the Hatam Sofer. Rabbi Weiss was a prolific writer and authored many works such as Siach Yitzchak, Elef Ketav, Avnei Beit Hayotzer, Haggadah Shel Pesach Siach Yitzchak, and Bina Leitim. His collection of responsa, Siach Yitzchak, continues to be popular today. Rabbi Weiss perished in the Holocaust in 1942.
This teshuva (dated 1935) seeks to understand why the holiday of Hanukkah is eight days long. Because there was sufficient oil for one day, the miracle really only took place on the seven subsequent days, and therefore one would assume that the holiday should only be seven days.
The Siach Yitzchak begins his analysis by examining an answer suggested by Rabbi Yosef Karo in the Beit Yosef, his seminal commentary on the Arba’ah Turim which served as a predecessor to the Shulchan Aruch. According to the Beit Yosef, the victorious Maccabees divided the oil that was only enough for one full night into eight parts with the intention that they would light the Menorah each night even though they only had a fraction of the necessary oil. For each of the eight nights, the oil miraculously lasted the entire night thereby turning each day into its own independent miracle.
Rabbi Weiss, however, challenges this suggestion by pointing out that mitzvot are not supposed to be done partially. If one only has enough resources to properly fulfill a mitzvah once, one should not attempt to spread them out over multiple opportunities. The Maccabees ought to have used up all of the oil the first night and not worried about the remaining nights. And indeed, the Beit Yosef seems to anticipate this objection by offering a second answer that the Maccabees actually did use all of the oil the first night only to discover the next morning that the entire amount miraculously remained. Each night they repeated this and the miracle continued.
Based on this analysis, it could be argued that the Siach Yitzchak presents us two models of religious observance. One values foresight, planning, and slow and steady progress. It suggests that small, incremental mitzvot are more valuable than a one time performance that we may not be able to repeat. Jewish religious life, according to this perspective, is a marathon, not a sprint.
The other model asserts that each and every mitzvah is an opportunity and privilege that demands all of our energies and attention. According to this approach, it is futile to spread resources across a series of mitzvot if none of them will be fulfilled with proper investment and commitment. It is better to devote ourselves and our resources to the mitzvah before us rather than be concerned about what is yet to come.
The Siach Yitzchak doesn’t choose between these conflicting attitudes, which suggests that both are legitimate reflections of Jewish values. It seems, therefore, that we should try to make a space for both approaches in our religious lives. There may be times when it is most appropriate for us to conserve resources and plan for our long-term religious observance. And at other times, it is far better to abandon ourselves to the passion and zeal of the moment.
This Hanukkah, let’s pay attention to how we celebrate the holiday. Do we expend our energies and resources on one particular day or do we spread them over the entire holiday?
|שו”ת שיח יצחק סימן שכו|
בתירוצי הב”י והט”ז אמאי קבעו להדליק ח’ ימים.
בעזהי”ת יום א’ דחנוכה תרצ”ה א’ מקץ.
בב”י (סי’ עת”ר), בתי’ על הקושיא, למה ח’ ימי חנוכה, כיון דבשמן שבפך היה בו להדליק על לילה א’, י”ל שחילקו שמן שבפך לח’ חלקים, ובכל לילה הי’ נותנים במנורה חלק א’, והי’ דולק עד הבוקר, נמצא שבכל הלילות נעשה הנס, עכל”ק זי”ע. עיי’ אשל אברהם מהדורא תנינא לבעל דעת קדושים מש”כ בזה.
ולענ”ד יש להעיר, כמו דקיי”ל במ”א (סוס”י תע”ג), שמי שיש לו ד’ כוסות בצמצום, יקחם כולם ללילה ראשונה דפסח ולא יניח לליל שני, דאין למצוה אלא שעתה, א”כ, אף שידעו שעד ח’ ימים לא יהי’ להם שמן כדכותב ב”י כאן קודם לכן, הלא מחוייבים עכשיו בלילה הזה כשהגיע ליתן כל השמן במנורה, ואין רשאים לצמצם במידת השמן בשביל לילות אחרות.
ויש לעורר דלמש”כ הב”י שחלקו לח’ חלקים, יש לומר שסברו כשיטות שבשערי תשובה הלכות פסח (סי’ תפ”ב סע”ק א’), אם אינו יכול לקיים מהמצוה רק פחות מכשיעור, בכ”ז יקיימה, עש”ה בארוכה, וסברי שמוטב שתדליק המנורה בכל לילה זמן מעט, וכסברא בפוסקים לענין כמה דברים מקצת הלילה ככולה כמו דקיי”ל מקצת היום ככולו, ותדלק המנורה באופן זה בכל לילה, ממה שידלק הכל בלילה אחת, ובלילות אחרות לא תדלק כלל…
והנה עוד תירץ בב”י שם, א”נ שבליל הראשון נתנו כל השמן בנרות ודלקו כל הלילה ובבוקר מצאו הנרות מלאים שמן, וכן בכל לילה ולילה.
|The Beit Yosef, in response to the question why Hanukkah was established for eightdays, [writes that] since the earthenware jug only contained enough oil to light for one night, they divided the oil in the jug into 8 parts. And every night, they put one portion in the Menorah and it would burn until morning. This teaches that on every night there was an independent miracle.|
And in my opinion it should be noted that we follow the approach of the Magen Avraham that if one has only four cups of wine and no more, one should drink them all on the first night of Passover and not leave any for the second night. For each mitzvah is only relevant in its appointed time. And if this is so, even though they knew there would not be enough oil for eight days, as the Beit Yosef writes, they were obligated when [the first] night came to put all of the oil in the Menorah, and they were not permitted to save oil for the other nights.
And we should note that according to what the Beit Yosef wrote, that they divided the oil into eight parts, it appears that they followed the approach of in Sha’are Teshuva… that if you can only fulfill the mitzvah in part, in any case, you should fulfill what you can… And they believed that it would be better to light the menorah every night for a short time in accordance with the reasoning of the poskim… that a part of the night is like the whole thing [the entire night]… And it is better to light the Menorah in this way every night rather than lighting it for just one night and on the other nights not to light at all…
And there is another answer in the Beit Yosef. That on the first night they put all of the oil in the Menorah so that it would last all night long and in the morning, they found that the Menorah was full of oil again. And thus it was every single night.
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