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It says in Devarim 4:2:

לֹא תֹסִפוּ עַל הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם וְלֹא תִגְרְעוּ מִמֶּנּוּ לִשְׁמֹר אֶת מִצְוֹת יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם

Translated:

Do not add to the word which I command you, nor diminish from it, to observe the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Now I understand that the rabbis have the ability to make halachot that are either guards on another halacha (e.g. the concept of muktza) or interpretations of a halacha in torah (e.g. not using electricity on shabbat, being that there was obviously no such thing as electricity when the torah was given). However Chanukah and Purim are not guards on mitzvot, nor are they interpretations of what a mitzva means. They are entirely new mitzvot! So why don't Purim and Chanukah fall into the category of לֹא תֹסִפוּ?

At this point, I am usually given the answer: "Purim and Chanukah are mitzvot derrabannun (from the rabbis) and since they don't claim that it is a mitzva deorita (a mitzva directly from torah) they were allowed to establish it".

Now the problem I have with the above statement is as follows:

There is a Gemara in Brachot (27b) that says (and I'm paraphrasing) that a person who quotes his rabbi on something that he never said is causing the Shechinah to depart from the Jewish people.

Now I quote the actual bracha that is said on Chanukah and Purim.

ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להדליק נר של חנוכה.‏

Translation:

"Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

The same is true for Purim:

ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על מקרא מגלה.‏

Translation:

"Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to read the Megillah.

Now according to the bracha, it is saying that G-d himself commanded us to light the Chanukah candles, which is in fact not true, as the torah was given far before the story of Chanukah.

Around this time, I usually get the answer: "It says in the torah that you have to listen to the rabbis, therefor, since the torah says listen to the rabbis, and the rabbis say light candles on Chanukah, then the torah is saying light candles on Chanukah".

Now I have a huge problem with this, because they could have very easily worded the bracha such that it said "Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to follow the ways of the rabbis, who have told us to kindle the Hanukkah lights."

Now I go back to the Gemara that I quoted earlier. If it considered such a horrible thing to misquote your rabbi, than Kal Vachomer wouldn't it be even worse to misquote G-d himself???

  • Since most of the people here probably originated on Stack Overflow, I though I would try giving an analogy to programming. Let's say I take a programming class with teacher-X. Teacher-X learned how to program directly from Mark Zuckerberg himself. On the first day of class, Mark Zuckerberg comes in, and tells us that he had personally taught Teacher-X himself, and he really knows what he is talking about, so we should listen to everything he says. Teacher-X teaches me to program using a specific style which I go on to use when I code. One day, I am writing a program with my friend, and he notices the strange style I am coding with, so he asks why I am doing it that way. I tell him, Mark Zuckerberg taught me to do it. Well, in fact, Mark Zuckerberg did not teach me to do it that way, and saying that he did was is a false statement. I learned it from Teacher-X, Zuckerberg just told me to listen to him because he had trained him. Similarly, when saying the bracha on Chanukah candles, saying that G-d himself commanded me to light the Chanukah candles is a false statement. He simply told me to listen to someone who did. And I am now quoting G-d with something he never said. And while it may not in practice be as horrible as what is said in the Gemara, I would imagine it is still not a good thing to do.

So how were the Rabbanim able to create Channukah and Purim in the way they did? I don't want to start accusing the Rabbanim of directly violating the laws of the torah, however I'm having a hard time understanding how they could create these holidays in the way they did without doing so. So what did allow them to do it like this?

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If you're referring to Berachos 27b, it doesn't say anything about kares, just that such a person "causes the Shechinah to depart from the Jewish people." –  Alex Apr 2 '12 at 23:17
    
Oh, I had assumed that was referring to karres. I'll update my question. Thanks! –  Ephraim Apr 2 '12 at 23:19
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Ephraim, you have an excellent question, but you are clouding the point with extraneous issues. Your question should go something like this: The pasuk lo sosifu forbids us from adding mitzvos to the Torah. An exception to this rule is the ability of sages to implement safeguards to the Torah (source+examples). How were the sages allowed to institute the mitzvos of purim and chanukah since these are not safeguards? –  YDK Apr 2 '12 at 23:37
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Seriously? Zuckerberg is your best example of authority on programming? Facebook's success had nothing to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of his code. –  AviD Dec 6 '12 at 23:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The mitzvos of Purim and Chanuka definitely fit the bill for the violation of lo sosifu according to the Ramban (vaeschanan 4:2). More specifically, the Yerushalmi quotes a different pasuk- These are the mitzvos that Hashem commanded Moshe. Lo sosifu refers to adding in general, but the former pasuk forbids adding even through prophecy.

Both the Bavli (Megila 14a) and the Yerushalmi (Megila 6b) take issue with Purim. The Bavli allows Purim based on a kal v'chomer drash from the Torah: If we establish a day of praise for Hashem freeing us from bondage, certainly we can do so for His saving our lives. The Ritva applies the same logic to Chanuka. The Yerushalmi says that they only allowed the writting of the megilla after finding "hints" in the Torah (ie, megilla was built into the Torah in advance).

I would guess that once the Holiday had a leg to stand on, any mitzvos that are ancillary to the holiday would be permitted as well.

As far as the Brachos, I'm not bothered by that question. Throughout the talmud, the sages try to keep things uniform so that the masses would not get confused. For example: Lo palug, nasata devarecha l'shiurim, and generally many decrees were based on avoiding confusion. As long as the sages are not instituting a text that is false (see Alex and Drew's answer), best practice is to keep the same format as other blessings and not confuse the masses by trying to be "more truthful".

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That statement about quoting something not from one's teacher is taken by Rambam (Hil. Talmud Torah 5:9) to mean that by failing to quote the author, one implies that his teacher made this statement (since it can be generally assumed that whatever a student says comes from his teacher). In other words, the problem isn't saying "Rabbi X said Y" when he never said that, but simply saying "Y" in such a way that people will assume that Rabbi X said it. That is different than stating something that indeed can be inferred from what Rabbi X said, something which is common throughout the Talmud (as in the common expression לאו בפירוש אתמר אלא מכללא - Berachos 9a and in over a dozen other places). While it is true that R. Eliezer (the author of the statement to which you're referring) was particularly careful about that - "he never said anything that he hadn't heard from his teachers" (Sukkah 27b, et al), we see that this is not the general practice.

By the same token, then, it is indeed perfectly in order to attribute an order to the controlling authority rather than to his subordinates. (It is the same way as, lehavdil, we might state that such-and-such is "President so-and-so's policy" even though in fact it may originate from the deputy assistant secretary of such-and-such agency - because ultimately that person answers to, and derives his or her legal authority from, that of the president.) So since Hashem is the one who gives the sages the authority to legislate such mitzvos, it is correct to state that He (indirectly) commanded them.

Rambam (Hil. Berachos 11:3) puts it as follows (translation from here):

Where has He commanded us [to fulfill these commandments]? In the Torah, which states [Deuteronomy 17:11]: "Act [according to the judgment] they relate to you." [Based on this Biblical verse, the blessing recited before fulfilling a Rabbinical commandment] can be interpreted as follows: Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to listen to these [sages] who have commanded us to light Chanukah candles or read the megillah. The same applies regarding all Rabbinic commandments.

(The verse that Rambam quotes is one of the ones mentioned in Shabbos 23a, as in Drew's answer.)

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Let me give an analogy to programming. Let's say I take a programming class with teacher-X. Teacher-X learned directly from Mark Zuckerberg. On the first day of class, Mark Zuckerberg comes in, and tells us that He tought Teacher-X himself, and he really knows what he is talking about, so we should listen to everything he says. Teacher-X teaches me to program using a specific style. My friend sees how I am coding and asks why I am doing it that way. I tell him, Mark Zuckerberg taught me to do it. That however is a false statement, I learned it from Teacher-X, Zuckerberg just told me to listen. –  Ephraim Apr 2 '12 at 23:49
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Similarly to the bracha, saying that G-d himself commanded me to light the channuka candles is a false statement. He simply told me to listen to someone who did. And I am quoting G-d with something he never said. And while it may not in practice be as horrible as what is said in the gemara, I would imagine it is still not a good thing to do. –  Ephraim Apr 2 '12 at 23:53
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The difference is that in your example, Zuckerberg and Teacher-X are both human beings, and the latter has his own notions that aren't necessarily encapsulated in what he learned (although they can be said to be derived from it). By contrast, "Scripture, Mishnah, Talmud and Aggadah - even what a diligent student will in the future explain in his teacher's presence - all was said to Moshe at Sinai" (Yerushalmi, Pe'ah 2:4). Elsewhere (Megillah 1:5, a few lines after what YDK mentioned in his comment on the question) it in fact states that the Megillah as we have it was given to Moshe at Sinai. –  Alex Apr 2 '12 at 23:59
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@Ephraim: the Avos, it says, kept the whole Torah before it was given. To the best of my knowledge, though, nowhere does it say such a thing about the Jewish people collectively. So yes, perhaps indeed Avraham, etc., celebrated Chanukah and Purim in some form (see judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/4078/avot-keeping-mitzvot), but that doesn't have to mean that anyone did so after the giving of the Torah. –  Alex Apr 3 '12 at 3:25
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@Ephraim: that something was given at Sinai doesn't mean that it was known to the people yet, though. Indeed, see Menachos 29b, the famous story about Moshe Rabbeinu observing R. Akiva teaching "mounds and mounds of halachos derived from the crowns on the letters," where Moshe himself didn't know the information that R. Akiva was teaching! But as R. Akiva concluded, it's all halachah le-Moshe mi-Sinai - it's all indeed encapsulated in what Hashem told Moshe, just that in some cases it's up to later generations to make these deductions explicit. –  Alex Apr 3 '12 at 15:04

See Shabbat 23a where Rav Avia and Rav Nehemiah each pose their own answer, both using proof-texts from the book of Deuteronomy.

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This doesn't answer the main question of how chazal were able to institute the mitzvos in the first place. –  YDK Apr 2 '12 at 23:38
    
@YDK I'm not sure that's actually the main question. –  Double AA Apr 2 '12 at 23:40
    
@DoubleAA, To me, it seems his main problem is lo sosifu. He then goes into a long v'chi teima and ends at his original question (but perhaps allowing for the v'chi teima if someone can fix that up). To me, the v'chi teima isn't really an answer in the first place. –  YDK Apr 2 '12 at 23:44
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Drew, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for this answer! To improve your answer, please consider quoting and/or summarizing that particular Gemara here. Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. I hope to see you around! –  HodofHod Apr 3 '12 at 1:59

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