In the events of Chanukah, why did they need the miracle of finding the Shemen tahor pure olive oil? After all,the Gemara says Tumah Hutrah beTzibur (pesachim 77a), meaning if all the oil is Tumay then you can use tumay oil!

  • 2
    Where does the gemara say this?
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 13, 2017 at 19:44
  • Rav Menachem Ziemba has a nice answer. Dec 13, 2017 at 21:43
  • According to Rav Elazar in an answer bellow liquids are not Mekabel Tuma at all so the oil was anyway impossible to become impure so maybe your question needs checking up as the miracle might have been merely finding the oil and it was automatically pure regardless of circumstances
    – yosefkorn
    Jan 31, 2019 at 14:44

4 Answers 4


First of all, it's not so simple to say that "tum'ah hutrah betzibbur." There is in fact a halachic argument (Pesachim 77a, et al) as to whether it's "hutrah" (completely permitted) or only "dechuyah" (overridden); according to the latter view, tahor oil should still be used if possible. This is in fact the halachah (Rambam, Beis Habechirah 7:23 and Temidin Umusafin 3:10 passim).

Pnei Yehoshua (to Shabbos 21b) says that technically the miracle of the oil was not necessary, but that Hashem performed it to demonstrate that the Jewish People are precious to Him, and that their self-sacrifice in resisting the Hellenists deserved a special sign of His presence.

I have also once seen another answer (though I don't recall the source) that the rule of "dechuyah" or "hutrah" applies only when the sacrificial service was already being done daily. Here, though, where the menorah was being rededicated and relit for the first time in years (as indeed reflected in the name "Chanukah," dedication) - then that had to be done under conditions of taharah.


R' Shlomo Kluger (on Shulchan Aruch OC 670) writes that when the Avoidah is not just part of the daily seder, but also an inauguration of the Avoida ('Chinuch'), it requires purity. (See Alex's answer)

נראה אפילו למ"ד טומאה הותרה בציבור היינו לגוף העבודה דילפינן (פסחים סו,ב) מאיש נדחה דאין הציבור נדחין, אבל לחנך בתחילה הביהמ"ק ודאי החינוך בתחילה צריך להיות בטהורים, ולכך אז כיון דתחילה פסקה העבודה, ועכשיו התחילה העבודה מחדש ודאי תחילת החינוך צ"ל בטהורים, ולכך הוה נס חנוכה שתחילת החינוך יהי' בטהרה

R' Yosef Engel (Gilyonei HaShas, Shabbos 21) elucidates further - something which is an inauguration for further Avoida cannot be a b'deieved Avoida; it needs to be in it's ideal form. [He continues to bring support to his chiddush from the Rishonim:

ראה דכיון שהי' אז חנוכת הבית כמבואר במהרש"א בחידושי אגדות וכדמוכח נמי ממאי דקרינן בחנוכה בנשיאים, לכן כיון דחנוכה הוא דבר התחליי וראשיי לכל הבא אחריו, לכן הוצרך שיהי' בטהרה גמורה לא בדחיית טומאה, וזהו ג"כ מה שמבואר בבעלי התוס' פ' שמיני (י,ד) על הכתוב ויקרא משה אל מישאל: דכהן הדיוט ביום שנמשח לעבודה אסור בטומאת קרובים ככהן גדול, והטעם ג"כ כנ"ל דכיון שהוא חינוכו והתחלתו צריך שיהי' בטהרה לגמרי

The Kli Chemda (Emor) answers similarly, with a different twist. The kedusha of every k'li shareis is only complete with an inauguration through Avoida ('כלי שרת עבודתן מחנכתן'). For an Avoida to constitute Chinuch, it needs to be pure.

(See also Chasam Sofer [Shabbos 21] and Meshech Chochmo [B'haalosecha])

  • These answers are contradicted from Tosfos (Taanis 17). It is clear from Tosfos that we will apply טומאה הותרה בציבור immediately with the rebuilding of the Third Beis Hamikdash, although that will also be a new Mizbeach and a restarting of the Avoida. According to the aforementioned shittos, these Avoidas would need to be performed in purity.
    – chortkov2
    Dec 25, 2019 at 22:52
  • Another problem with all these answers - if that is the reason, it would only apply on the first night. There is no need for a miracle on all the other nights.
    – chortkov2
    Dec 26, 2019 at 10:27
  • I think the Maharal says similarly in Ner Mitzvah
    – robev
    Dec 9, 2020 at 5:19

Tumah (impurity) was only hutra (allowed) for tumas meis (dead body impurity). This is because of a lack of time, as it states with regards to the nosi (leader of the jews) dying on the day before pesach where everyone would have to go to the tent with the body and become impure, and there wasn't enough time for the 7 day purification process.(see mishna shekolim 8,3).

Tumas zov was not mutar betzibbur this answer is given by the Pri chodosh orach chaim 670, even though contaminating the oil renders it permanently contaminated regardless of whether touched by a meis or zav.

We read famously in maoz tzur: Yevanim nikbetzu alai vetimu col hashmanim (the greeks gathered against us and rendered the oil impure). It doesn't mention dead bodies therefore we have to conclude that this was tumas zov (every gentile is ritually impure like someone with a white seminal emission - gemoro shabbos 18 gezeiras) by carrying the containers the greeks rendered them impure. see tosfos,nimukei Yosef,ran and rabeinu yehonasan on tractate shabbos 21b. Rosh Yosef proves this is the only tumah that a gentile could have rendered a cli cheres (earthenware vessel) impure.

an alternative reason might be that since it was tuma derabonon, it was not hutra betzibbur. only tuma deoraisa like tumas meis is hutra betzibbur

  • Why couldn't they just use the oil and it would become Tamei Deorayta when they touch it? Mimanafshakh: it's tahor and you don't need Hutrah, or it's now Tamei and you can use Hutrah. Is it prohibited to make oil Tamei so it can be user?
    – Double AA
    Aug 20, 2017 at 4:28
  • the cohen poured it into the menora directly and never had to touch it in fact it would be meila to touch it see tos kidushin 43a shelo
    – user15464
    Aug 20, 2017 at 4:33
  • That's missing my point. If the problem is it's not Tamei enough, just make it Tamei enough.
    – Double AA
    Aug 20, 2017 at 4:34
  • Do we say do a sin inorder to benefit others?(shabbos 4a)
    – user15464
    Aug 20, 2017 at 10:26
  • 1
    Gemara pesachim 14a -14b says explicitly that we don't say you are allowed to elevate the tuma derabanan of kodshim into tuma deoraisa - נימא קסבר רבי מאיר מתניתין באב הטומאה דאורייתא וולד הטומאה דרבנן דמדאורייתא טהור מעליא אמר ריש לקיש משום בר קפרא מתניתין באב הטומאה דאורייתא וולד הטומאה דאורייתא ומאי מדבריהם מדברי ר"א ורבי יהושע The subject is putting together kodshim tamei miderabanan with kodshim deoraita which via touching elevates the issur of the tuma derabanan to a deoraisa tuma.
    – user15464
    Aug 21, 2017 at 18:18

When the Tzibbur (public) is Tamei (ritual impure) then we need the Tzitz to conpensate this is the basis of how Tuma is allowed Pesachim 77a:
דלכולי עלמא טומאה דחויה היא בציבור ובעי' ציץ לרצות

Tuma was not permitted betzibbur (Temple service) for the oil in the Menora (according most opinions including Rashi and Rambam see below) as that oil was not offered on the mizbeach (altar).

According to the Tannaim Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda (to the exclusion of Rabbi Elazar who argues) in the Gemora Pesachim 77a:

דכולי עלמא אין הציץ מרצה על אכילות דליכא תנא דשמעת ליה דאמר הציץ מרצה על אכילות אלא ר"א דתניא ר"א אומר הציץ מרצה על אכילות רבי יוסי אומר אין הציץ מרצה על אכילות

Tuma is not Hutra Betzibbur for oil in the Menorah, as it is merely a אכילה-"consumption" of oil i.e it is not sacrificed on the mizbeach.
Only קרבין - "sacrificed parts on the Mizbeach" are permitted once ritual impurity has affected them.

Rashi on Pesachim 77a elaborates:

אינו מרצה על טומאת הנאכלים על אכילות על טומאה שנגע בבשר ובשירי מנחה הנאכלים אלא על טומאת דם וקמצים ואימורים

Only blood, flour taken by kemitza and sacrificial body parts which are all consumed on the altar are permitted in public Temple service when tamei. Not consumed portions, parts of the animal/meal sacrifice that is eaten.

The Rambam Hilchos Beis Hamikdosh 4,7 paskens like these 3 Tannaim: >הציץ מרצה על טומאת דברים הקרבין שנאמר והיה על מצח אהרן ונשא אהרן את עון הקדשים. אבל אינו מרצה על טומאת הנאכלין. >

The Tzitz allows for sacrifices that are tamei offered on the Mizbeach to be accepted, As it says "The Tzitz should be on Aharon's forehead forever, and he should remove the sin of Tumah on Kodshim (sacrifices)" But the tzitz does not atone for tumah of the consumed.

I.e something which is not a sacrifice on the altar is called נאכלין consumed, e.g Menora oil, and for something which is consumed by the altar the exclusive word קרבין, "offered up" is used, as in Vayikra 1,2:אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה' מן הבהמה מן הבקר ומן הצאן

Rabbi Elazar argues with the other Tannaim that all consumptions even the eating of the animal/ meal sacrifice are compenstated by the tzitz. however According to Rav in Pesachim 16a he holds that tuma cannot be contracted for liquids at all in the Beis Hamikdosh (see Shmuel who argues that liquids are susceptible to tumah according to Rabbi Elazar), so even if the oil was touched by tuma it cannot become tamei, so it would be anyway permissible to use for the Menorah without the Tziz to conpensate.

  • 1. The tzitz doesn't atone for anything. It's מרצה - the offering would otherwise be worthless, and the tzitz allows it to be accepted. 2. I always understood that the Tzitz accepting karbanos only applied בדיעבד - am I mistaken? Is one allowed to go ahead and לכתחילה offer an otherwise unsuitable karban, since the Tzitz would allow it anyway? In other words: is טומאה הותרה בציבור because of the Tzitz being מרצה, in which case your logic is sound, or is it for an entirely different reason, in which case you need to justify the leap to the Tzitz?
    – DonielF
    Jan 31, 2019 at 16:03
  • 3. I don't know if the quotes edited in by yosefkorn are the one's you're referring to, but they don't seem to say at all what you say they do. For instance, the Rashi you cite doesn't exist (at least in my editions).
    – DonielF
    Jan 31, 2019 at 16:09
  • @DonielF 1. feel free to change the translation of "atone" to "be accepted" i agree with you. 2. when the Tzibbur is Tamei then we need the Tzitz can be Meratze lechatchila this is the basis of how Tuma is allowed Pesachim 77a דלכולי עלמא טומאה דחויה היא בציבור ובעי' ציץ לרצות.ok? 3. The rashi quoted is just abbriviated form of this אין הציץ מרצה על אכילות על טומאה שנגע בבשר ובשירי מנחה הנאכלים אלא על טומאת הדם וקמצים (ואימורין) which is in every version of Pesachim 77a divrei hamaschil ודכולי עלמא happy chanuka sorry for late reply :-)
    – user15464
    Dec 25, 2019 at 17:48
  • Welcome back! If you’re going to be around, I think you should be the one to edit your own answer with all of that.
    – DonielF
    Dec 25, 2019 at 17:50
  • @DonielF give me a minute to edit....
    – user15464
    Dec 25, 2019 at 17:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .