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The Machzor Vitry (§234) finds a scriptural source for Hanukkah in Leviticus 24:2. That the stipulation that Israelites should collect pure olive oil for the menorah should follow on from a description of the festivals would seem to suggest that there would one day be an additional festival that relates in some way to pure olive oil. This is the language of the Machzor Vitry:

רמז לחנוכה מן התורה שכת׳ אחר כל המועדות בפר׳ אמר ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך... ומדכתביה עם המועדות למדנו שהוא יום טוב כשאר ימים טובים

There is an allusion to Hanukkah in the Torah in that it is written, after all of the festivals in Parshat Emor, "collect pure olive oil for yourselves"... and since it is written together with the other festivals, it teaches us that it is a yom tov like the other yamim tovim.

The gemara also refers to the days of Hanukkah as yamim tovim (Shabbat 21b), but Rashi very carefully stipulates (s.v. ועשאום ימים טובים) that they are not yamim tovim in respect of any prohibition of work, but only in respect of one needing to recite hallel and al hannissim. This is important, since the usual definition of a yom tov is of a festival day on which work is forbidden (cf: Rambam, Hilkhot Shevitat Yom Tov 1:1).

That said, the festivals mentioned in Parshat Emor are all days on which it is forbidden to work, and the drash recorded in Machzor Vitry would seem to be explicitly likening Hanukkah to them. What is more, the stipulation that Hanukkah is a yom tov "like the other yamim tovim" would argue against its being a yom tov only in respect of the fact that one recites hallel and al hannissim on it, since one does not recite hallel on Rosh haShana, and one only recites al hannissim on Hanukkah and Purim.

My question is, in what sense can Hanukkah be said to be a yom tov "like the other yamim tovim", while still allowing for the permissibility of work? Also, and relatedly, in what sense can this passage be reconciled with the opinion of Rashi in Shabbat 21b? This question becomes more profound when you consider the fact that the author of the Machzor Vitry, R' Simchah ben Shmuel, was a student of Rashi, and that this opinion of his is brought as an addition to Rashi's commentary (מוסף רש״י) on Leviticus 24:2, in the Miqraot Gedolot.

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    Are you sure that it isn't stating some spiritual meaning in its statement as opposed to a halachic one? Can't it be a hag in the fact that hagim can only come from Torah?
    – rosenjcb
    Dec 17, 2014 at 5:15
  • Ramban Al hatora also if I remember right
    – kouty
    Jul 27, 2016 at 12:27
  • I found this which may be a great answer on your question: books.google.nl/…
    – Levi
    Oct 25, 2016 at 12:25
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    The Machzor Vitry means that the mitzvah of lighting the menorah, which a priori has no connection to the yamim tovim, in fact contains an allusion to Chanukah, such that this too refers to "a yom tov like the other yamim tovim." It does not mean that Chanukah is a yom tov like the other yamim tovim.
    – wfb
    Dec 10, 2019 at 18:33
  • As an aside (i.e., unlike) "Mah Hanukkah?"
    – user24795
    Apr 4, 2021 at 16:13

3 Answers 3

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The Ramchal in one of his books on logic says that saying one thing is "like" another only means there is a minimum of one way in which there is a resemblance. Chanukkah is a holiday as far as saying Hallel and praising Hashem, but there the comparison ends. That is enough for the Torah to hint at there one day being a Yom Tov of Chanukkah in the future. The Machzor Vitry expects the reader to be aware that there is no comparison meant as far as forbidding work, as Rashi says.

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Maybe this can explain it somewhat

Ri Milunel actually separates out the core holiday of Chanuka from the neiros, imagining a celebratory 8 day holiday sans lights, with the 8 days drawing on the Sukkos model (a less radical and more traditional twist than the claim in 2 Maccabees), with the oil miracle which was the catalyst for lighting neiros merely an intensification of the miraculous military conquest which allowed for resumption of our religious practices which is why the holiday was really instituted.

ר"י מלוניל שבת כ"א: לשנה אחרת קבעום שמונה ימים טובים. כל השמונה ימים, (לא) [שלא] נעשה נס כזה לישראל, שאלו פרעה לא גזר על המצות, ויון הרשעה גזרה, לפיכך האריכו אלו הימים כשיעור החג, שיהא שמנה ימים להזכיר בהם הנס. ואפי' לא היה נעשה (בהם) [להם נס] בשמן, כמו כן היו שמחים ומזכירין מעשה נסים כשיעור יום טוב הארוך מכל המועדות, אך לא היו מדליקין נרות כלל, אלא מהללים ומרוממים כשאר מועדות, וכשבא ונכפל להם נס בשמן, הוסיפו להדליק הנרות להזכיר כפילת הנס.

(From alhatorah.org)

See here for a possible explanation of an enigmatic chanukah custom mentioned by Maharil not to work the first and last day of Sukkos in light of the Sukkos-Chanuka connection

I would also point out that both Chanuka and Sukkos have in common 8 days of a full hallel

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  1. Chanuka has a prohibition of work while the candles are lighting. Not exactly like other Yamim Tovim, but still.
  2. We have Hallel
  3. Not allowed to fast or eulogize
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  • Regarding your second point, note that Rosh haShana is a yom tov, but we don't say hallel.
    – Shimon bM
    Dec 17, 2014 at 21:43
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    Notewrothy is that Machzor Vitry mentions the practice of avoiding work (the earliest source for this AFAIK.)
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 29, 2016 at 5:45
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    @ShimonbM The Gemara in Arachin 11b seems to indicate that we should say Hallel on RH/YK, but for external factors we don’t. Same goes for Purim.
    – DonielF
    Aug 22, 2017 at 4:18
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    @mevaqesh For reference, the Machzor Vitri is found in (§237) וגם מה שנהגו שלא לעשות מלאכה בפורים ובחנוכה, מנהג הוא, דיום טוב לא קבילו עלייהו. Dec 10, 2019 at 14:10
  • @ShimonbM it's the exception
    – JNF
    Dec 25, 2019 at 11:43

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