I have seen questions and discussions which argue whether the miracle of Channukah was the military victory (rabim b'yad me'atim) or the finding/lasting of the pure oil. However, it seems that neither of these might be the case.

According to the Chabad page, "the purpose of the Chanukah lights is simply to remind us of the Chanukah miracle." The candles are not an literal reminder of oil, but a reminder of the miraculous events of the story (or the Channukat Hamizbe'ach, according to the Chiddushei Aggadot on Shabbat 21b)

In the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (193) we read that women have the tradition of not working while the candles are lit (or 30 minutes, so no exploiting those 24 hour candles...). This expression of respect for the candles is mentioned here, citing the Mateh Moshe. It is further expressed on that page and this one that a woman's connection relates to the "first nights" issue and the daughter of the Kohen Gadol's (and/or Judith) bravery in killing a lascivious Greek tyrant (mentioned in the Taz to S"A 670:2:10). The Mishna Berurah to 670:1 writes,

לפי שנעשה נס על ידיהם because a miracle happened by their hands

(translation mine).

If the actions of this woman caused the invaders to flee (as referenced in the Kaf Hachayim, 670:2 "וכראות החיל כי מת גבורם וינוסו" and even moreso, the mishna Berurah "וברחו כולם"), and this action is the miracle that inspires women, (and some men according to the Maharil, as referenced in the Kaf Hachaim, 670:1), to not do any melacha while the candles which remind us of that miracle are burning, then why isn't this the true miracle of Channukah?

This seems to be more explicitly stated in הערות הגרי"ש אלישיב מסכת קידושין דף לד עמוד ב as

עיקר הנס היה על ידן, בפורים ע"י אסתר בחנוכה ע"י יהודית בפסח שבזכות צדקניות שבאותו הדור נגאלו, והדרנא לדינא כרע"א. (ועי' קוב"ש ח"ב סי' ל')

[side note -- the Lev Meivin differentiates in an understanding of "af hen hayu b'oto haneis" between a miracle happening through women or women being subjected to the evil decrees in general]

There needs be no "v'rabim b'yad m'atim" military victory nor any (possibly later) concept of oil. The Channukah events (though is it a miracle that cheese makes one thirsty, or wine, sleepy?) led to the victory and rededication of the temple (as the Chabad site writes, "the miracle itself came about through the heroism of a woman").

So why is this not the "miracle of Channukah" that would be mentioned explicitly in prayer and song?

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    Let me ask a stupid question. Why must there be a single event which we recall with the Menorah? Maybe it refers to all of these things together? You mention this yourself in your second paragraph: “The candles are...a reminder of the miraculous events of the story.” It’s a package - it recalls the war, the candles burning for the full week, the actions of Yehudis, etc. etc. Why must the “miracle of Chanukah” be one particular event?
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 14:45
  • maybe because all the references are in the singular
    – rosends
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 16:29
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    @rosends what references are you referring to? 'Al Hanisim' is plural.
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 19:33
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    @rosends Both of those references are to the miracle of the military victory, so they are singular, how does that show that there is only one miracle to be celebrated?
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 20:00
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    @rosends Why can't the actions of Yehudis be part of the nes of the military victory? How is it necessarily distinct from 'rabim b'yad m'atim'? It contributed to 'rabim b'yad m'atim'! It sounds like you are understanding that Yehudis' action was, in itself, a miracle. But I don't see the wording of your sources implying that at all.
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 20:05

1 Answer 1

  1. Your question falls under the general question of "why the Sages differ in their views and opinions?". My answer is that there's no reasonable explanation for this - just One Rabbi sew it one way and another saw it differently.

  2. As Chanukkah happened long after the Prophets we had no heavenly explanation for what really happened and what part of it was the miracle, if anything.

  3. A very important thing to keep in mind, that all the discussions we now have in written were held some 200-400-600 (Tannoyim through Amoroyim) years after the occasion, so those are the post-factum interpretations and not the apriori reasons.

  4. NB This is very similar to the perception of the establishment of the Jewish State - the day it was established not many Rabbis understood what it was and decided to give it a chance. Some decades later it became clear that it is Kibbutz Galuyot and some sort of Geula so some Rabbis decided to turn this day into a festival (saying Hallel) while others still hesitate. Let's wait a hundred or two hundred years and see where the Haredi Judaism will take this event - maybe it will become another Hannukkah(?). Time will tell.

  • 1
    When do I get enough point to see who's -1s me uncommentedly?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 19:31
  • 1
    I don't think that's one of the privileges, but you can see them all here: judaism.stackexchange.com/help/privileges Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 0:30
  • @AlBerko no normal user ever sees this
    – mbloch
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 4:32
  • 1
    @mbloch even mods can't see that
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 20:35
  • al berko. i am new here. but i really like what al berko writes
    – user19400
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 2:51

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