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Is Hanukkah a Minor Holiday?

If one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Hanukkah lamp, the mitzvah of Hanukkah takes precedence.
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Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90

Originally published at Chabad.org.

Question:

My friend told me that Hanukkah is a minor holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Passover, and so we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. He said that the only reason it became so big was because of the season.

Answer:

Unlike Rosh Hashanah, Passover and other “major” holidays, which are prescribed by the Torah as days of rest, we go to work on Hanukkah. Even on Purim, going to work is not recommended. Also, on Jewish holidays we wear special clothes. But the days of Hanukkah are regular workdays in regular clothes.

Yet Hanukkah is a hardly a “minor” holiday. Read what Maimonides writes in his Laws of Hanukkah:

The mitzvah of kindling Hanukkah lamps is a very precious mitzvah. A person should be very careful in its observance, to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of God and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf. Even if a person has no resources for food except what he receives from charity, he should pawn or sell his garments and purchase oil and lamps to kindle them.

Maimonides continues by instructing that if one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Hanukkah lamp, the mitzvah of Hanukkah takes precedence. Doesn’t sound too minor to me.

Especially when you take into account that this is what Hanukkah is all about: to “light up the darkness” (which is why we light it at night, at the door or window). So, even though it’s a regular workday—well, that’s really the whole idea: to light up the regular workday. And that takes a very special light.

At any rate, since when do we look for excuses not to celebrate? On the contrary, in the words of wise King Solomon, “A good heart always celebrates.”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, senior editor at Chabad.org

About the Author: Chabad.org is a division of the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, under the auspices of the Lubavitch World Headquarters


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One Response to “Is Hanukkah a Minor Holiday?”

  1. Gil Gilman says:

    Ok…I'll plunge in…Chanukah is not a minor holiday for the plain reason that without the events leading up to and including the miracle there would have been no Judaism left to celebrate. All things being equal that is, which they are not. Since Purim is mentioned here. Mordecai tells Esther that if she remains silent help will arise for the Jews from some other corner. If the Maccabees hadn't revolted against Syrian oppression, there would have been more than the sacrificing of a pig on the altar. On the other hand maybe help would have arisen from another quarter, but I don't remember hearing anything of the sort at the time. On the third hand, the entire world is still trying to tell Jews what to do with the practices that Hashem chose in order for Jews to be recognized as separate from the gentiles. Christians should sit up and take notice of this as well, since without Chanukah there would have been no Israel for their messiah to come to. Now that the bones have come up from the dust, put on flesh, and had life from the Creator breathed into them, there is now an Israel for HaMashiach to come to…unless, of course Syria and the world system that wishes to bow to it succeed in preventing the temple to be rebuilt, or preventing shecita, or bris milah, or all three. This is simple logic, no advanced degrees necessary.

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If one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Hanukkah lamp, the mitzvah of Hanukkah takes precedence.

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