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Q & A: ‘The Scepter Shall Not Depart From Judah’ (Part III)

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Addendum: A reader, Yisrael Levi, sent us the following e-mail:

“There is an erroneous claim in the current question, ‘Some people say that Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, the redactor of the six orders of the Mishnah and a scion of King David, purposely kept any mention of Chanukah and the Hasmonean kings out of the Mishnah….’ The word ‘Chanukah’ appears seven times in the Mishnah (once in Bava Kamma, which discusses the ramifications of a fire started by a Chanukah candle). Also, there is an implicit eighth reference in that we say the complete Hallel on Rosh Chodesh Tevet (i.e., a day that is always on Chanukah).

“The real question is: Why is there no Mesechet Chanukah in the Mishnah, similar to Mesechet Megillah, and why is the miracle of the oil not mentioned in the Mishnah?”

Answer: You are a most keen observer! Indeed, there are numerous references to Chanukah, in regards to such matters as the seder hatefillah, publicizing the new moon to the masses, proclaiming a fast on Chanukah, etc. These references are found in mishnayot throughout our Talmud: Rosh Hashana 18a, Ta’anit 15b, Megillah 29a and 30b, Moed Kattan 28b, and Bava Kamma 62b.

Yet, your point is on target. Why doesn’t the story of the miracle of the oil as well as the mitzvah to light the Chanukah menorah – in other words, those elements that comprise the essence of Chanukah – appear in the Mishnah. In addition, why doesn’t Chanukah have its own tractate like the other festivals? These omissions seem to indicate that R. Yehudah haNassi perhaps frowned upon the Hasmoneans for having improperly crowned themselves as kings. We will amend the question appearing at the top of this column in light of your comments in the next installment.

(To be continued)

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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