There’s a major difference between the laws of Chanuka and all other Jewish legal requirements throughout the year? In a nutshell, on Chanuka doing our best is what counts the most.
In Judaism, there are often many laws and details on how to perform mitzvot (Torah commandments). For example, the tefillin (phylacteries) must be black and square, there is a minimum amount of matzah that must be eaten at the Passover Seder, and the strings of the tallit (prayer shawl) must be tied to exact specifications. More often than not, if any of these details are overlooked, the mitzva (commandment) is unfulfilled – regardless of one’s good intentions.
The mitzva of lighting Chanuka candles is no different. They must be lit at a certain time, at a certain place in the home, and they must burn for a minimum amount of time.
Here’s something interesting in the laws of Chanuka. Let’s say someone lit the Chanuka candles at the correct time and the candles (or oil) were expected to burn for the required amount of time, but immediately after lighting, the wind (or ‘active’ child!) blew them out. However, the mitzva is nevertheless fulfilled! There is no obligation to relight the candles. So it seems that the laws of Chanuka are different that all other mitzvot: As long as one had the proper intentions and did everything he or she was supposed to do, the mitzva is fulfilled, notwithstanding unforeseen circumstance.! Pretty cool!
The Holiday of ‘Divine Providence’
So why is Chanuka different?
It is explained that Chanuka is different because it is the holiday of “Divine providence.” When the Maccabees retook the Holy Temple from the Greeks, they searched and searched for some pure oil with which to light the Menorah. They did indeed find some, but it was only enough to last for one day. Yet a miracle occurred and it lasted for eight. The finding of the jug of oil was unexpected, and that it would last for so long was completely surprising. The Maccabees simply did their best, God did the rest.
Chanuka reminds us that our job is to do the best we can and the rest is up to God. This is why there is an exception to the laws of “mitzva fulfillment” on Chanuka. If the candles go out, it is essentially due to an “act of God.” Like everything in life, we have to prepare, and we have to put everything in place. God decides the results. And if He decides that a certain gust of wind must pick up to a certain speed at a certain moment at a certain corner of your home, well, that’s God, for whatever reason, putting out your candles.
…..Just be even extra careful on the next night of Chanuka!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
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