Chanukah: The Feminine Side of Chanukah

December 16, 2022

Who was the young woman that kindled the fire of rebellion of the Maccabees? Who was the woman whose resourcefulness helped the Maccabees win? And why did women suffer more than anyone else under Greek rule?

  1. Women and Chanukah

Women are exempt from positive time-constrained commandments of doing (Source 1), the reason being, that they are more spiritual.

If so, the Rebbe asks, why are women obligated to observe the commandment of lighting Chanukah candles (Source 2)? The Rebbe explains that because the decree was also about women, and the victory was , as well, achieved by a woman, therefore, the women are also obligated in it.

The Midrash details the deep involvement of women in the decrees of the Greeks, and in the victory of the Maccabees (Source 3).

  1. Is a Suicide Mission Allowed?

Who allowed the Maccabees to sacrifice their lives? Maimonides specifies that the Jew must sacrifice his life only for three specific serious transgressions, and for all the rest – he must transgress and not be killed (Source 4). According to these rules, apparently the Jewish people at the time of the Chanukah miracle were not supposed to sacrifice their lives?

However, during a period of religious persecution, one must give up their life even for a minor mitzvah (Source 5), but this is only when the gentile come to the Jew and forces him to violate a prohibition, it is not intended that he should preemptively go out on a suicide mission against the world’s most powerful empire.

  1. National Sanctity

The Rebbe explains that when the decrees were against matters concerning the purity of the family and the nation, then there is no room for logical considerations, as the Kesef Mishneh establishes (Source 6). The women were the ones who evoked this feeling among the Jewish people, and therefore they were the ones who brought about the ultimate victory.

Since the self-sacrifice of the jewish people was irrational, so too the miracle – the reward – was beyond nature, a victory of the few against the many, and the miracle of the jug of oil.

Why did they need the miracle of the jug of oil? After all, according to jewish law, it is permissible to light a fire with impure oil in such a situation! (Source 7). The Rebbe explains that since the Jewish people sacrificed themselves in a manner that was beyond the letter of the law, G-d performed a miracle for them, beyond the letter of the law , so that they could light with pure oil.



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