Chanuka - Why do we say Hallel?

Two נסים happened during Chanuka, one was the victory of the Chashmonim over the Greeks, the other was the נס of the oil.

There are three things that we do on Chanuka to thank Hashem for these nisim:
- We light the menora
- We say al hanisim in Shemona Esrei and
- We say hallel

Are these all for both nisim or are they specific to one nes?

The Emek Beracha points out that when the gemara in Shabbos (כ״א עמוד ב') explains what Chanuka is, it does not mention the nes of the victory:

מאי חנוכה … שכשנכנסו יוונים להיכל טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל וכשגברה מלכות בית חשמונאי ונצחום בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד נעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה

“What is chanuka? …when the Greeks entered the heichal they made the oil tameh and when the Chashmonoim defeated them they searched and could only find one jug of oil that had the seal of the kohen gadol. This jug only contained enough oil to light for one day. A nes happened and they lit from it for 8 days. The next year they fixed these days as a יום טוב with saying Hallel and הודאה. “

The gemara mentions the victory as a natural event “when the Chashmonoim defeated them..” and the menora as the nes. However in modim, it is the opposite way around:

מָסַרְתָּ גִבּורִים בְּיַד חַלָּשִׁים. וְרַבִּים בְּיַד מְעַטִּים. וּטְמֵאִים בְּיַד טְהורִים. וּרְשָׁעִים בְּיַד צַדִּיקִים. וְזֵדִים בְּיַד עוסְקֵי תורָתֶךָ. וּלְךָ עָשיתָ שֵׁם גָּדול וְקָדושׁ בְּעולָמֶךָ. וּלְעַמְּךָ יִשרָאֵל עָשיתָ תְּשׁוּעָה גְדולָה וּפֻרְקָן כְּהַיּום הַזֶּה: וְאַחַר כֵּן בָּאוּ בָנֶיךָ לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶךָ. וּפִנּוּ אֶת הֵיכָלֶךָ. וְטִהֲרוּ אֶת מִקְדָּשֶׁךָ. וְהִדְלִיקוּ נֵרות בְּחַצְרות קָדְשֶׁךָ

“You handed the strong into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few, …and after that your sons came to the beis hamikdash and cleaned the heichal and lit lamps…”

Here we mention the victory as a nes and the menora is as a natural event?

The navi says (זכריה ד):

ב וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי מָה אַתָּה רֹאֶה וָאֹמַר רָאִיתִי וְהִנֵּה מְנוֹרַת זָהָב כֻּלָּהּ ... וָאַעַן וָאֹמַר אֶל-הַמַּלְאָךְ הַדֹּבֵר בִּי לֵאמֹר מָה-אֵלֶּה אֲדֹנִי... וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי לֵאמֹר זֶה דְּבַר-ה' אֶל-זְרֻבָּבֶל לֵאמֹר לֹא בְחַיִל וְלֹא בְכֹחַ כִּי אִם-בְּרוּחִי אָמַר ה' צְבָאוֹת.

“The malach said to me, what can you see? I said, I saw a gold menora and two olive trees on each side. Oil was running from the trees into a bowl that fed the lights of the menora... I asked the malach, what is this? He answered, this is the word of Hashem to Zerubavel: “Not through might and not through strength, but only thorugh my רוח says Hashem.”

The menora symbolises that the רוח ה' is the cause of people’s accomplishments. That is why the nes of the menora followed the victory of the Chashmonoim, Hashem was saying that it was the רוח ה' that won the battle and not the strength of the Chashmonoim.

The main ישועה for the benei yisroel at the time of Chanuka was the nes of the war. Through this they were saved from the oppression of the Greeks. However, the gemara explains that the Yom Tov of Chanuka was fixed in memory of the nes of the oil, to stop people making Chanuka into a reminder of the military victory alone and thinking that the Chashmonoim were saved through their own strength.

Why, however, do we only mention the nes of the victory in Shemone Esrei and not the nes of the oil?

The Emek Beracha explains that in modim, where we thank Hashem, we can only thank Hashem for a nes that we benefited from. Because we did not benefit from the nes of the oil, which only served as a reminder that Hashem had enabled the Chashmonoim to win the war, this is not something that we can thank Hashem for.

He explains that the same applies to Hallel, you can only say Hallel for a nes that we benefited from:

The gemara in Megilla says that the reason that we do not say Hallel on Purim is because “אכתי עבדי אחשורוש אנן” – although we were redeemed from Haman, we are still the servants of Achashverosh. In other words, even if we benefited from a nes, if we do not have complete benefit we do not say Hallel. All the more so we cannot say Hallel for the nes of the oil where there was no physical benefit at all. We say Hallel for the victory, not for the nes of the oil.

The Emek Beracha therefore explains that when the gemara in Shabbos says that there was a nes of the oil and then says that on Chanuka we say Hallel and Modim, it does not mean that we say Hallel and Modim because of the nes of the oil. Rather it means that we commemorate the nes of the victory through the nes of the oil, but we say Hallel and Modim because of the victory and the ישועה.


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