The Famous Question Of The Beit Yosef

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Resource Type: Short Article in: English
Age: 10-18
Group Size: 10-59
Estimated Time: 45 minutes

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The Famous Question of the Beit Yosef

There is a famous question asked by the Beit Yosef on the days of Chanukah. If the oil that was found to light the Menorah was sufficient to last for one day, and it lasted for eight, then the miracle only happened for seven days!? One answer is given by the Taz (Orech Chayim 670:1) and he says that there was enough oil to be put in all of the branches of the Menorah to last for one day. The miracle was that it lasted for the entire eight days. So therefore, since all the oil was not consumed on the first day, the miracle was for eight days and not seven.

In the Klei Chemdah (Vayakhel p.157) there is an interesting question on the Tazs answer. The miracle that the Taz explains, is describing the replenishment of the original oil. So that would imply that even though the oil miraculously returned, the oil itself was not the pure olive oil that was necessary for lighting the Menorah. The Torah specifically explains that the oil used for the Menorah had to be the purest oil that could be found. This brings us to a new question: how could the miracle oil that was used be oil that was unfit for the Menorah?

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik says that the oil in the Menorah didnt actually replenish itself each day. In fact, the miracle was that each day the quality of the oil improved to such a high quality that only a fraction of the original oil was needed. This answers both of the previous questions. Firstly, the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days did actually occur, and the oil that was used was not miracle oil but rather the original oil that was just improved daily. The oil burnt for eight days because this new and improved oil was more efficient, and not because it replenished.

The prayer Al Hanissim describes different examples of quality defeating quantity, such as the weak over the mighty and the pure over the impure. The entire essence of Chanukah is based on the superiority of quality over quantity. The miracle of the oil should teach us a lesson about our daily lives. When it comes to Mitzvot, the numbers are not what count the most. The quality of our righteous actions is what truly matters, and Chanukah should be an inspiration to improving our deeds and the quality of our lives.

Sent by Adam Davis

Written by Rabbi Yehuda Prero

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