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Sample chapter from Halacha Sources: The Halachos of Chanukah

Orach Chayim Siman 670:

Things that are Assur or Muttar on the Days of Chanukah

The development of: Se'if 1

CHANUKAH'S STATUS AS A "YOM TOV"*

The Gemara (Shabbos 21b4):

Question: What is [the origin of] Chanukah?

Baraisa (from Megillas Ta'anis1): On the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the eight days of Chanukah [begin]. On these days, one may not eulogize, and one may not fast. [The institution of Chanukah, with this festive nature, resulted from the following:] When the Greeks 2 went into the Beis HaMikdash3, they contaminated4 all of the oil there. [Later,] when the Hasmoneans5 overpowered and defeated the Greeks, they searched and found only one container of oil, which remained with the seal of the kohen gadol. There was only enough oil in it to light [the Menorah] for one day. [However,] a miracle was performed with it - and they lit [the Menorah] from it for eight days. In the following year, [the Sages of that generation (Rambam)] "established" those days - making them Yamim Tovim* with respect to "thanksgiving" and saying Hallel [but not as being assur in melacha* (Rashi6)].

Accordingly, the Shulchan Aruch starts the Se'if by ruling: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev ["begin" (Rema)] the eight days of Chanukah; and they are assur in eulogizing and in fasting, but they are muttar in melacha.

[The rest of Se'if 1 follows the next subject. In addition, more about eulogizing and fasting will be discussed in Se'if 3, and the Halachos of the above "thanksgiving and saying Hallel" are discussed in Siman 682 and Siman 683.]


  1. The Sages established a number of holidays because of miracles which happened on certain days. They recorded the details in a work called "Megillas Ta'anis". Some of the holidays are listed there as "days that it's [only] assur to fast", and the others are described as "days that it's assur to eulogize [as well]". Subsequently, almost all of these holidays were cancelled, but Chanukah was not. (Ta'anis 15b [with Rashi], Rosh HaShanah 18b)
  2. The Hebrew "Yevanim" is traditionally translated "Greeks". Whether or not the oppressors of the Jews at the time of the Chanukah miracle should be described as "Greeks" is beyond the scope of this project.
  3. source's wording: "into the heichal". (The term "heichal" generally refers to the "main Sanctuary building" of the Beis HaMikdash.)
  4. I.e. they caused the oil to become tamay [non-physically contaminated], and therefore it was no longer valid for the lighting of the Menorah. [As for how they caused this, see below.]
  5. source's wording: "Hasmonean family leadership".
  6. The Gra writes that in Megillah (5b) we see that this is a general rule: When Megillas Ta'anis says that a day is a Yom Tov, this does not mean to say that the day is assur in melacha.

* see Glossary º see Bibliography O.C. = volume Orach Chayim (of Shulchan Aruch, etc.)

Halacha Sources
The Halachos of Chanukah

Table of Contents

Orach Chayim, 670
Things that are Assur or Muttar on the Days of Chanukah

Orach Chayim, 671
The Basic System of Chanukah Candles (and their location)

Orach Chayim, 672
The Lighting Time for the Chanukah Candles

Orach Chayim, 673
Oils and Wicks that are Valid for Chanukah

Orach Chayim, 674
When is it Muttar to Light One Candle From Another?

Orach Chayim, 675
The Lighting Makes the Mitzvah (not the setting in place)

Orach Chayim, 676
The Order of the Brachos and the Lighting

Orach Chayim, 677
The Halachos of a "Guest" concerning Chanukah Candles

Orach Chayim, 678
Precedence of Shabbos Candles over Chanukah Candles

Orach Chayim, 679
Chanukah Candle-lighting on the Eve of the Shabbos

Orach Chayim, 680
Placing Candles Close to the Entrance (the night of Shabbos)

Orach Chayim, 681
Using Chanukah Candles for Havdalah (and the Order)

Orach Chayim, 682
The Halachos of "Al HaNissim" on Chanukah

Orach Chayim, 683
Hallel is Completed on all Eight Days of Chanukah

Orach Chayim, 684
The Order of the Torah Reading on Chanukah

View the volume on the Halachos of Birkas HaChamah