Festive meals on Chanukah

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Festive meals on Chanukah:[1]

There is a dispute amongst Poskim regarding the form of celebration the Sages established to be performed on Chanukah. Some Poskim[2] rule the rejoicing was established to be performed only in a spiritual nature; to light candles, say Al Hanisim and Hallel, and not to enhance in festive meals.[3] Accordingly, the festive meals that take place on Chanukah are “Seudas Hareshus”, voluntary meals, as the Sages did not establish the holiday for merrymaking and joy.[4] Other Poskim[5] however rule the rejoicing must be done also in the physical realm, and hence there is a slight Mitzvah involved in having festive meals.[6] Practically, the custom is to increase in meals and festivities during Chanukah, and to sing praise and song during the meals, and in this way the meal is considered a Seudas Mitzvah [according to all opinions[7]].[8] [One who arranges a special meal every day of Chanukah is praised.[9] On Shabbos Chanukah, one is to increase in foods more than a regular Shabbos. Likewise, on Rosh Chodesh Teves, one is to increase in foods more than a regular Rosh Chodesh.[10]]

Eating cheese/Milk:[11] One should eat cheese on Chanukah, due to that the miraculous victory was achieved through Yehudis feeding milk to the enemy general.

Fasting:[12] [According to all opinions] it is forbidden to fast on Chanukah. This prohibition applies even against fasting for a Taanis Chalom, or the day of one’s parents Yartzite. Likewise, a groom and bride are not to fast on the day of their wedding when taking place during the eight days of Chanukah.[13]

 

Summary:

One is to have festive meals during Chanukah, mentioning praise to Hashem for the miracles which He performed. Milk products should be eaten on Chanukah.

 

Q&A

Must one eat meat and drink wine during the Chanukah meal according to the stringent opinion and custom?

No.[14] However, some Poskim[15] imply there is a Mitzvah, and obligation, to do so.

 

Directive of the Rebbe-Increasing in festivities and meals:

Every day of Chanukah one is celebrate with a festive meal. One is to increase the quality of festivities each day, just as one increases in the Chanukah lights.

 

Latkes and Sufganiyot-Eating foods made with oil: 

It is a Jewish custom [which is Torah] to eat foods that are cooked with oil, during Chanukah.[16] This custom is not mentioned in Poskim. Nevertheless, one is not to belittle any Jewish custom, as this custom dates back many generations, as testifies the father of the Rambam. The reason behind this custom is to cherish the miracle which took place through oil, and hence we eat fried foods on Chanukah.[17] The Alter Rebbe, and other Chabad Rebbeim, were accustomed to hold a family Chanukah party event called Latke event.[18]

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[1] 670:; See Shulchan Menachem 3:287

[2] Michaber ibid; Tur in name of Maharam Merothenberg

[3] The difference between Chanukah and Purim: The reason for why by Purim the Sages established the rejoicing to be done with a meal, as opposed to Chanukah, is because the decree against the Jews during the period of Chanukah was not to smite the body of the Jewish people but their culture and soul. Hence, it is celebrated in a spiritual manner. This is in contrast to Purim, in which the Jewish people as a whole were threatened to be annihilated, irrelevant of whether they would give up their religion. [Levush 670:2 brought in M”B 670:6] Alternatively, since the miracle of Purim occurred through the feasts of Esther, therefore, the Sages established the commemoration of Purim to involve festive meals. However, on Chanukah that the miracle occurred with the candles, the commemoration is also with candles. [Mamar Mordechai 670:3; Machazik Bracha 670:4] Alternatively, since Purim was the completion of Matan Torah, therefore they established the celebration with food, being the Torah is a parable to bread. [ibid] Alternatively, since the miracle of Purim was a lot greater, as they did not require soldiers to fight the enemy and even the gentiles themselves fought for the Jews, therefore they established meal festivities as a commemoration. [Kaf Hachaim 670:11]

[4] Michaber ibid

[5] Rama 670:2; Maharal of Prague; Megillas Taanis [and Megillas Antiochus] which states explicitly that “It was established for festivities and joy like all the festivals written in the Torah”; Rashal Yam Shel Shlomo Bava Kama 7:37 that so is proven to be the opinion of Rambam Chanukah 3:3 who writes “The days of Chanukah are days of joy and praise”; Bach 670 that so is implies from Rambam ibid; M”A 670:3; Elya Raba 670:16; Mordechai Haruch, brought in Darkei Moshe 670 “They established it for Mishteh and Simcha”; See Likkutei Sichos 10:142

[6] The reason: This is in commemoration of the inauguration of the altar, which took place during the days of Chanukah. [Rama ibid; Mordechai ibid] The Midrash states that the work of the Mishkan in the times of Moshe was completed on the 25th of Kislev. Nevertheless, its inauguration was delayed until Nissan, which is the month that Yitzchak was born. Hashem promised to give retribution on the 25th of Kislev which lost the first inauguration. Thus, Hashem arranged that the Chanukah victory end on the 25th of Kislev. [Midrash Tanuchuma Behaaloscha] Likewise, the Greeks defiled and impurifed the Temple, which was re-inaugurated during the eight days of Chanukah. [M”B 670:7] Thus, it is considered as if the original inauguration in the Mishkan occurred on 25th of Kislev and it is this event that we are celebrating. [Elya Raba 670:17; See Kaf Hachaim 670:12] Alternatively, the reason is because the Jewish people won the war against the Yevanim, and the Sages hence established the days for Simcha and festive meals. [Likkutei Sichos 10:142 in opinion of Rambam ibid that the Halel and Hodah were established due to the miracle of the oil while the Simcha and Mishteh were established due to the victory of battle.]

[7] Hashlama ibid

[8] Rama ibid; Hashlama of Rav Nechemiah that it is an old custom and so is the custom today; Biur Halacha 670; Rebbe in Toras Menachem 49 2:34 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 3:287 and Shaareiy Halacha Uminhag 2:282] “One is to be Mehader in the Mitzvos of Chanukah like all opinions… Rav Nechmia writes the custom in these countries is to increase in meals in these days”

The reason one must sing praise: This law applies likewise regarding the wedding of the daughter of a Torah scholar to a layman, in which case, if one sings praise by the wedding it has the status of a Seudas Mitzvah. [M”A 670:4; M”B 670:8] This means that the singing of praise combined with the opinion that holds festivities are required, joins to form it into a Seudas Mitzvah according to all. [See M”B 670:9; Kaf Hachaim 670:15-16]

[9] Shiyurei Kneses Hagedola 670:5; Elya Raba 670:6; Kaf Hachaim 670:13

[10] Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeishev 28; Kaf Hachaim ibid

[11] Rama 670:2; Kol Bo; Ran

[12] Rama 670:3

[13] Rav Nechemiah 670:5; See M”A 573:1

[14] So is implied from Setimas Haposkim; See Levush 670

[15] Beis Yaakov 73 based on Teshuvos Maharam; brought in Beir Heiytiv 529:7; M”B 529:20; See Mateh Moshe 993 who states the meal of Chanukah is hinted to in the words in Parshas Mikeitz “Tavoach Tavach”

Mitzvah or obligation? The Maharahm and Beis Yaakov ibid do not state that it is an obligation to eat meat and drink wine, but simply that if one took upon himself not to eat meat and drink wine due to Teshuvah, it does not apply on Chanukah and Purim. In fact, the Maharahm is of the opinion that all the Chanukah meals are Seudas Reshus, and hence obviously he cannot hold that eating meat is obligatory! Despite this, the Beir Heiytiv and M”B ibid write [based on the Beis Yaakov] that one is obligated to eat meat and drink wine! Perhaps one can explain this matter as follows: Although there is no obligation to eat meat on Chanukah, nevertheless, one who eats meat further fulfills a Mitzvah of rejoicing on Chanukah. This is similar to the ruling of the Michaber in 696:7 who states eating meat on Purim fulfills a Biblical precept even though we are not obligated to eat meat on Purim. Vetzaruch Iyun.

[16] Shaar HaMoadim p. 117

[17] Letter of father of Rambam printed in Nitei Gavriel 51 footnote 16

[18] Hayom Yom 28th Kisleiv

 

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