Sukkot, Chanukah and Yemot ha-mashiach: An Analysis of Primary Sources



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2. Ad She-tikhleh Regel Min Ha-shuk: Ad De-kalya Rigla De-tarmoda'i


The gemara interprets the mishna: "[The ner Chanukah must be relit] until there is no wayfarer in the street - until when is that? Rabba Bar Bar Chana said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: until the feet of the Tarmodeans have disappeared."
Who are the Tarmodeans, and what connection do they have to the period for which the ner Chanukah must remain lit?
On the peshat level, as Rashi explains, Tarmodeans refer to sellers of firewood, who are usually the last to leave the marketplace; but what is the meaning the term Tarmoda'i?
The term "Tarmodean"77 appears rarely in rabbinic literature; there is a discussion of their status with regard to yuchsin in several tractates, and a "Miriam the Tarmodean" appears in Tractate Nazir. The aggada, however, is somewhat more rich with regard to Tarmod. The midrash writes, "'For your offspring shall conquer 'the gate' of its enemies' - Rebbi states, this is Tarmod; happy are all who see in the downfall of Tarmod, for it was a partner in the two destructions. Rabbi Yudan and Rabbi Chanina issued statements in this regard. One said, in the destruction of Bayit Rishon, Tarmod contributed [to the enemy] 80,000 archers, and in the destruction of Bayit Sheini, they contributed 8,000 archers; the other said, in the destruction of Bayit Rishon, Tarmod contributed [to the enemy] 40,000 archers, and in the destruction of Bayit Sheini, they contributed 2,000 archers."78 Tarmod was a chief participant in the churban and is seen as the leader of the enemies to be conquered.
This future conquest is described in more detail in Midrash Shir Ha-shirim. Its description of the conquests of the melekh ha-mashiach in the aftermath of Milchemet Gog U-Magog culminates in the battle of the Jews with the kings of the east in Tarmod.79 Tarmod represents the culmination of the eschatological apocalypse; the light of the ner Chanukah, representing the ongoing eschatological struggle, must burn until then.
The circle is complete. Simchat beit ha-sho'eva is the celebration on Sukkot (the festival of the eschatological apocalypse), in the place representing Shem Hashem (the cause of the eschatological apocalypse), by the Chasidim (who would give their lives to be redeemed in the eschatological apocalypse),80 with fire (the manifestation of the Shekhina in the eschatological apocalypse), while singing Hallel (the praise for the eschatological apocalypse). Chanukah is the beginning of the implementation of the eschatological apocalypse, as is clear in the rabbinic portrayal of its events; it is quite appropriate that its mitzvot precisely mirror the former.
Each of the sugyot in the continuation of the gemara fit into and build upon these themes.

3. Mehadrin Min Ha-mehadrin: Machloket Beit Shammai U-beit Hillel


Once the gemara has established the halakha as per the opinion of Rav, that the Chanukah lights parallel those of the simchat beit ha-sho'eva, its next step must be to clarify to which lights of simchat beit ha-sho'eva it refers; for the mishna on Sukka 51a clearly delineates two:

A. The menorot shel zahav, the candelabrums of gold in the courtyard of the Ezrat Nashim, whose light would spread to every courtyard in Yerushalayim, and



B. Avukot shel or, torches of fire in the hands of the Chasidim ve-anshei ma'aseh, the pious and men of deeds.
It seems that both are reflected in the halakhic development of the requirement of ner Chanukah:
1. Ner ish u-beito, the light for each household, listed as the base requirement on Shabbat 21b, appears to parallel the menorot shel zahav. Each house must have a light, and, as the gemara develops subsequently, that light must be visible - it must be within 20 cubits from the ground to allow visibility (22a), and a house that has two entrances needs two lamps (23a), to ensure that the light be perceivable by those outside the house. As we explained above, the idea of the menorot shel zahav is the expression of Divine presence upon the general world.
2. Mehadrin: ner le-kol echad ve-echad, the "zealous" provide a light for each individual. The "zealous" are those who perform hiddur mitzva, beautification in the performance of a precept, a concept which, incidentally, finds its origin in the commandment to take the four species on Sukkot (Vayikra 23:40 - pri etz hadar, the fruit of a beautiful tree). This appears to parallel the avukot shel or, the torches borne by the individual pious and "zealots" at the beit ha-sho'eva festivities; perhaps the notion of the avukot shel or reflects the favorable expression of Divine presence upon the Jewish people, who bear lights for themselves and use them in their dance and praise to God. The parallel to the four species may strengthen this idea - as mentioned above, the midrash points to the species as emblems of the victory of the Jewish people. This also might explain the minimum requirement listed by the gemara in times of danger - meinicho al shulchano ve-dayo - he places it upon his table and it suffices for him; at least he accomplishes bearing his personal lamp and the reflection of Divine presence within the Jewish people, if not its dispersion to all the nations.
3. Mehadrin min ha-mehadrin, the performance by the "extremely zealous," is understood in two ways; the two opinions, that of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel appear to reflect the two above models for the light of the beit ha-sho'eva.
A. Beit Shammai opine that the lights parallel parei ha-chag, the seventy sacrificial heifers which continually decrease. The gemara in Sukka 55b clarifies, as discussed above, that the heifers represent the nations of the world who decrease when they lose the atonement of the mizbe'ach and are exposed to the eschatological fires of Divine revelation; hence, mehadrin min ha-mehadrin is built upon the base requirement of ner ish u-beito, the concept of menorot shel zahav which caused light to emanate from the Mikdash to all the nations.
B. Beit Hillel opine that the lights increase in consonance with the halakhic concept of ma'alin ba-kodesh ve-ein moridin, that we promote in matters of sanctity but do not reduce. This concept is reflected in various laws in the Talmud;81 none of the instances relate the source of the halakha. However, one midrashic text does ascribe a source. Midrash Kohelet writes, "...and I have heard that we promote in matters of sanctity and do not reduce from that which is stated here - '[ascribe a portion for seven] and also for eight (Kohelet 11:2);' 'on the eighth day, there shall be an atzeret. (Bemidbar 29:35)'"82 The entire maxim is derived from the separate treatment and mention of Shemini Atzeret, to which is ascribed a loftier level of holiness.
The same gemara (Sukkot 55b) which deals with the parei ha-chag addresses Shemini Atzeret. The lone heifer of the eighth day is seen as parallel to the uma yechida, the lone nation - i.e., Yisrael; the eighth is the day upon which God "tells His beloved, 'Prepare a small meal so that I may benefit from you.'" It would seem that according to Beit Hillel, mehadrin min ha-mehadrin, like mehadrin, reflects the beneficent Divine revelation specific to the Jewish people, the avukot shel or in the hands of the pious.
The halakha follows Beit Hillel. Chanukah, like simchat beit ha-sho'eva, contains both concepts. There is the basis, Divine revelation upon the world, the u-lekha asita shem gadol ve-kadosh be-olamekha, which expresses itself in nissim, gevurot and milchamot, God's retribution to the nations. But above the substratum of ner ish u-beito, and as an outgrowth thereof, stands the level of mehadrin min ha-mehadrin, the u-le'amekha Yisrael asita teshu'a u-purkan ka-yom ha-zeh, the expression of Divine revelation in purkan and teshu'ot, redemption and reward for His righteous nation, Yisrael.
From the sources, it is evident that from the rabbinic perspective, both Chanukah and Sukkot share the theme of gilui Shekhina. Thematically, the former particularly mirrors its most extreme expression, the eschatological apocalypse, as is clearly expressed in rabbinic literature and liturgy; hence, the parameters of the rabbinically mandated ordinances of Chanukah parallel those of the Sukkot ritual whose purpose is to reflect the eschatological apocalypse - i.e., the simchat beit ha-sho'eva.
In our analysis of Shabbat 21a, we have seen that the gemara establishes three possible paradigms for ner Chanukah - ner Shabbat, the menorah of the Mikdash, and the lights of the simchat beit ha-sho'eva, and that each possibility carries with it halakhic implications. We have seen that the latter possibility, the simchat beit ha-sho'eva, which was accepted in the gemara's conclusion, epitomizes the concept of the expression of the Divine presence in the eschatological apocalypse, a theme which runs through all the practices of the holiday of Sukkot, the period of its (the simchat beit ha-sho'eva's) celebration. We identified two characteristic elements of the eschatological apocalypse - the destruction of the oppressor nations and the salvation of the Jewish people - which express themselves prominently in both simchat beit ha-sho'eva and apocalyptic writings as well as in works reflecting the rabbinic perspective of Chanukah - namely, Megillat Antiochus, Al Ha-nissim, and our gemara, in its reference to ריגלא דתרמודאי . We then proceeded to demonstrate how these themes are expressed in the ensuing discussion regarding the halakhic performance of hadlakat ner Chanuka, the light of Divine revelation to light our path until the end of the eschatological era, when all the world will be filled by the Divine light.
והיה ה' למלך ...על כל הארץ ביום ההוא יהיה ה' אחד ושמו אחד (זכריה יד:ט)


1* This article is dedicated in loving memory of my mother, Sarah bat Aharon HaLevi o"bm and sister, Atara Feige Rayzel bat Yaakov o"bm, on the occasion of their tenth Yahrtzeit. May their memories continue to be a blessing and inspiration.

2. Rashi (Tractate Sukka 51) links this to the drawing of water for nisukh ha-mayim. Contemporary scholars argue as to the nature of the ceremony; one school, begun by A. Geiger and cited in J. Hochman, Jerusalem Temple Festivities, (London, 1911), p. 54, holds that the original name of the celebration was simchat beit ha-shuvta, "rejoicing of the house of the torch," severing the link between this ceremony and the drawing of the water, and instead placing the focus on the fire which plays a prominent role in the festivities. M. Z. Fox in his article "Simchat Beit Ha-she’uva," Tarbiz 45 (1986), pp. 173-216, sides with the claim that the original name of the ceremony was Simchat Beit Ha-she’uva, supported by more manuscripts than the Syrian word "shuvta," and that she’uva is a synonym for thought, machshava, which appears as a focus of the ceremony in midrashic sources and the Yerushalmi (see sources cited below). His primary proof is a piyut of Rabbi Sa’adya Ga’on. S. Ch. Kook in Iyunim U-mechkrim Vol. 2 (Jerusalem, 1963), 33-35, opines that the question of whether the focus of the festival was fire or water, shuvta or sho’eva, was a bone of contention between the Pharisees and Sadducees; his claim finds basis in the Tannaitic traditions regarding the Sadducean opposition to nisukh ha-mayim. Our theory, as will be elucidated in the course of the article, is that the name simchat beit ha-sho’eva is in place, that it encompasses all the factors - nisukh ha-mayim, fire and thought, and that they are not contradictory, for all result from a common source, the real basis of the ceremonies - that is, Divine Revelation.

3. The Zohar (vol. 1, p. 261b) also interprets "ani" in this context to refer to the Shekhina.

4. See Bereishit 19:25, Shemot 3:2, 9:23, 13:21, 19:18, Vayikra 9:24, 10:2, Bemidbar 11:1, 16:35, Devarim 4:15, 4:36, et al.

5. Mishna Sukka 51a - "and there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that was not lit from the light of the beit ha-sho’eva."

6. See Y. Genack, Machshevet Ha-halakha Be-mitzvot Chag Ha-sukkot - Part I, Alon Shevut 142 (Tevet 5755), pp. 16-66.

7. Tosefta Keilim 1:12, Sifri Bemidbar Piska 1, Bemidbar Rabba 7:8, Zevachim 116b.

8. This concept was developed by Rav Joseph Baer Soloveitchik zt"l, albeit without the connection to simchat beit ha-sho’eva, in a lecture given in Yeshiva University on Chanukah, 1980, based upon Rambam Hilkhot Megilla Ve-chanukah 3:3.

9. E.g., Anan (cloud) in Shemot 12:21, 16:10, 19:9, 24:16, 34:5, 40:35, Vayikra 16:2, Melakhim I 8:11, Yechezkel 10:3; Kol Demama Dakka (still, thin voice) in Melakhim I 19:12; Ruach (wind) perhaps in Bereishit 1:2, Shemot 31:3, etc.

10. See D. Hoshen, The Fire Symbol in Talmudic-Aggadic Exegesis, for a broader discussion of fire and its meanings in biblical and rabbinic literature.

11. 5:1; also in Bereishit Rabba 70:8; Ruth Rabba 4:8; Pesikta Rabati 1; cited in Yalkut Shim’oni Vayeitzei 123 (29), Tehillim 741 (42).

12. 5:1; also cited in Yalkut Shim’oni Yona 650 (1).

13. Vol. 1, p. 261b.

14. See Hoshen, who lists this as the third aspect of fire in the sources.

15. Rabbi Ya’akov Meidan suggested a similar idea in a lecture at Yeshivat Har Etzion on October 30, 1996 to explain the similarities and contrasts between the biblical account regarding Shmuel and the messengers of Sha’ul (Shmuel I 19:19-24) and that of Eliyahu and the messengers of Achazya (Melakhim II 1:3-17).

16. See M. Taragin, "Sukka - Apocalyptic Shelter and House of Shechina," Alei Etzion 3 (Tishrei 5756), 35-49.

17. Perhaps even the declaration made at the time of the drawing of the water for nisukh ha-mayim recorded at the end of the sugya (53b), "They [idol worshippers] bow to the east [toward the sun], but we to God bow and our eyes to God yearn," can be explained as drawing a distinction between the idol-worshippers set aside for punishment (in this case, the Jews of the bayit rishon period) and we, who bow to God and "call on the Name of the Lord."

18. See Talmud Yerushalmi Sukka 5:1, Tanchuma Tzav 8, Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu Perek 18, Midrash Shochar Tov Tehillim 26:7, and especially Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer Perek 10.

19. See Sefer Ha-gilgulim Perek 35, p. 45b, Megaleh Amukot Ofan 252, et al. Most interesting is the latter, which proceeds to link Mashiach Ben Yosef with Matityahu, father of the Maccabees and initial leader of the revolt!

20. For more on this topic, see L. Ginzberg, "The Legends of the Jews" VI (1928), and Y. Liebes, "Jonah as the Messiah Ben Joseph," Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought III (1-2), 1983/4, 269-311. See also Hoshen, p. 226-249, in which she links the content and structure of Sefer Yona itself to the notions that she sees expressed by fire.

21. Sifra Emor 12, Pesikta DeRabbi Kahana appendices 2, Talmud Bavli Sukka 11b.

22. See footnote 8 above.

23. Three commandments follow the portion relating to the holidays; their apparent connection to each of the aforementioned holidays, as noted by Da’at Mikra, make them appear to constitute an appendix. This assumption would connect the injunction of "Do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk" to Sukkot.

24. Zecharya 14:16.

25. Vayikra Rabba 21:4, 30:2; Shir Ha-shirim Rabba 2:3, 8:8; Ruth Rabba Petichta 1, Pesikta D’Rabbi Kahana 27:2, Midrash Tehillim 17:5, et al.

26. Vayikra Rabba 30:2, Midrash Tehillim 17:5.

27. See A. Bazak, "Middat Ha-din Be-chag Ha-sukkot," Daf Kesher (of Yeshivat Har Etzion) 515 (13 Tishrei, 5756) who presents a perspective of Sukkot as a day of judgment; also see Zohar vol. 2, p. 32b and vol. 3, p. 31b, which speaks of Hoshana Rabba as the culmination of the days of judgment that begin with Rosh Hashanah. That view of Sukkot is entirely compatible with our view of Sukkot as a time of gilui Shekhina, Divine revelation, which expresses itself in judgment, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked.

28. Bereishit Rabbati p. 63 - "U-lekachtem lakhem...;" also see Zohar vol. 1 63a-64b.

29. Vayikra Rabba 30:2, Midrash Tehillim 17:5. See S. Buber’s He’arot Ve-tikkunim on the latter, in which he identifies the reference in the midrash to "ba’in" as the Greek word , the palm branch held by war heroes as a symbol of victory. Compare I Maccabees 13:51. The Zohar (vol. 1, p. 251) sees the species as symbolizing victory in their similarity to weaponry in appearance.

30. Tanchuma Shoftim 9.

31. Pesikta DeRabbi Kahana, Pesikta Acharita De-sukkot. See M. Taragin, "Ki Yitzpeneni Be-sukko Be-yom Ra’a Yastireni Be-seter Ohalo," Alon Shevut 142 (Tevet 5755), p. 7-15.

32. Shemot Rabba 3:3, Tanchuma Va'era 3, Pesikta DeRabbi Kahana appendices 2, Talmud Bavli Bava Batra 75a.

33. The Baruch Apocalypse I 29:4, IV Ezra 4:52.

34. Also see Zohar vol. 1, p. 261b, Siman 25.

35. See Vayikra Rabba 30:5, where this derasha is made directly with regard to Sukkot. Pesikta DeRabbi Kahana 27, Midrash Tehillim 26:4, Talmud Yerushalmi Berachot 2:4, Megilla 2:1; see also Bavli Pesachim 114a for a slightly different version. See S. Ch. Kook, Iyunim U-mechkarim Vol. 2, p. 22-24 for a presentation of the various opinions as to the definition of "Chatzi Hallel," the abridged Hallel said on days when Hallel is not officially mandated. Perhaps one could suggest that the abridged version of Hallel is meant to omit mention of the initial stage of the messianic era, so that the difference of opinion between Rashi in Ta’anit and Sefer Ha-minhagim as to whether to omit Lo Lanu or Ahavti depends upon whether one follows the version of the Bavli or the Yerushalmi, respectively, with regard to which corresponds to that period.

36. Seder Olam Rabba 15.

37. Bereishit Rabba 48:7, Devarim Rabba 7:2, Tanchuma Vayera 4, Midrash Tehilim 22:19, Otzar Ha-midrashim p. 222, Mishna Avot 3:6, Talmud Bavli Tractate Berakhot 6a, et al.

38. Kohelet Rabba 1:2 and 7:27. See M. Zer Kavod, Meaning of the Word Kohelet, Beit Mikra Vol. 55 No. 4 (Tammuz-Elul 5733) p. 449-456, in which Zer Kavod analyzes twelve interpretations of Kohelet and decides in favor of Rabbi Yirmiya’s suggestion, explaining "Kohelet" according to Augusti’s assertion that it derives from the root "קול." Perhaps one could see the two possibilities mentioned above as complementary to a certain extent - i.e., that the midrash’s message is that Shlomo’s muse, his Divine inspiration called "Kohelet" was precipitated by the presence of the masses, and that hence the root "קהל" lies at the source of the name.

39. Bemidbar Rabba 14:4, Talmud Bavli Chagiga 3a, Tosefta Sota 7:10. The version in the Lieberman edition of the Tosefta (Sota 7:10) replaces "the world" in the latter part of the sentence with "the world to come," which might possibly alter the implication. Furthermore, this translation assumes that the word Chativa follows the second definition in the Arukh (Vol. 3 p. 372); if it follows the first, or, for that matter, the opinion of S. Krauss linking Chativa with Imra in his article Israel, ein einziger Gebilde auf der Welt, Monatschrift fr Geschichte Und Wissenschaft Des Judentums Vol. 54 (1910), 44-54 [also cited by S. Lieberman in his Tosefta Ki-fshuta, Order Nashim, part VIII p. 680], the implications would not necessarily be eschatological.

40. See D. Henschke, "When is the Time of Hakhel?" Tarbiz Vol. 61, No. 2 (Tevet-Adar 5752) 177-194, who traces the development and textual contradictions relating to the date of Hakhel, concluding that the mishnaic version set the time as the night after Shemini Atzeret.

41. A member of the Har Etzion Kollel.

42. "Machshevet Ha-halakha Be-mitzvat Chag Ha-sukkot Part I," Alon Shevut 143 (Tevet 5755), p. 56. The Zohar (vol. 3, p. 54b), however, sees it, like parei ha-chag, as a means of atonement for the nations of the world.

43. Bereishit Rabba 44:23, Midrash Tana’im Devarim 19:9, Talmud Yerushalmi Shevi’it 6:1, Yerushalmi Kiddushin 1:8, possibly implicit in Bavli Bava Batra 56a.

44. Sifri Zuta 10:29, Sifri Devarim 52, Midrash Tana’im Devarim 11:25.

45. Mekhilta DeRabbi Yishmael Beshalach 2, Mekhilta DeRabbi Shimon Bar Yochai 17:14, Sifri Devarim 357.

46. Megaleh Amukot Al Ha-Torah, Shelach p. 18a, Megaleh Amukot Ofan 252.

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