A Chanuka Message from Rav Doniel Schreiber
A discussion on the topic of Hallel, it would seem, should not arise in the context of any one particular Yom Tov or chag. Rather, the recitation of Hallel, which is an obligation on many holidays, should be discussed only once in the general framework of tefilla, or should issue from an analysis of each relevant holiday. Nonetheless, Rambam (1) chose to couch his examination and definition of Hallel specifically in the framework of Chanuka. Why was this particular holiday chosen as the paradigm for the laws of Hallel? Moreover, Chanuka appears to be a poor choice for centering a presentation of hilkhot Hallel, as Chanuka is merely mi-divrei Soferim. Why not discuss Hallel in the context of a Biblical holiday?
The Rav zt"l, Maran Rabbi Joseph B. Ha-Levi Soloveitchik, addresses this question. He answers (2) that each Yom Tov has many aspects, but only one central motif. The central motif of Sukkot, for example, is not the arba minim, but the mitzva of living in the Sukka. Chanuka's central motif is the praise of God, and is synonymous with Hallel. Indeed, because Hallel is so basic to Chanuka, it acquires an added dimension and finds expression even within hadlakat ner Chanuka. It is not coincidental that the passage of "Ha-nerot ha-lalu," which explains the purpose of lighting ner Chanuka, states: "ke-dei le- hodot u-le'Hallel le-shimkha ha-gadol al nisecha...." It is for this reason that Masekhet Soferim (3) states that "Ha-nerot ha-la'lu" should be recited before lighting ner Chanuka. Thus, Hallel is not only expressed verbally, but also demonstratively in the form of hadlakat nerot. Therefore, explains the Rav, due to the centrality of Hallel to Chanuka, Rambam elected to discuss Hallel in its most appropriate location - Hilkhot Chanuka.
Click here for Rav Schreiber's dvar Torah on Hallel, in its entirety.
Click here, for the full text of this year's Chanuka edition of GushPanka (5773), edited by Greg Bank and Rav Pini Cohen. Chanuka sameach!