Tag Archives: Channuka

A Payytanic Quiz for Hanukkah – “The Answers”

Hanukkah is almost over and it is time to publish the “answers” to the quiz. I put answers in quotation marks since it is not always clear what the payytan meant or was referring to, but this is the case, I would argue, with almost every text.

Before proceeding I would like to thank those of you who responded to the quiz and brought up many interesting (and “correct”) answers. Special thank goes to those who commented that there are indeed more halakhic piyyutim than one would have assumed from my brief introduction. Most significantly are the Az’harot (=warnings) piyyutim for Shavuoth, as Shamma Boyarin pointed out on our Facebook page.

Below are some short comments concerning each stanza of the piyyut; the comments are taken from my forthcoming critical edition of the piyyutim of the Qiliri for Hanukkah and from the critical edition of the piyyutim of Pinhas Hacohen by Shulamit Elizur.

Stanza 1: This was a tricky one; the prohibition to use the Hanukkah candles is well known and attested in Masekhet Sofrim (20:4). What is less known is that in the same chapter we find the following regulation:

.כיצד מברכין? ביום הראשון המדליק מברך שלוש, והרואה שתים

How does one bless? On the first day the one who lights says three blessings, and the one who sees [the candles] says two.

So what we have here is not a reference to the Havdalah or the Hallel blessings as some suggested.

Stanza 2: The reference here is to the prohibition to move the candles once they were lit.

Stanza 3: A clear reference to “נר איש וביתו” from Bavli, Shabbat 21b.

Stanza 4: Here we do have a reference to the Havdalah and the prohibition of using the Hanukkah candle for that purpose. Medieval sages quote the Yerushalmi to back up this ruling, although it is absent from the version that we now have.

Stanza 5: Here we find a direct allusion to the prohibition to use the light of the candle. The reference to spinning might relate to the following saying from Yerushalmi, Berakhot 8:6:

אין מברכין על הנר עד שיאותו לאורו, רב יהודה בשם שמואל, כדי שיהו נשים טוות לאורו

It is forbidden to bless over the candle until its light is sufficient; Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel: when women could spin in its light.

Stanza 6: A reference to Bavli, Shabbat 21b: “והמהדרין נר לכל אחד ואחד”.

Stanza 7: “מעש” refers here clearly to the famous story (“מעשה”) about בית שמאי ובית הלל in Bavli, Shabbat 21b.

Stanza 8: One reader noted the similarity to the talmudic phrase concerning the candle of Havdalah “אין מברכין על הנר עד שיאותו לאורו” (quoted above). Indeed, it is attested in our context in Masekhet Sofrim: “ואם הדליקו ביום, אין ניאותין ממנו… שכך אמרו אין מברכין על הנר עד שיאותו לאורו”.

Stanza 9: Again, according to Masekhet Sofrim one should wait until the wick will be entirely consumed and, in addition, it is forbidden to use an old one.

Stanza 10: Here the prohibition to light one candle from the other is hinted; as it is appears in Bavli, Shabbat 22a: “רב אמר, אין מדליקין מנר לנר”.

Stanza 11: Nothing halakhic here but the reference to the candles of redemption brings to mind one of my Hanukkah posts from last year.

Next year, God willing, we will have another Hanukkah quiz, this time with a genuine piyyut by Pinhas Hacohen. See you then!

A Payytanic Quiz for Hanukkah

Hebrew liturgical poems (piyyutim) only rarely relate to halakhic matters. However, we do have one intriguing piyyut for Hanukkah that enumerates laws concerning the candle lighting during the days of the feast. This piyyut is attributed in Genizah manuscripts to the celebrated poet El’azar Birabi Qilir, who lived in the Galilee in the early seventh century, although it appears as well in a composition by the mid-eight century poet, Pinhas Hakohen from Kifra (a suburb of Tiberias). At any rate, we thought that this piyyut would give us an opportunity to hold our first ever Talmud Blog Quiz. Readers are encouraged to decipher the poem: Namely, to explain which laws it alludes to and cite texts that support their answers in the comments section of the blog. When the last day of Hannukah arrives we will post the “correct” answers and respond to your suggestions.

Have fun!