Prologue:       Miracles are miraculous. If they weren't, we
watch them happen and unknowingly undermine their significance.
When reflecting upon the Nes of Chanukah, we remind ourselves to
reflect on the power of finding enough oil to burn in the
Menorah for a night and struggle to explain why we add another
night of candle lighting if the candle burning was natural on
the first night anyway (See Beis Yosef and Sefer Ner L'Meah for
100 answers to this dilemma). Clearly, we like to define
miracles as out of the ordinary in order to accord them the
proper position they seem to deserve. Recognizing this tendency,
one could ask how we bother to celebrate Chanukah at all. After
all, the Midrash Tanchuma notes that the oil in the Menorah
regularly burned for a whole year without replacement. If that
is the case, it should be no greater miracle to see the same oil
burn for 8 days. Why celebrate a miracle that was commonplace in
the Beis HaMikdash during this season?

In his classic style, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum (Kuntrus
Chiddushei Torah L'Chanukah) ztl. offers an answer while
offering insight into the spirit of Chanukah. The Satmar Rebbe
explains that the spirit of Chanukah (and the battles described
in the HaNeiros Hallalu) refer to battles of the spirit -
battles between the Yetzer Tov and Yetzer HaRa that were rampant
during the period of Hellenist control over the land of Israel.
During these challenging personal crises, things that appear to
be regular daily events become miraculous when they take place.
During tumultuous times as these, the ability to light candles
in the Menorah is a miracle and the ability to see candle
lighting as a miracle is a miracle itself. The lesson of
Chanukah was the ability of Jews to show themselves that in the
end, the true Jewish spirit will win out over the battles of the
evil spirit and miracles can be recognized even when they are
normally commonplace.

Free Time for Whom??

        The Tur (Orach Chaim 670) notes the Minhag that was prevalent not
to allow the women to work while Chanukah candles were lit. This status
raises a number of interesting questions: Does the ruling apply to women
specifically? Why? How long must a woman refrain from work and what type
of work must she refrain from?

        When expanding on the issue, the Beis Yosef notes the opinion of
the Tzaida LaDerech that the issue of not working while the candles are
lit applies to women and men as well. Rav Yehuda HaChossid (Siman 121)
applies the principle to men as well. Rav Yaakov Emden (Siddur Yaavetz)
does not make it a requirement for men but he certainly recommends that
they too, refrain from working while the candles are lit. According to
these opinions, it seems that the fear of allowing work was the fear that
the women would come to work by the light of the candles in clear
violation of the prohibition of V'ein Lanu Reshus LHistameish Baheim. (See
Mor UKetzia,

        It would follow from this position that so long as the work was to
be done outside of the room where the candles are burning, women would be
allowed to work while the candles are lit.  In addition, the amount of
time would be limited to the time the candles are burning for the basic
Halachic minimum and after the first half hour, the women could resume

        The Levush (Levush HaChur 670:2) offers a second possibility as to
why there is a Minhag not to work when the candles are lit. He notes that
the time is a Rabbinic Yom Tov and, as such, one should not work at least
during the time he is Mikayem the aspect of Hallel VHodaah which is unique
to this holiday. (For further elaboration, see Internet Chaburah, Chanukah
5761 about Chanukah gatherings.) According to his position, the work
stoppage would be a Minhag that so apply to men and women alike so long as
the candles burn. Indeed, the Mogen Avraham (O.C. 670:2) agrees that the
work should be limited Kol Zman SheHaNeirot Dolkot BBeit HaKnesset, an
elaboration of the work stoppage until midnight.

        The Taz (Here) notes the custom and believes it is intricately
connected to the fact that the women were the source of the miracle of
Chanukah as a result of the brave actions of Yehudis who killed the Greek
governor. He seems to feel that the application of this Minhag was to
women directly to promote the actions of Yehudis and encourage it in her
descendants. Rav Yaakov Emden (Mor Uketzia) strongly denounces the claims
of the Taz with a claim that the actions of Yehudis, although occurring at
the time of the Greek rule, was not connected to Chanukah at all. He
maintains that the only reason the women accepted the Minhag of not
working is that they forget faster than men and would  come to violate the
principle of working by the light of the candles.

        L'Halacha, (or more correctly L'Minhag) women have a custom not to
work while the candles are lit. However, there is a dispute as to what
constitutes work. According to the followers of the Levush, cooking would
not fall into that category as even on a Biblical Yom Tov, cooking is
permitted. Rav Ephrayim Greenblatt (Shut Rivivot Ephrayim, I) quotes Dayan
Fisher who felt the Minhag of Yirushalayim was not to work at all while
the candles were burning. He then quotes Rav Peretz Steinberg of Queens
Valley who noted that the women of Queens just refrain from engaging in
practices they consider work. But the Halachic categories of work of
Shabbat do not apply to the accepted Minhag.

Chanukah Sameach