Pirsumei Nisa (Aramaic, ‘Publicize the Miracle’) is the basis for Chanukiyot (Chanukah Menorahs) in windows, front lawns and public space everywhere. But why is it important to publicize the holiday of Chanukah?
Discussion Questions 1:
Which of the two miracles of Chanukah do you think is more important:
1. The victory of the Maccabean Revolt of 165 BCE against the Seleucid/
Syrian Greeks led by Antiochus Epiphanes
2. A one-day supply of pure, unsealed oil burning for 8 days?
Why do you think secular culture focuses so greatly on the oil aspect rather than the victory?
These sources explain the placement of the Chanukah Menorah
*Literally “Among the peoples” referring to wide-spread antisemitism and the potential difficulties that might arise by leaving a Chanukiyah outside the home. Shabbat 21b:8 states that in times of danger, one can place a Chanukah Menorah on the table to fulfill the mitzvah.
Discussion Questions 2:
After reading these two texts, what are your thoughts about lighting a Chanukiyah/Chanukah Menorah in public space (not necessary public land)?
Does this fulfill the mitzvah of Pirsumei Nisa (‘Publicize the Miracle’) as much as lighting a Chanukiyah in one's home? Why or why not?
These next sources focus on the importance of Chanukah oil and candles, in relation to Shabbat lamps and Havdala wine.
Discussion Questions 3:
Why does lighting Chanukah candles or oil take precedence over the wine for Havdala, another often public ritual?
In this day and age, when we have electric lights and do not require Shabbat candles to light our house, do you think that lighting the Shabbat candles takes priority over publicizing the miracle?
Final thoughts on Pirsumei Nisa (Publicizing the Miracle).
From: "The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays" by Rabbi Irving Greenberg
...Pessimists and assimilationists have more than once informed Jew that there is no more oil left to burn. As long as Hanukkah is studied and remembered, Jews will not surrender to the night. The proper response, as Hanukkah teaches, is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle.
Final Discussion Questions:
Which aspects of Pirsumei Nisa (publicizing the miracles) Chanukah are the most important?
Does Persumei Nisa require gathering in public spaces to fulfill the mitzvah?
On a more personal note, how can we fulfill this mitzvah within ourselves? How can we publicize the Jewish pride within? And as we approach the secular new year and the practice of short-term resolutions, how can we instill this resolve to last us until next Chanukah?