From Har'rei Kedem - a compilation of Torah from Rav Yoseif Dov Soloveitchik

Rambam writes (Hil. Chanukah 4:12) that a person has to borrow money or even sell his clothes in order to be able to afford oil for Chanukah candles. Even though we generally say that a person never has to spend more than one-fifth of his total worth to perform any one mitzva, in the case of mitzvot whose performance constitutes an act of pirsumei nissa (publicizing the miracle) we make unusually strong demands.

Why is this so? It would seem that a mitzva whose performance serves to publicize a miracle carries with it a fulfillment of the notion of "kiddush Hashem" - sanctifying Hashem before others. As such, it is possible to draw a parallel to the opposite notion of "chillul Hashem" - desecrating the name of Hashem. A person who desecrates Hashem's name can only achieve full atonement by giving up his life, and thus here too, a person is required to give up everything that he has to sanctify Hashem by proclaiming His miracles and wonders.

The gemara in Shabbat 21b states that the time to light the candles is from the time the sun sets until people stop walking around in the marketplace. Rabba bar bar Chana says that this means until the Tarmodeans leave the market. Rashi explains that the Tarmodeans were a nation who busied themselves with collecting small sticks and twigs and would generally be the last to go home. What is thus noteworthy is that the need to publicize the miracle of Chanukah apparently applies to publicizing it to the other nations, something that is not true by the publicizing of the miracle of Purim! Why is Chanukah different in this regard?

The answer may derive from an interesting statement of Rambam. The gemara in Avoda Zara (61b) says that one who worships idols out of love or fear is exempt from punishment. If this is so, then why does one have to die rather than bow to an idol if forced to do so by an idol-worshipper? Why is that not a case of worshipping the idol out of fear? Rambam, in Sefer HaMitzvot #9 says that what is at work here is the mitzva of kiddush Hashem. Even though a person who bows to an idol to save his life is not truly paying homage to the false deity, by even making a show of fealty to the idol he is failing in his obligation of sanctifying the name of Hashem.

As such, when we publicize the miracle of Chanukah, we do not do so only for ourselves. Since the Syrian-Greeks strove to make us forget the Torah and adopt their ways instead, we have to demonstrate our total refusal to accept their way of life over the way of life dictated by the Torah. Thus, when we light the Chanukah candles, we do so in a manner whereby even the other nations can bear witness to the victory of Hashem and His Torah.

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