From Hegyonei Halacha by Rav Yitzchak Mirsky

The gemara on Erchin 10a tells us that there are eighteen days in the year (twenty-one outside of Israel) when a full Hallel is said: eight days of Succot, eight days of Chanukah, the first day of Pesach, and Shavuot. What are the criteria that a day must meet in order to qualify for a recitation of full Hallel? According to the gemara, such a day must be distinguished either by holiness or by a miracle that occurred on it. Within the category of holiness, there are three factors that must be considered: it must be called a "mo'ed" by the Torah, it must have a prohibition of labor, and it must have different festival sacrifices than the day that preceded it. As such, Succot and Pesach are differentiated, as each day of Pesach has the same sacrifices, while each day of Succot they are different (one cow is detracted each day).

Chanukah has a full Hallel due to the second criteria - the miracle that took place. However, we must ask which miracle brings about the recitation of Hallel? On the one hand there is the miracle of the defeat of the heavily favored Syrian-Greek army by the underdog Jews. On the other hand, there is the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days. The gemara in Erchin does not seem to indicate one way or the other. However, the gemara in Shabbat 21b seems to favor the miracle of the oil. In answering the question of "What is Chanukah?" the gemara there notes that "when the Syrian-Greeks entered the Temple sanctuary they defiled all of the oils, and when the Chashmonaim prevailed over them they checked and found but one flask of oil that was sealed with the seal of the High Priest, and it had only enough oil to last for one day, but a miracle was performed and it lasted for eight days. The next year, they established them as holidays with praise (Hallel) and thanks."

Tosafot on Ta'anit 28b compare Chanukah to Succot with regard to the recitation of Hallel, distinguishing both of them from Pesach. In discussing why Chanukah has full Hallel for all eight days, they write, "on each day the miracle grew." Similarly, Abudraham writes that on each day of Chanukah there is "Something new, namely the added candle" - again a connection to the miracle of the oil. An added proof can perhaps be adduced from the very words of the gemara in Shabbat. It does not say that they established "it" as a "holiday," but rather that they established "them" as "holidays," indicating that what we are actually dealing with is eight consecutive festivals strung together. This idea is also picked up by Rif, who writes "the next year they established eight holidays..."

However, we also have to consider the other side of the coin. Rashi in Pesachim 117a writes that Hallel is said as a result of the military victory and the salvation that resulted. Maharal states in a very direct fashion that full Hallel on Chanukah is a result of the military victory. How, then, does he account for the gemara in Shabbat? He claims that while the focus there does seem to be on the miracle of the oil, the fact is that it was the military victory that allowed the Chashmonaim to enter the Temple and rekindle the Menorah.

Nevertheless, the opinion of Maharal still leaves our main question unanswered: if the real miracle is that of the battle, then why do we say full Hallel on all eight days? Given his reasoning, there is only one real day of celebration, namely the twenty-fifth of Kislev, when the Jews rested from fighting their enemies! Perhaps we can extend the view of Maharal a bit further. It seems that the entire miracle of the oil was brought about by Hashem solely as a means of publicizing the "real" miracle, that of the war. As we say in Al HaNissim, the true wonder of the battle was the idea of many in the hands of few, strong in the hands of weak - the underdog over the favorite. Even so, it was possible for people to claim that their own strength had enabled the Jews to prevail in battle. Thus, Hashem performed the miracle with the oil, a miracle characterized by the prevailing of quality over quantity, precisely the characteristics of the Jews' victory over the Syrian-Greeks (this idea may also be hinted to in Rambam, when he says that they lit the candles "to reveal the miracle"). As such, we say in HaNeirot Halalu that we are lighting these candles "for the miracles and the wonders and the salvations and the wars that Hashem fought for our forefathers." Given this, we can understand why full Hallel would be said on all eight days. Even though the victory itself needs only one day of commemoration, the candles continually and increasingly publicized the hand of Hashem that was behind the victory for a full eight days.

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