Who Commanded it?
Avner Stein from Tampa, Florida wrote:
I thought that blessings having "asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu" [that G-d sanctified us with his commandments, and commanded us"] are reserved for ones that originate in the Torah. Yet the first blessing for lighting the chanukia also contains this phrase even though the holiday isn't in the Torah. Is this an exception?
Dear Avner Stein,
Lighting Chanukah candles is not one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Rather, it is a Rabbinic mitzvah that was enacted by the Sages of the Sanhedrin (Supreme Torah Court) during the Second Temple period. Yet, the blessing we say when we light the Chanukah candles "v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Chanukah" means that Hashem commanded us to light them! How can we say that G-d commanded us to perform a Rabbinic mitzvah? The answer is this: One of the 613 mitzvot in the Torah is the commandment to obey the Sanhedrin (Deuteronomy 17:11), and since the Sages enacted the lighting of Chanukah candles, therefore lighting the candles indeed becomes like a commandment from the Torah.
We say a similar blessing for other Rabbinic commandments as well, such as lighting Shabbat candles Friday afternoon and reading the Scroll of Esther on Purim. Both of these are not commanded in the Torah; yet in the blessing we say that G-d commanded these things, because G-d commands us to listen to the Sages who instituted them.