The Way of G-d
Part 4: "Divine Service"
Ch. 8: "Seasonal Mitzvot"
Like all others before and since, the struggles for Jewish survival that
we commemorate on Chanukah and Purim had their military battlefields and
their spiritual ones. But Chanukah and Purim were unique in one way: they
allowed G-d's celestial light to spread on a clear and unambiguous level,
and to bring on some unique and vital rectifications.
On a military level, Chanukah commemorates the victory of the Hasmoneans
(the band of virtuous Jewish loyalists headed by Judah Macabbee, the
Kohen) over Antiochus (the Syrian leader of the Greek forces), while Purim
concentrates on Mordechai's bold defeat of the wicked Haman's followers.
But on a spiritual level Purim came down to a battle for the preservation
of the Jewish Nation, while Chanukah focused on the fight to withstand the
forces of assimilation. For Haman and his cohorts wanted to destroy the
Jews en masse, while the Syrian-Greeks wanted to have them merge into
Greek culture and abandon the Torah.
With G-d's help, the Hasmoneans managed to defeat the forces of
assimilation and to bolster Torah observance. And they did that by drawing
upon the holiness of the Menorah in the newly-reconsecrated Temple (the
site of the miraculous flask of oil that stayed lit for eight days), which
was emblematic of the emanation of G-d's light in the world.
And Mordechai and Esther managed to thwart Haman's wicked plans to destroy
us. By drawing upon the light that emanates from G-d's Torah they also
inspired us to bolster our observance of it and to reaffirm our commitment
to it from that time onward.
Since the miracles and victories of both Chanukah and Purim are rooted In
G-d's emanations, all the mitzvot associated with them are thus either
directly or indirectly pertinent to light (E.g., lighting the Chanukah
menorah, expressing the "light, gladness, joy, and honor" [Esther 8:16] of
Purim), or to emanation and bestowance (E.g., the giving of gifts to
friends and others on both occasions, the Purim feast).
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org.