Chanukah and Purim

Chanukah and Purim; lessons to learn from their differences and similarities.

  • Both Chanukah and Purim are rabbinical holidays. (Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kipper, Succos, Shauvos are only spoken about in the Torah.)  Chanukah and Purim are not mentioned until the Gemorah days.  Purim was first before the First Temple and Chanukah happened during the 2nd  And we say a similar bracha for both thanking G-d for miracles.
  • At both times, we were under a cruel leader. Chanukah had Antiochus IV in the land of Israel (in 3586 – 174 B.C.E.). Representing the Greek empire he wanted to Hellenize all the Jews. Antiochus wanted to create assimilated Jews. He encouraged intermarriage (see the story of Judith), forbade brises, the guarding of Shabbos and the Jewish calendar. Acknowledging Rosh Hadosh (the new month) was against the law. He would have rejoiced seeing how assimilated Jews are today. Antiochus won.  It was  a spiritual battle.
  • During the 2nd Temple in 3392 (369 BCE) King Ahasuerus of Persia ascended the throne, ruling over 127 provinces. The King made a deal with Haman to get rid of every single Jew.  They didn’t care if they were religious, intermarried 3 generations back, or wealthy; they just wanted to see every Jew dead.  (Hitler anyone). It was a fight against the Jews physical being.
  • The means of fighting against the enemy is (to borrow a Purim phrase) a hafaku (upside down). The Maccabees began a physical war to fight off the spiritual clash. A small group of men following an even smaller family started a 25 year war with the greatest nation in the world – Greece.
  • During Purim’s time the Jews also did battle, but only on one day and in Shushan two days.  The war was really won with Ester’s no food 3 day diet, davening, and deceiving Haman to come to the drinking party.
  • Why?  When Ester saw that her people were going to be slaughtered she went through the normal channels; fasting, praying and giving tzedaka; besides using the Jewish strategy. God intervened and created miracles but hidden miracles.
  •  The Maccabees were the ones out of norm. Even though going to battle was physical, it was crazy and really not possible without great miracles.  Finding the oil was only part of the miracles. But that is the one we honored, because it was a sign for the Jews to clean the Temple and find the purist source to reach G-d and then we will see miracles.
  • And that leads us to a fun difference. On Chanukah we spin the dreidel, and on Purim we shake the grogger.  On Chanukah Hashem came directly down and spanned the miracles, so we could see him and be saved.  On Purim the entire Jewish people got involved with the fasting and praying; like the grogger is was shaken up from below.
  • On Purim we drink and eat and give gifts to remember the meal of Haman, Ahasuerus  and Esther. We have physical even mundane actions to tap into the Holiday’s strengths. On Chanukah there aren’t any designated meals; instead there is the lighting of the chanukiah; a spiritual action; tapping into the candle’s flame which is to take us out of the assimilation’s darkness.


Have a bright Chanukah,



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