Israel Forever

For the week ending 20 December 2003 / 25 Kislev 5764

Miracles Then and Now

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Chanukah and Purim are two Jewish holidays not mentioned in the Torah. It was the Sages who saw in the miracles of Jewish survival the need to establish these days as holidays for expressing our gratitude to Hashem for "making miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time".

Chanukah, which Jews throughout the world will begin celebrating this Shabbat, differs from Purim in a number of ways. The Chanukah miracle took place in Eretz Yisrael and saved our ancestors from the oppression of the Hellenists. The Purim story is set in Persia and relates the deliverance from a genocidal plot of an Amalekite enemy with political power.

The most significant contrast is in the nature of the danger facing Jewry. Purim celebrates physical survival while Chanukah recalls spiritual survival. The Hellenists were not intent on a holocaust like Haman but rather in a "final solution" of conversion to their pagan ideology. This is why Purim has festive eating and drinking as a central feature of its celebration to express physical deliverance. Chanukah, in contrast, has instead the spiritual features of reciting the Hallel prayer and lighting lamps to remind us of our spiritual salvation.

Israel today is faced by threats to both its physical and spiritual survival. Chanukah is an occasion for strengthening our faith in Hashems ability to make miracles for us as He did for our ancestors and guarantee the physical and spiritual survival of Israel forever.

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