In contrast to Chanukah, on Purim we are COMMANDED to celebrate. To party. To “eat, drink, and be merry.”
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
In many ways, Purim and Chanukah are cousins. Indeed, there is much discussion on the connections, comparisons, and contrasts between Purim and Chanuka. Let’s take a look at some of these features.
On Purim we are commanded to celebrate. To party. To “eat, drink, and be merry.” Although many may not realize it, there is no halachic (Jewish legal) requirement to party or celebrate on Chanukah. Chanukah is strictly a spiritual holiday in which we are required “to give thanks and praise” to God, while Purim is the material and physical holiday.
Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with a good Chanukah party, but truth be told, there is no mitzvah in doing so. On Purim, however, it is an obligation.
It is explained that the two very different ways in observing these holidays says a lot about the different miracles that they commemorate.
On Chanukah, we celebrate our victory over religious persecution. The Greeks oppressed the Jewish people and the Maccabees fought back and won. Religious freedom was restored. Nevertheless, the victory of Chanukah did not lead to political independence. The Greeks still ruled most of the land of Israel and hated the Jewish people even more following their military victory and rededication of the Holy Temple.
The victory and miracles of Chanukah were spiritual. As such, the observance of Chanukah revolves around prayer and other spiritual activities. There was no reason to party following the Chanukah victory, which, as mentioned, was not as far reaching as many people assume.
On Purim, however, the victory and celebrations were very different. The Persian King Achashverosh, who initially endorsed Haman’s plan to destroy the Jewish people, later withdrew his support. Not only was Haman’s decree annulled, but the Jewish people were allowed to take revenge on their enemies.
Haman, the architect of the final solution, was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Jewish hero Mordechai. Everything about the Purim story, told in Megilat Esther (the Scroll of Esther, the Jewish heroine), was physical, not spiritual. In fact, the name of God is nowhere to be found. As such, the celebrations of Purim focus on physical pleasures, in contrast to Chanukah.
Purim gives us an opportunity to reflect on the different miracles that God has performed for us over the years. Of course, even though the emphasis on Purim is on the physical, we must realize that we are still serving God when celebrating the holiday.
Sometimes we must serve God with a bible, and sometimes, like on Purim, with a “bottle.”
Chag Purim Sameach! Happy Purim!