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Rabbi’s Blog: Purim - A Festival For Us

03/24/2024 05:14:46 PM


Dear OZ family,


After the Megillah, we read a bracha that begins with the words, “Harav es Riveinu, Hadan es Dineinu, Hanakam es Nikmaseinu”, which translates to God fighting our many battles, adjudicating our many judgements, and avenging our enemies of their attacks against us. This stands in contrast to the Al Hanissim prayer of Chanukah, which praises God as follows: “Ravta es Rivam, Danta es Dinam, Nakamta es Nikmasam” You fought their battles, You adjudicated their judgements, You avenged their attacks. There are two differences in these similar prayers.


On Purim we speak about what God did to us, while on Chanukah we speak about what God did to them. In addition, on Purim, we speak of God in third person, (He fought our battles, etc.) and on Chanukah we speak of God in second person, (You fought their battles, etc.). Perhaps we can explain these difference in light of the essential difference between the threats against our people in the two stories. In the Chanukah story, Antiochus threatened the Jews with spiritual annihilation. If the Jews would stop circumcising their boys, adopt the Greek calendar, and stop observing the holidays, we would be left alone. This is akin to the threat faced by the Jews in the former Soviet Union. A desire to study Hebrew or to profess any tendency towards Jewish nationhood, would lead to imprisonment. In the Purim story, the threat was physical annihilation. Haman’s decree applied to every kind of Jew, akin to the German persecution in World War II.


The Purim salvation is shared by God and His people, because of the Abrahamic covenant repeated many times in the Torah and Tanach. The Chanukah salvation, however involved our own free will to determine that if we had given in to the demands of Antiochus, that we would soon cease to be a nation altogether. As such that was “Their” battle, and because we so thoroughly changed our lot, in purifying the Temple, and returning to its holy service, we came much closer to God to relate directly in second person. In the Purim story, when all was said and done, we were still slaves of Achashverosh, which is one of the answers the Gemara gives, for why we say Hallel on Chanukah but not on Purim. At the time, so few Jews returned with Ezra and Nechemiah to rebuild Jerusalem, (By some estimates only 1 in 100 returned to Israel at the time), that God remained distant in their eyes.   


May we merit to see our full salvation from those who would destroy us, a safe return of all those still held in captivity, and a pure heart to get closer to God to see Him in second person. Some people have the custom of saying the last verse in Tehillim 17 before doing anything charitable: “I will, in charity behold Your face, awake, I am filled with the vision of You”


Happy Purim

Stay safe and healthy

Rabbi Allen Schwartz




Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street | New York, NY  10025-6604

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200 | Fax 212.663-3635






Fri, July 19 2024 13 Tammuz 5784