Chanukah and Purim differ drastically in their manner of observance and in the message that they convey. The Mitzvot of Purim revolve around the “physical” — we feast, drink, give gifts of food, and charity. The message is clear: they tried to destroy us, so we celebrate by highlighting our continued physical existence.
There is only one unique Mitzvah of Chanukah: to kindle a light. Sure we have parties, eat latkes, and play draidel, but those are only customs. The only specific action mandated by Jewish law is to kindle a light, to publicize the miracle of Chanukah (we also recite Hallel and Al Hanisim in our prayers). The message: they tried to destroy our spirit and fill our lives with spiritual darkness, so we celebrate by filling our spirits, and the world, with light.
According to Halachah, we are not supposed to do any work while the Chanukah lights are burning. For that half hour, we should focus on the lights and try to connect to their meaning. In these times of financial setbacks and hardships, focusing on our spiritual existence takes on a greater significance.
- What is our true purpose in this life? Are we fulfilling, or even attempting to fulfill it?
- Are our careers and jobs a means to an end, or an end in and of themselves?
- Are we appreciating the fact that we have been blessed to live in circumstances and conditions immensely superior to those experienced by 98% of the rest of the world?
- Do we truly appreciate our children, parents, spouses, family, and friends?
- Are we placing our faith in God, or are we trying to totally control our destinies?
- Are we spreading light to the world around us?
After you light those holy Chanukah lights, make the next half hour special. Gaze at the lights and connect to the unbroken chain of Jewish history. Think about your life, and how you can add more meaning, and light, into it. Think about how you can be a light to those around you.
May this Chanukah be a time of light and blessing for us all.