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Using Our Eyes and Ears

As hard as it is to believe, Chanukah is already over and the long cold winter of a leap year is upon us with Purim at the other end. Thinking about the two bookends of Chanukah and Purim brings to mind an interesting question posed by the Shalal Rav. He wonders why Chanukah is celebrated primarily with the eyes – as the entire world gazes at the glow of the Chanukah lights, while Purim is primarily celebrated with the ears – when globally we listen both in the night and the day to the reading of the Megillah.

He gives the following explanation. The miracle of Chanukah, he explains, was readily evident to the eyes as all of the Kohanim saw that miraculously oil, enough for only one day, lasted for eight days. Furthermore, the entire world saw that the olympic military machine of the Yevanim, the Syrian-Greeks, succumbed to a handful of untrained Kohanim. Therefore, we celebrate the miracle with our eyes. On the other hand, the miracle of Purim was not readily apparent. Unschooled observers could readily assume that the salvation of the Jews was due to the “lucky chance” that Esther was in the right place at the right time and that “luckily” Mordechai overheard the plot of Bigsan and Teresh and fortuitously was able to save the king from an assassination attempt. It is only because we hear the Megillas Esther, which shows us Hashem’s Handprint that we know the sequence of events was Divinely orchestrated. This is why it is called Megillas Esther, which means ‘to uncover that which is hidden.’ Therefore, he concludes, we celebrate the Purim miracle with our ears since it’s the ears that clue us in to the realization of Purim’s miraculous nature.

I would like to expound some more on this distinction between Purim and Chanukah. On Chanukah, our eyes were under siege. The Yevanim dangled before us the incredible beauty of olympian Greece, and beautiful it was as the Torah testifies, “Yaft Elokim l’Yefes – Hashem will make beautiful Yefes,” and the Gemora interprets this, “Yafuso shel Yefes Yavan shmo – The beauty of Yefes was Yavan.” And, it’s the reason that the letters of the word Yavan, yud-vav-nun, also spell the word noi, nun-vav-yud, which means beauty; they seduced us with the all the beauties of Athens. At the end, the glow of the menorah, which represents the glow of Torah, prevailed.

And today, 2,182 years later, the struggle still continues. Should I stay home and watch television or go to a shiur? Should I look at my technology or take out a sefer? Thus, the challenge of Chanukah revolves around the eyes. Purim, on the other hand, celebrates the salvation of the ears as Mordechai, who as a member of Sanhedrin spoke seventy languages, was able to overhear the plot of Bigsan and Teresh, Achashverosh would listen to the words of his wife Esther and then to one of his royal pages, Charvonah.

May it be the will of Hashem that we learn to subjugate both our eyes and our ears to the will of Hashem and in that merit may he bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.

Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmas of Miriam Liba bas Aharon.

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