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Yosef Lekach: Chanukah & Purim

The 22nd of Kislev is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Eliezer ben Eliyahu Ashkenazi of Cairo, author of Yosef Lekach, a commentary on the Book of Esther. He died on December 13, 1585.

“The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor.” (Esther 8:16) After Haman had issued his decree, the verse describes the city of Shushan as crying. The crying was not limited to the Jews, but to all the people of the capital who were concerned by the evil decree. Therefore, after Haman was killed the verse says that the city of Shushan was happy and joyous, the entire city rejoiced when the evil Haman fell.

The Jews experienced light, which refers to the lifting of a cloud from vision, usually suffered from fasting, as the Jews of Shushan were doing. The gladness was the relief from their mourning: the other people of Shushan were frightened, but the Jews were mourning until Haman was killed. When they switched back to regular clothing from sackcloth, they regained their honor.

Tools: Perhaps this is the reason we include this verse in Havdallah: We pray to regain the Light and Dignity of Shabbat during the week.

But they did not, as Jews in other places did, have feasts of thanksgiving. They understood that they had fallen once because of their sins and could fall again. They refused to have festive meals until the wars were over and they rested, and there was no longer a threat of people dying.

This is why we do not have festive meals on Chanukah: Too many people died in the battles, and they would continue to die as long as the conflict continued.

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