The Real Meaning of All Jewish Holidays

    April 2009 Passover Edition            
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The Difference between Passover compared to Purim and Chanukah

By Menachem Levinsohn

It is interesting to note that both Purim and Chanukah share a feature that Passover does not. All three holidays are based on miracles that happened, yet the time of celebration differs.

On Chanukah and Purim, the Jews fought and became free from their enemies; however it was only on the day after the victory that they celebrated. It was on this day of rest which became fixed as the day to celebrate these holidays for all generations. In this aspect Passover is different; we celebrate the very day that our enemies were nullified and our freedom insured. On the night of the fifteen of Nisan remember that the night proceeds the day in the Jewish calendar) as we sat down to eat the first Passover meal, G-d, in His great mercy, went through the land of Egypt and killed every first born male from every house. Yet we do not celebrate the next day, we celebrate this very day.

To understand the differences between celebrating the holiday on the day of the miracle as opposed to the day after the miracle let us explain through a simile which will aid us in understanding this in a deeper manner:

    A king decided to purchase a new place of residence. What did he do after the purchase? Well, first the residence has to be cleaned up and remodeled to suit the king needs and desires. How will the king accomplish this? Normally the king's work is too important to leave it and to get involved in all the various details of remodeling, so he will hire a competent interior decorator and several competent contractors to carry out the work and get rid of the rubbish. He will give detailed instructions to them as to what he desires and when they have completed the work he will move in.
    However in certain instances, the king will deem it very important to have the work done to his specifications and therefore he will involve himself first hand in the work. He will personally oversee the work and make certain that it is completed exactly to his satisfaction. Therefore the king will make visits to the residence many times before the day he actually moves in.

This is like the comparison of Purim and Chanukah versus Passover. On Purim and Chanukah, the enemies of G-d, who were the enemies also of the Jews, had to be disposed. The Jews had to get rid of the rubbish (the enemies) and therefore it was only on the day after, when this 'rubbish' was cleaned up, that the Jews were able to sit down to celebrate. It was in the Jewish celebration when they thanked G-d for the victory that His holy presence came into the world. Therefore the real celebration for all generations is not the victory over evil, but drawing the presence of G-d into the world, for the whole purpose of a Jew is only to do mitzvoth in order to bring the presence of G-d into the world.

Passover was different. The 'rubbish' was gotten rid of by G-d Himself. As it states in the Hagadah, it was G-d Himself and not an angel that descended into Egypt to kill the first born sons of the Egyptians. Since the presence of G-d was on that very night so it is that presence that we celebrate not the killing of the first born sons.

From this comparison and analysis we are able to come to a very important realization about Jewish holidays. It is not the victory that we celebrate but the revelation of G-d's presence in the world that is important. Certainly we do not want our enemies to have power over us and certainly we are thankful to G-d for His great mercy in their defeat. But our main function in Jewish life is to reveal G-d in this world.

When we lived in the land of Israel during the time of the holy Temple, we were able to feel G-d's presence in every aspect of our lives. When we sinned and began to allow idolatry in the holy land, we were punished; we were exiled. In the exile we can not sufficiently be aware of the presence of G-d; that can only happen in the land of Israel. For this reason, we pray to G-d to forgive our sins and restore the holy Temple.

Only when we come to our senses and realize that the only true blessing and happiness can be when we live in accordance to His will. When He will forgive us and give us back the holy Temple we will again be capable of experiencing true happiness; a happiness that is not dependent on material gains or possessions. May we merit to see it swiftly in our time.


from the April 2009 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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