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There are two commandments during the year that are explicitly associated with "publicizing the miracle" ("פירסומי ניסא"): lighting Chanuka candles and reading Megilat Esther on Purim. These are the two commandments that are associated with the blessing "... Who performed miracles for our ancestors on those days, in this season." Given that these two commandments share a goal (though they might each have other goals), I am wondering why they seem to take very different approaches to that goal, each with its own apparent strengths and weaknesses with respect to accomplishing it.

  • Lighting candles is a purely symbolic act that seems to mean nothing to someone who doesn't know the story, while reading the Megila explicitly tells the story. It would seem that the latter more directly publicizes the miracle.

  • We light candles, preferably, facing the public thoroughfare, while we read the Megila, typically, inside a synagogue, out of the public's eyes. It would seem that the former gets the message out to more people.

So, why do these two practices use such different modes to accomplish the same goal? Why don't they both combine the apparent strengths of both, so that we'd do something like shouting both stories from megaphones in the public square or putting both stories on big, lit billboards?

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2 Answers 2

Rabbi Shlomo Kluger writes that a miracle which breaks the laws of nature (a revealed miracle) is greater than a miracle that takes place within the laws of nature (a hidden miracle). The miracle of Chanukah was of the first type, and therefore we publicize it greatly for all the world to see.

But the miracle of Purim was clothed in the laws of nature, and thus made it possible for those who deny G-d to deny those events also and to say that they were merely natural events and not the actions of G-d. Therefore, although we are required to publicize the miracle, since is shameful to us that we did not merit the greater miracle (he explains from the gemara in Megillah 11a that this was because that they did not toil in Torah at that time) we do not publicize it so openly.

The full text can be found here.

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Moshe, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for this answer! I asked this question because I want to deliver a devar Torah on pirsumei nisa, and in the course of thinking about that topic, this question occurred to me. I expect that the article you linked to could prove to be fertile ground for my devar Torah. I look forward to seeing you around on Mi Yodeya. –  Isaac Moses Nov 18 '13 at 18:30

You may find this answer interesting (from Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, paraphrazing a Sicha from the Lubavitcher Rebbe):

Whenever a Jew is thankful about his physical survival, he does not have to communicate it to non-Jews, since physical self-survival is a common instinct among all humans and animals, and it is understood that Jews will fight for their physical survival. This type of miracle does not require publicizing among non-Jews. Thus, Purim and Pesach, which commemorate our rescue for physical annihilation and slavery, need not be shared with non-Jews since they are well cognizant that Jews like any other human beings will fight ferociously for their physical survival.

On Chanukah, however, the Jews' spiritual survival and not their physical survival was at stake. The message which we wish to convey to non-Jews is that Jews are willing and able to fight for their spiritual survival as well as their physical well-being, and that the Jews returned from the brink of total assimilation and adopted the Torah, and reestablished their unique relationship with G-d.

The message of Chanukah is more of a sensation to non-Jews than is the message of Purim and Pesach, and thus, the pirsumei nissa conveyed by the Chanukah lights is directed at non-Jews as well.

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This makes Pirsumei Nisa sound like a defense mechanism. –  Double AA Nov 19 '13 at 21:35
    
@DoubleAA, don't see that. It is saying that the miracle of physical salvation isn't something perceived as something special to the same degree. It is actually kind of in line with the other answer just from a different angle. That is the way I understand it, anyway. –  Yishai Nov 19 '13 at 21:38

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