As we approach the winter solstice, one might say it is the darkest day of the year in our hemisphere, or one might say that it is the beginning of longer, lighter days to come.
What if the Iranian Ayatollah grabbed the chief rabbi of Iran’s wife, and took her as his own? There would be an outcry, mourning, outrage, a call for arms to redeem her, don’t you think?
Today in history, 362BCE, king Achashverosh took Esther to his harem and took her as her queen. We don’t hear about community reaction. No tehilim b’yachad emails…silence. Clearly, that is not the book’s focus. Why did G-d coincide the taking of Esther with the miracle of Chanukkah?
In my mind, it is because the message seems to be the same. The taking of Esther is similar to the defiling of the Temple. There was darkness, there was no oil to be found. Until a small spark of hope came in the form of a small pitcher of oil, that was to light up Jewish life but for one day, and it lasted the 8 days required to make the necessary oil for the continuation of light in the Temple which emanated outward to illuminate the world.
So too with Esther. It appeared to be a dark moment in history. When Esther became Queen, it was clearly for the purpose of saving the Jews for one moment, for the moment that Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews. But the miracle didn’t last only that one day/occurrence, her position as queen ultimately enabled her to give birth to a son who permitted the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple. As 8 days signifies a number above nature which is the seven days of creation, so too, Esther’s coronation as queen went beyond the immediate natural consequence of saving the Jews merely from one bad occurrence, but permitted them to rebuild the spiritual temple and elevate all Jews and the world.
Haman wanted to physically kill all Jews, he did not merely want them to convert or stop their Jewish observance, and he was defeated. On the other hand, the Greeks did not want to physically harm the Jews, they wanted the Jews to convert to their way of life and stop their Jewish observance. Today in history, those two worlds collide to remind us that whether we are in physical or spiritual harm, through darkness, there is redemption, longer brighter days. Faith.