With what may we light on Purim?

The mishna says in Perek Bameh Madlikin;
במה מדליקין ובמה אין מדליקין. אין מדליקין לא בלכש, ולא בחסן, ולא בכלך, ולא בפתילת האידן, ולא בפתילת המדבר, ולא בירוקה שעל פני המים. ולא בזפת, ולא בשעוה, ולא בשמן קיק, ולא בשמן שרפה, ולא באליה, ולא בחלב נחום
With what may we light [the Shabbath lights] and with what may we not light them?
We may not light [them] with lechesh, chosen, kallach, a bast wick, a desert wick, seaweed, pitch, wax, kik oil, oil that has to be burnt because it is terumah temeah, tail fat, or the tallow of Nahum.

  • Why does the mishna say that we may not light with the tallow of Nachum?

The gemara in Shabbath (23) discusses whether the same restrictions that apply to lighting the Shabbath candles also applies to the laws of lighting on Chanukah.

  • Why does the gemara also not discuss with what you may light on Purim?

The Ariza”l explains that Yom Kippur is called Yom Kippur because it is a day which is only ke’pur – it’s sanctity is only like Purim but it is not as great as Purim. If so, asks Reb Noson of Breslov z”l, just as on Yom Kippur we may not do any work, we should also not be allowed to do any work on Purim?

  • Why do we not have any issur melacha on Purim?

Reb Noson of Breslov z”l explains as follows;
The Torah calls Yom Kippur – shabbath shabbathon – a rest of rests. This holiest of days is called a day of rest because in olam hazeh we can only gain the level of teshuvah of Yom Kippur by resting from our involvement in olam hazeh. We return to Hashem by abstaining from physical work and physical enjoyment.

On Purim, however, we celebrate the downfall of Amalek. This downfall is not yet complete; after the first war with Amalek, Hashem said to Moshe and Yehoshua;
)שמות יז טז): "ויאמר כי יד על כס יה, מלחמה לה' בעמלק מדר דר"
“And He said, ‘Because the hand of Amalek is on the throne of Hashem, there is a war to Hashem against Amalek in every generation.”

The downfall of Amalek will only be complete when mashiach comes, and on Purim we not only celebrate the past downfall of Amalek but we also look forward to the days of mashiach when Amalek’s downfall will be complete. That is why Yom Kippur is only a day which is ke’Purim, like Purim. Yom Kippur represents the highest level that we can attain in this world, but on Yom Kippur we taste the level that we will attain after the coming of mashiach.

Explains Reb Noson of Breslov z”l; because the kedusha we attain on Purim entirely transcends the limits of olam hazeh, it is not necessary for us to refrain from involvement in olam hazeh in order to attain this level of kedushah. That is why even although Yom Kippur is only like Purim, on Yom Kippur we may not do any work or eat and drink but on Purim this is permissible.

With this explanation we can also understand why we may not use Nachum’s tallow on Shabbath but we may on Purim.

It is evident from the mishna in Bameh madlikin that Nachum used to make tallow and that he was a candle maker. During Makkas Choshech - the plague of darkness, Nachum’s shares rose sharply due to the increased demand for candles.
That is why we find that Nachum did not leave Mitzraim with the rest of the benei yisrael, as the passuk says at the beginning of Beshalach;
וַיְהִי בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת הָעָם וְלֹא נָחָם
“And it was when Pharoh sent the people, but [he did] not [send] Nachum.”
As a fine for not leaving Mitzraim, the chachamim forbade us to use Nachum’s tallow on Shabbath.

However, this fine is only applicable in olam hazeh where, during Makkas Choshech only the benei yisrael had light and not the Egyptians. However concerning the geulah ha’asidah – the future redemption, the passuk says (ישעיה ס ג);
וְהָלְכוּ גוֹיִם לְאוֹרֵךְ וּמְלָכִים לְנֹגַהּ זַרְחֵךְ
“And the nations shall go by your light, and kings by the glow of your shine.”
The light that will revealed to the benei yisrael will be so great that it will benefit even the umos ha’olam, who will therefore have no need for Nachum’s candles. Subsequently the fine given to Nachum will fall away. As a portend of this, even now we are allowed to use Nachum’s candles on Purim, the day when we look forward to the time of mashiach, bimherah beyamenu!


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