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Thought for the Day: Stringencies of Purim Over Chanuka

To me, one of the starkest demonstrations that we (ie, Jews) take our religion (ie, Orthodox Judaism) seriously is that we celebrate holidays because HaShem told us to.  We didn't just pick events, like... say... oh I don't know... Moshe Rabeinu's birth and decided to dedicate a winter holiday to its commemoration.  We eat matzah in the spring, count to 50 and eat cheesecake, then blow a horn, fast, and build huts in the autumn; all and only because HaShem told us to.  Members of the Christian and Reform Jewish religions, on the other hand, eat colored eggs and oranges, respectively, in the spring; because they decided that would be cool.  'Nuff said.

There are, of course, two holidays that do not have an explicit source in the Chumash -- those would be, or course, Purim and Chanuka.  I used the term "explicit source", because both actually needed to find support in the Chumash before they could even be considered.  Moreover, we make the standard bracha of "asher kidishanu b'mitzvosav v'tzivanu" -- He sanctified us with His commandments and [He] commanded us to [fill in appropriately].  Hence, are actions are still those demanded by the Creator, albeit revealed through the halachik process rather than at Has Sinai.

Of these two, though, we see that Purim is a bit more stringent than Chanuka, and that can lead a very real practical difference.  In general, a koton can not be motzi a gadol in a mitzvah d'oraisa, but he may motzi a gadol in a mitzvah d'rabanan.  It is common when a boy becomes 13 for his family to want to get the nachas of having him make kiddush, or leining to be motzi the olam.  The problem is, that turning 13 is not quite enough, he also has to sprout two hairs (Shulchan Aruch OC 54:9).  Most boys that age are absolutely not interested in having someone check that out, so we rely on chazaka; they usually have sprouted those hairs by 13.  That's fine for d'rabanans, but not for d'oraisos.  Kiddush (as along as everyone already davened ma'ariv), leining (except parshas Zachor and maybe parshas Parah) are both rabbinic obligations, so we are good to go.

Chanuka is also, of course, d'rabanan, and the Mishna Brura says that a koton can (in a sha'as d'chak) motzi a gadol in candle lighting.  He does not, however, give that recommendation for leining m'gila.  Some want to say he is relying on what he wrote about Chanuka a few simanin earlier, but the consensus seems to be that Purim is more stringent for three reasons.

First, Purim is m'divrei kabala; sanctioned by the prophets -- sort of a middle ground between d'oraisa and d'rabanan.  Second, the mitzvah at Purim for a koton is only to hear m'gila, not read it (similar to the obligation for a woman; and, in fact, it's easier to permit a koton to read for a woman than for a man).  Third, leining is public and there is kavod ha'tzibur to consider; a special reading being performed by a koton in problematic.

In any case, did you notice that a koton has an obligation to hear the m'gila?  Just wanted to be sure... so you'll allow them to klahp Haman (if that's your minhag), but you'll also keep things under control (since that's your obligation as a parent).

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