Sunday, March 12, 2006

Purim Torah

For all of you who are like I usually am, and have waited until the last minute to get your Purim Torah together, I have pasted all of mine below. For some odd reason, I took the initiative this year and spent 2 hours tonight typing it up. I hope there are some of you that can use these ideas at your seudahs - the application may need to be re-worked depending on what kind of seudah you are eating by. By the way, most of these ideas were from the Sifsei Chaim (I'm a big fan), and I intertwined them with my thoughts as well (the non-coherent thoughts are probably mine...).

That being said, if you are eating at my seudah and even think of stealing one of these and saying it at our seudah, let's just say I'll shecht you like R' Zeira shechted Rabbah...except I can't bring you back to life like they did. OK OK. Just joking.

Purim Torah 2006

The gemara in Megillah says:
" אסתר פרק ג

וְכָל עַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ כֹּרְעִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהָמָן כִּי כֵן צִוָּה לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ וּמָרְדֳּכַי לֹא יִכְרַע וְלֹא יִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה:

Basically it says when Hamen came through, on this occasion, everyone bowed to him, but Mordechai did not. Sifsei Chaim asks an interesting grammatical question on this pasuk: This pasuk is talking about one specific time…if this is the case, why say "Yichra" and "Yishtachaveh" in the future tense. If the Megilla is written in past tense, use past tense. If there are parts written in present tense, use present tense. But to use future tense needs some clarification.

Answers the Sifsei Chaim: the Megillah uses future tense to tell us that this was not the only time when this happened; there were others in "the future" of this specific instance. Continues the Sifsei Chaim: it wasn't just in this one case where Hamen happened to be coming by, and Mordechai did not. Rather, Mordechai would find out wherever Hamen was traveling and would go there, and dafka go out of his way to sit and not show him Kavod. Very powerful.

There are a lot of problems in life and in the frum community to which it would be very easy to ignore. We learn from Mordechai that we don't accomplish anything by merely ignoring these problems: we tackle them head on. We seek out Hamen (our problems) and we are defiant (deal with them head on).

Alcohol is one of these problems. There are those that want to ignoring the fact that there are members of the frum community that suffer from alcoholism. Sadly, we are not immune to these problems. There are those that are aware of these problems and would say that we need to abstain from alcohol, especially on Purim, where people tend to drink excessively. This, in my opinion would be equivalent to ignoring the problem; it would be the easy thing to do. On top of that, wine and alcohol has been associated with Judaism for thousands of years, and to recommend an abstention from it would be to uproot Jewish minhagim – things that we value dearly.

Our job this Purim is to attack the problems that alcohol can bring. We drink responsibly and l'shaym shemayim and show the future generations that alcohol, when used correctly, can even be a valuable religious tool on Purim.

Megillas Esther

We all know of the commandment on Purim to read Megillas Esther. Certainly Esther was a major part of the stories and miracles of Purim, but why do we need to call it Megillas Esther specifically? Certainly one could make the case just as much for Megillas Mordechai, or Megillas Mordechai v’Esther, as it says in Al haNissim, “B’Yimei Mordechai v’Ester”.

When we analyze the story of Purim, it becomes clear why we call it “Esther” specifically. This was not the first time in history that Gd had done miracles for us. Certainly Krias Yam Suf and the receiving of the Man were great miracles. However, these miracles were so mind-bogging that it would’ve been impossible for someone to attribute these miracles to anyone other than hashem. However, the miracles of Purim worked in a different fasion; a way that had not been revealed to the Jews until this time. The name Esther comes from the root “Hester”, meaning hidden. This is exactly how Gd carried out the miracles of Purim – in a hidden manor. The Torah fails to mention Hashems name once, and an innocent bystander would look at the story and say that there was nothing mind-boggling that happened, just that things seemed to fall into place for the Jews. This was the first time G-d worked within the framework of nature. Says the Sifsei Chaim, a nes nistar, a hidden miracle, is one of a much higher level. Any dummy can look at the splitting of the sea and realize that Gd did it. It takes a person of a higher level that Gd doesn’t only do those things – he controls the day to day runnings of the world – he controls nature.

We sit here today trying to reach that higher level that Purim is all about – realizing that Gd is the man regardless of whether he is splitting seas or whether he is allowing children to be born. We should have this proper mindset and use the alcohol in front of us to help reach attain that higher level.

Switching meals

The gemara in Megilla (7b) relates an episode of two indigent Amoraim (who were brothers) who could not afford to send mishloach manos. Instead, they swapped the meals they were planning to eat. Though this appears to be the simple reading, Rashi offers an alternative one. According to Rashi, they did not switch meals, but rather invited each other to Purim se'uda during consecutive years. This would, on alternating years, spare each brother extra expense.

We are left asking an obvious question according to Rashi's interpretation: if only one family made a meal each year, how was the other family yotzei their mitzvah of mishloach manos on the year that they were not cooking?

I think the answer to this question can be answered by taking a look at how we view halacha and mitzvos today. A lot of people, myself (especially) included, get very caught up in intricacies and pratim of halacha and mitzvos. When does it apply? Who does it apply to? Can one use a sheliach? Etc. There is a tendency to view halacha as the end-all-be-all.

I do not think this is what Chazal had in mind when halacha was codified. We should not view halacha as the end-all-be-all, rather, we should view halacha as a means to an end. I believe that Chazal wanted us to increase peace, unity, brotherhood, etc among Jews (the main reason given for Mishloach Manos) on Purim. Therefore, they learn out from a pasuk in the Megilla that we should give Shaloch Manos. SM in this case is the vehicle to reaching our destination – being marbeh rayus.

True, these Amaroim were not using our vehicle of shaloch manos as it is codified in Jewish law. But if we look at halachos as a means to an end, we see that these Amaroim still ended up at the same conclusion, being marbeh rayus; same destination, different vehicle. As we approach Purim, we're bound to ask the following questions:
  • When do I give mechatzis hashekel?
  • When can I start/end the Purim seudah?
  • Do I really have to get drunk at the meal?
  • How much is mechatzis hashekel/matanos l'evyonim in US currency?
These are important questions to ask. However, take a step back. Realize that these mitzvos are only a vehicle to getting to a destination. If you get caught up in the details of these mitzvos and never make it to the destination, I believe you have wasted your time. Purim is about being with your friends, creating unity (achdus) and brotherhood amongst fellow Jews. Let's not forget that. Now go get drunk.

“Yom haKipurrim K’Purim”
This interesting thought is brought down by the Arizal, essentially saying that Yom Kippur and Purim correspond to each other in its spiritual level. Some even want to go as far as to say that Purim is the ideal, as we can see by the words of the Arizal that are translated as “YHK is like Purim”. If I were to say to you that “he looks like a monkey”, the real thing here is the monkey, and the boy is only similar looking to that monkey. So too here, Purim is the real thing, and only the other thing, YHK looks similar to Purim – we see that Purim, according to some is a greater holiday that YHK.

Besides for this, what makes Purim on a higher level than YHK? On both of these events we accepted the Torah in some fashion. It is brought down that when we were about to receive the Torah and the mountain was held over our heads, it was YK. Also, by Purim, we reaccepted the torah as it says in the Megillah “Kaimu v’Kiblu haYehudim”, and Chazal darshin this as “Kaimu ma she’Kiblu Kvar” – they accepted that which they had already received (at Har Sinai”. So what was the different between these two “acceptings” of the Torah. When we look at the circumstances, this becomes clear. What happened at Har Sinai? Essentially, we were forced into it. Hashem held a mountain over our heads and basically said “accept it or you’ll die.” While it turned out to be a good decision for them, we were still, to an extent, forced. But by Purim, Rashi notes on the phrase of “Kaimu v’Kiblu…” that we accepted the torah from the “love of the miracle that happened to them”.

So, we can say that kabbalas hatorah (Yom Kippur), we accepted it out of fear, but by Purim we accepted it out of love. Obviously, love is a higher level. It’s a lot easier to clean our rooms when we’re afraid of potential punishment – it takes someone on a higher level to make their bed because out of love for their parents. It is important we emphasize the miracles that Gd did for us on this day and rejoice accordingly.

Chayav Ish L’vasumay BaPurya

The simple meaning of the word L’vasumay is equivalent to L’hishtakair – to become drunk. This is certainly how most learn it out. It is interesting to note, however, that other places in shas L’vasumay is translated as a synonym for L’hamtik – to make sweet. It is important to understand the quote from the gemara of “Chayav Inish L’vasumay…” within this framework. When plugged into this phrase, the understanding of the phrase is that one is obligated to sweeten the difference between the evil Haman and the blessed Mordechai – basically telling us that we have to find a way to “sweeten” the bad. This begs further explanation. Basically, our rejoicing in the downfall of evil Haman shouldn’t just be for the fact that we killed them. We need to understand that this downfall is just a tool for us to be M’kadeish Hashem. It is only when we “sweeten” our understanding of the downfall of Haman that we will realize the real reason the Mapala. We should use the mapalah of Hamen as a means to an end to be M’kadesh Shaim Shemayim, not a mere end in of it’s self.

Why through Hesach haDaas?

If this is true, that we are using the evilness to serve as a tool to a Kiddush hashem, why do we do this with a hesach hadaas – when being drunk? If anything, in order to properly use it as a tool, we should be stone sober, Ad D’Yada, and not Ad D’Lo Yada – this way we can properly pick out what is the negative and use it as the tool. (?)

The reason is because if we were to come to this recognition through D’yada, there would be a great danger; that of giving importance/value to the negative. When analyzing exactly what is bad, we may come to find some good it in…something we certainly don’t want to do when dealing with Amalek. It is only when we are drunk that this worry goes away…we aren’t worried that when drunk one may attribute something good to the evilness of Haman. It is said that R’ Yisrael Salanter would say over very deep things at his Purim Seudah when he was drunk; things that when sober he would not say.

Mi Hu Zeh…

When Esther went to dine with the King and Hamen, they asked her what her request was for them, up to half the kingdom. She replied that basically there was a decree out there to kill the Jews, and she wanted them to be spared. King Achashverosh responded “Mi hu zeh v’aizeh hu? – who was the one who wanted to do this?” However, King Achashverosh had already given the word to Hamen to kill all of the Jews. How could he asked “who was the one…” when he knew that he and Hamen were the ones that did it?!

It is interesting to note that the Megillah uses four lashonos of killing the Jews “L’hashmid, L’abeid, Laharog, and “Shlalam Lavoz”. The Gra comments that each of these represents a different sort of “killing” that Hamen wanted to do; one for each the Neshama, Ruach, Guf, and extermination of the Jews. When Hamen went with his proposal to Achashverosh, he only used the lashon of “L’abdam”, which was the killing of the Guf because they were not of the same religion. It was Achashverosh’s understanding that if they were to convert, their lives were to be spared. This is why, when Esther came to Achashverosh and told him of the plan to kill them, using the lashonos of “L’hashmid, v’laharog, o’l’abeid” – he was astonished. The added lashonos of L’hashmid, v’laharog were Hamen’s hidden plan – to kill the Jews regardless of whether they converted or not. Thus, when Esther came to Achashverosh with the extra lashonos, he was astonished, and he thus wanted to know “Mi hu zeh v’aizeh hu”.


Blogger ליפא שנילצער said...

May the Ribono shel olam grant us all infinite joy on the wonderful day of purim so our souls should find his grace and presence abundant in the obvious, hidden and everything in between

4:57 PM, March 13, 2006


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