Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, Rav and Dean at Yeshivat Yavneh.
I Reach out your hand
The Tikkunei Zohar (21) notes that Purim is linguistically related to the Day of Atonement, Yom Ki-Purim. The implication of that connection is that Purim is greater than Yom Kippur because Yom Kippur is referred to as a day “like” Purim – Ki-Purim. While that inference is noted by many scholars, few explain why that is the case. The enigmatic Chassidic Rebbe, Rav Yisrael of Rizhin suggests the greatness of Purim is tied into its potency for G-d’s grace. According to the Talmud in Shavuos 13a, Yom Kippur atones for those who are shavim – return. Purim’s power is that our relationship with G-d is established whether we return or not. On Purim we have a rule: Kol HaPoshet Yad Nosnim Lo – All those who put out their hand we give (Yerushalmi Megilah 1:4). This literally refers to the poor. On Purim if they stick out their hand in need we can’t refuse. The Rizhiner understands this as a metaphor for our connection with G-d. Even if we don’t return repair our distance from G-d, on Purim all we need to do is reach out our hand and we are already there.
II It starts in the home
(9:28) “והימים האלה נזכרים ונעשים בכל דור ודור משפחה ומשפחה מדינה ומדינה ועיר ועיר” – And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city.
The bold proclamation made clear in this verse is seemingly flawed. Shouldn’t the order of how Purim is going to be remembered go from generation, province, city and THEN family? The Sadiger Rebbe (Rav Avraham Yaakov, p.103 inAbir Yaakov) reads this verse with a twist. “And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation” – Pause – how is that most effectively done? The family. It all starts with the family unit. What we teach our children at home, the values we present at the dinner table those teachings are what ensures that Purim and the Jewish faith remain alive and are passed on.
III Seeing the full Picture
The song that is traditionally sung at the end of the Megilah Reading is called Shoshanas Yaakov. The opening phrase is:
The rose of Jacob thrilled with joy and exulted when they beheld Mordechai garbed in royal blue.
Why, of all the colors on Mordechai’s cloak, is blue singled out? The Midrash (Bamidbar 15) says that whomever fulfills the mitzvah of tzitzis it is considered as though they have received the Shechinah. For the blue string of the tzitzis is similar to the ocean and the ocean is similar to the sky and the sky is reminiscent of the Chair of Glory upon which G-d sits.
We always talk about the Ocean Blue but pick up this water in your hand and you won’t find any blue. Take a lot of water in your hand, no blue. But stand at a distance and look at the whole picture and you’ll see the most brilliant blue.Take some sky in your hands – it’s not blue – but stand back – look at the world and you’ll see the blue. תכלת begins with ת and ends with and in the middle כל – everything. Mordechai was the only individual who saw the whole picture. When the Jewish people saw Mordechai wearing blue, the blue of his tzitzis they realized that while we are a Shoshanah – a rose among thorns we can be “thrilled with joy and exulted”.
IV Unity – A Taste of Tomorrow
(3:8) “ישנו עם אחד מפוזר ומפורד” – There is one nation scattered and dispersed.
The mystic, Rav Kook, points out that while we may have been physically scattered we were עם אחד, one nation. Without realizing, Haman was relating to unity which has always been our transcendent marker.
The great Chassidic teacher Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (Likutei Halachot, Yo”d, הלכות סימני בהמה וחיה) discusses the nature of G-d hardening Pharaoh’s heart. He says that we are essentially incapable of going against G-d’s Will because in doing so we would be destroying the world the G-d has placed here. His words in Hebrew: “הוא פוגם ח”ו בכל העולמות ומחריב ומקלקל הרבה”. But still at times Hashem will harden a heart so that apparent evil can continue to sin because this magnifies G-d’s Name in the end. Evidence of that is precisely in this case of Pharoah which crescendo’s into G-d’s glory in full brilliance at the splitting sea.
There is more that this forced hardening achieved. What happens when we are distressed? We pull together. Achdut.
The Arizal writes that on Pesach night we achieve the level of Gadlut HaMochin (the expansive mind, where we are surrounded by thoughts of G-d). This is only achieved by unity. We could only leave when we were united because we got into this whole mess by selling our brother Joseph into slavery. That is symbolized by the Karpas on Seder Night. Rashi categories Karpas as one of the colors of Joseph’s coat.
The Ishbitzer Rebbe in his Mei Shiloach (p.170, Massei) notes that it doesn’t say “נשיא” by Yehudah, Shimon, and Benyamin because each of those 3 tribes had internal unity. Their particular leaders never felt comfortable calling themselves “leader”. This is further evidence that unity has the power to change the normal מציאות – or process of how Hashem runs the world.
Maimonides in The Laws of Kings (11:1) rules that longing for the Moshiach is a requirement and one who doesn’t engage in such longing is כפר בעיקר and this denies an essential component of Judaism. I understand that a lack of belief in the coming of the Moshiach may be a denial of an essential component, but not longing for the Moshiach is also an essential component? The Pittsburger Rebbe (Pitgamei Orytta, p.316) answers that after the sin of Adam and Eve, the real vitality of a Jew comes from their inner connection to Olam HaBaah, a more perfect world that could have been. What is a defining element of Olam HaBaah? Perfection and Unity. When we are united on this earth we transcend the limited mundane experience and connect to a state best represented in a future world.
Alternatively, Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom in his commentary to the Book of Shemot (p.75) boldly argues that when at time the Torah deviates from its proper order and takes an item which occurred chronologically at a later point and injects it into the present narrative, it does so to clarify the present. This would present us with a new answer to why the Rambam feels that a lack of longing for the Moshiach is a denial of a basic component of our faith. Without an eye to the future, the present will remain meaningless. If for example, I know that one the good will have their reward, then I can understand the present injustice.
V Removing the Dirt
I’ve always been fascinated with the extensive treatment that the Megilah gives in dealing with the removal of Haman and his children. Why should we be concerned with such a lowly subject akin to garbage removal?
According to the Shulchan Aruch (307), the Rema allows one to talk about things that they enjoy on Shabbos just as they would on any other day of the week. Does this ruling not go against the Talmud Shabbos 113a which teaches us that the topics of discussion on Shabbos should be different than the week? The Baal Shem Tov defended the ruling of the Rema by relaying a parable of a King who on one occasion commanded that all his subjects be given whatever they want. One person requested manure. If that’s what they want, then that’s what they want.
This is similar to the Torah portion Ba’aloscha (11:5) – – זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים חנם. We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt freely. The Israelites had everything with the manna, yet they requested to go back to the lousy Egyptian piece of fish!
Rav Yaakov Meir Schachter (Osef Amarim, Purim, p.255) cites the Zohar which says that the students of Rebbe Shimon would call him Shabbos. What was the reason for this nickname? The loftiness of Shabbos is like the angelic quality of a righteous individual. The Tzadik is a mobile Shabbos. Shabbos is at such a high level that not only should we not spend our time asking for manure but we don’t even ask for Tefilin!
So the question returns: how do we have permission to talk about mundane matters on Shabbos, or in the words of the Baal Shem Tov – request manure? The Arizal (Sefer Likutim, Toldos) – writes that “within Esav there was hidden many holy souls” That’s why, his father, Yitzchak kept him close. He was hoping to bring out these buried holy sparks. Within the mundane there must be some sparks of holiness or else the world could not be sustained.
The great Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Hutner was once spending time with the Sabbah of Slobodka who had his students around him. The Sabbah said “הנשמה גדולה ממלאכים. נמצא, שאם יש לאדם גילוי בעצמו, גדול גילוי זה מגילוי אליהו” – “The soul is greater than that of angels. It then follows, that if a person has a revelation about themselves it is greater than a giluy Eliyahu.” [A giluy Eliyahu is considered a form of prophetic revelation signifying an extremely high level.] Within our mundane selves there is a part of us that is so profound if we would only take the time to discover it. We just need to scrape away the manure to get there.
Haman and his lot were a dark force casting their dimming shadow upon the beauty of the Megilah. Once contended with and removed – the light of Purim is able to burst forth in the most radiating way.