Purim: Its Impact on Jewish Life

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier, Rosh Kollel

Dovid Hamelech in Psalms Ch. 22:1 states, “למנצח על אילת השחר”. The Talmud in מס‘ יומא כט , Tractate Yoma 29a, quotes רב אסי , Rav Assi who explains that this refers to the period of אסתר המלכה , Queen Esther.

Why is the metaphor “שחר”, “early morning” used? Just as the early morning is a manifestation of the conclusion of the darkness of nighttime, so too the period of history when Queen Esther lived is the conclusion of all miracles.

What can this mean? If there aren’t any more miracles that should be classified as the beginning of darkness, for it would indicate a lack of intervention by Hashem to protect us. Secondly, have we, the Jewish people, not witnessed miracles? Both we and the non-Jewish world look at our eternity as the biggest miracle of world history!

Rav Yehonason Eybeshitz (18th century) gives the following profound explanation:

For many centuries the accepted idea and argument was that even though Hashem is a benevolent, caring, merciful, giving Being, it is an oxymoron for Him to be involved with this world. Rather, he designated different cosmic forces to engender the smooth running of the world. At times when absolutely necessary, Hashem intervened in a magnificent manner. But, almost as soon as the powerful, momentary impact subsided; we once again wondered- Is Hashem ready to intervene at all times; is it appropriate for a Supreme Being to involve Himself with the daily matters of mortal man?

The story of Purim was a resounding, unequivocal answer; yes! The Megillas Esther which relates the miraculous story of our survival from an attempted genocide by Haman, takes place over a period of ten years. While it was taking place, every happening, every episode was a noteworthy item. When looking in retrospect, it is obvious that Hashem was orchestrating each and every part into a “perfect puzzle”! Every episode was another turning point which led to the salvation of the Jewish people and Haman’s demise. The synchronization was obvious to all; it now led Klal Yisroel to finally, resolutely declare and to decisively embark on a newfound relationship with Hashem. “Hashem knows everything, He is involved with everyone, and He is constantly orchestrating one’s life journey.” The result was to embrace our caring Creator with love and unbridled devotion. For if He is so loving, it is only natural for one to reciprocate. We therefore don’t require open miracles to sustain and embellish our belief and connection to Hashem; we now had unbridled clarity that Hashem is with us, always.

This idea is the basis for the celebratory spirit which permeates Purim. The essential עבודה of Purim, the essence of what transpires on Purim, is the obligation on us to reflect on the relentless, all-consuming, unquenchable love Hashem has for us.

This is turn, naturally, sparks and ignites enthusiasm, excitement, and in turn selfless, loving dedication to Hashem. The ספר חסידים v(12th century) writes that דוד המלך , King David, whenever he would be מתפלל , “pray” to Hashem; he would play his harp in order to saturate his “heart” (emotions) with exuberance due to his ecstasy and exhilaration as a result of being embraced by Hashem.

This is the true definition of תפילה ; to selflessly recognize the “passionate” connection Hashem has with everyone. When we “pray” we are thanking Hashem and gaining closeness to Him we didn’t have yesterday!

In הלכות יום טוב, Chapter 6, 20, the Rambam states, “When a person eats, drinks and celebrates (with enthusiasm) one shouldn’t let themselves be overly drawn to these physical pleasures… for levity is not שמחה…” in 6, 21, he states that the court is obligated to appoint officers who will ensure that people will not conduct themselves improperly…

In the Laws of Megillah (Purim) 2, 15 we are instructed to “eat meat and to prepare an attractive feast… and drink wine until becoming intoxicated and falling asleep,” but there is no mention of appointing officers … why not?

We are being taught that while on Yom Tov one is to acknowledge Hashem’s gifts of the agricultural cycle and therefore one’s focus can be directed on one’s physical world, on Purim one is to totally focus on one’s spiritual component. “נכנס יין יצא סוד” , יין and סוד both have the same numerical value – 70; when one drinks wine, one’s true self is revealed, especially to the person himself. This focus naturally prevents one from misbehavior.

Purim is a day when a metaphysical dynamic endemic to the day was realized. It is a time when our connection to Hashem is uniquely special, it is a day when our beseeching Hashem has a “special power”. If we truly (אדר is an acronym for ראש דבריך אמת , first and foremost one’s words have to be truthful) feel His selfless love and reciprocate with selfless dedication to Him, His world, and His Torah, we can iy”h effect salvation and bracha which we so desperately need- for Him and for us, as His people.

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