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11 Adar 5764 - March 4, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
A Middos Workshop: The Simcha of Purim--Our Love of Hashem

Based on the shiurim of Rav Dovid Siegel

"And you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart . . ."

Three times a day we recite this verse, an effective reminder to ourselves to develop a feeling of unbounded love for our Creator. Loving Hashem is part and parcel of being a Torah Jew. Previously, we discussed the simchah of Adar that stems from the love with which the Jews reaccepted the Torah during Purim. Now we will examine more thoroughly Purim's connection to ahavas Hashem.

Our Own Miracles

As we mentioned in our previous article, at the time of the first Purim, the Jews decided to reaccept the Torah, in response to the unprecedented miracle Hashem performed for them. The Nesivos in Megillas Setorim reveals the far- reaching effects of this matchless love. He says that their love was so strong that it became the basis for all miracles that the Jewish people have experienced since that time.

In other words, the Jewish people, individually and collectively, merit their miracles as a result of their loving reacceptance of the Torah. Their unparalleled feeling of indebtedness to Hashem elicited His boundless appreciation for them, displayed by His continuous miraculous involvement in their lives.

We are familiar with the miracles the Jews have experienced as a people throughout history, but some may wonder what miracles we experience as individuals in our days. At times we find ourselves in situations that seem impossible to overcome, but somehow we make it through them. Whenever we overcome such difficulties, we should realize that Hashem's helping hand led us through those trying times. This unexpected involvement is really a hidden miracle from Hashem. With a little thought, we can gain greater recognition of Hashem's involvement in our lives.

The Merit of the Purim Miracle

As we mentioned above, the Purim miracle is the source of all miracles the Jewish people experience. We know that Hashem is exceptionally kind to us in the merit of our ancestors, but why are we credited for simply descending from noble people?

Hashem views us as their descendants whenever we reflect or emulate their meritorious deeds. For example, our main focus on Rosh Hashanah is directed towards Akeidas Yitzchok. We ask Hashem to remember Yitzchok's binding as the concluding merit of the Zichronos brochoh. We blow the shofar so that Hashem will remember us in the light of the Akeidah.

The message here is for us to internalize Yitzchok's devotion. If we do so, then Hashem credits us with Yitzchok's meritorious act. In other words, when we sincerely dedicate our lives to Hashem and mirror our ancestors' lives, Hashem remembers us as their children who deserve His special grace and attention.

In this vein, the Nesivos tells us that when we appreciate and internalize the message of Purim, Hashem will respond and do miracles for us throughout the year. What is this Purim message we seek to internalize?

It is the acceptance of the Torah out of love of Hashem. When we reflect the meritorious act of the Jewish people in Shushan, we are credited with their unprecedented outpouring of love for Hashem. Purim should develop within us a strong desire to display boundless love for Hashem, thereby granting us Hashem's loving response. Let's take a look at how we can develop this.

Developing Ahavas Hashem--A Reflection

The famous verse in Mishlei (27:19) states, "As water reflects one face to another so does the heart of a man to another." This principle applies as well to Hashem's association with His people.

In truth, our ahavas Hashem stems from Hashem's love for us. Following the above principle, Hashem's boundless love for Klal Yisroel should generate our boundless love for Him. Let us examine this through the Purim experience.

We find ourselves in a time of hester ponim. In our daily experiences, Hashem may seem hidden from us. However, Hashem is always with us. In Vayikra, after strong words of reproof, Hashem comforted Bnei Yisroel and told them that even though there will be times that He will hide Himself from them, "Lo me'astim velo ge'altim lechalosom." I have not despised them nor spurned them to destroy them. No matter how far we have strayed from the ways of the Torah, Hashem has promised never to cast us off. True, when we act in ways that demonstrate our aversion for Hashem's involvement in our lives, He responds by becoming uninvolved in our lives. But He never despises us.

This was the situation the Jews had reached at the beginning of Megillas Esther. They were indifferent to Hashem's personal involvement. But after the hidden miracles of Purim, they yearned for that connection. Once they sensed His love for them, they pledged to reciprocate to the best of their ability.

This is the lesson of Purim. How much do we care about Hashem? When we see Him as our loving Father, we can be a loving son. When we sense Hashem's love for us, we should seek to reflect that love. In theory, our love for Hashem should equal His for us. Of course, His love is infinite, so we cannot compare, but we can at least attempt to do our best to match the love that He shows us.

Serving Hashem with Love

We have two ways of relating to Hashem: through fear and love. Yirah, a sense of awe for our Creator, causes us to refrain from evil. But ahavoh, our love for our Creator helps us to avoid even nearing the realm of sin.

For example, if one finds himself in a challenging predicament, he probably lacked enough concern to ensure distance for himself from that sin in the first place.

On Yom Kippur, we say, "Al cheit shechotonu lefonecho be'oness ueverotzon." We ask forgiveness for sins that we did accidentally.

Are we held responsible for accidental transgressions? The answer is yes, because we could have avoided approaching the transgression had we been more concerned.

For example, someone accidentally leaned against the light switch on Shabbos and turned it on. If Shabbos had been foremost in his mind, he would have made certain not to lean anywhere close to the switch.

Yom Kippur awakens in us our love for Hashem. On that day, we sense Hashem's boundless kindness, and pledge to perform His mitzvos with full dedication. And, as we know, Yom Kippur is Yom KePurim -- a day like Purim. Purim also contains this opportunity to develop our love for Hashem.

The outpouring of love that Hashem showed us on Purim can awaken within us our love for Him. Our first step should be to reiterate our Yom Kippur pledge and to commit ourselves to avoid even nearing the realm of sin. But Purim extends far beyond this. Purim demands that we take our new dedication and build our joyful love of Hashem with it.

Simcha Stems from Love

The Ramchal, in the sefer Mesillas Yeshorim, teaches that a major aspect of ahavas Hashem is simcha. Indeed Purim, the day of Simcha, is the perfect time to develop our ahavas Hashem.

One of the best ways to demonstrate our love for Hashem is to increase the joy with which we perform mitzvos. When we understand that serving Hashem is a privilege, we will do His will enthusiastically.

We can apply this Purim lesson to every day of the year. Twice a day, we recite the second segment of Krias Shema which states, "Ule'ovdo bechol levavechem uvechol nafshechem. And to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul." What does it mean to serve Hashem with our heart?

Chazal answer this question by telling us, Eizehu avodoh shebelev, zu tefilloh (Taanis 2a). Prayer is the perfect service of the heart. Prayer is a wonderful means to display our enthusiastic service of Hashem.

For example, the brochoh we say numerous times a day, Asher Yotzar, presents a great opportunity to focus on Hashem's wondrous design of the human body. The Chofetz Chaim teaches us that when we recite this blessing sincerely and recognize how Hashem is constantly protecting us from illness, then Hashem will shield us from poor health.

We see here the reciprocal relationship we have with Hashem, one reflecting the other. The more we appreciate Hashem's kindness and favor, the more we deserve to receive His favor.

Another propitious time to serve Hashem with joy is during the Modim prayer of Shemoneh Esrei. The Yerushalmi says that one who reaches Modim and simply realizes why he is bowing down deserves tremendous credit. What an excellent opportunity to dwell on the endless miracles Hashem bestows on us. "Ve'al nisecho shebechol yom imonu ve'al nifle'osecho vesovosecho shebechol eis."

For example, our blood travels through an extensive maze of capillaries perfectly designed to bring blood to and from the heart. Our lungs pump air into the body, filter out the oxygen and other elements we need and dispel the unwanted components. When we appreciate Hashem's design of the human body and the many other wonders of the world, we show our love for Him and also increase it.

The siddur and bencher are full of expressions of love and gratitude. If we concentrate, we have countless opportunities to convey our love for Hashem.

As we have said, Purim is a time to appreciate Hashem's miracles in our daily lives. Purim can inspire us to recognize Hashem's miracles every day of our lives. And when we appreciate His involvement in our lives, He will correspondingly become more involved with us. This in turn increases our opportunities to thank Hashem, and the virtuous cycle continues.

In summary, the simcha of Purim is the simcha that comes from true ahavas Hashem. And we carry that love and joy with us throughout the year, thus meriting Hashem's reciprocal show of love expressed in all the hidden miracles He performs for us.

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