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8 Adar 5762 - February 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
"Being" Joyful on Purim

by S. Bilgrei

We can approach our yearly cycle like a ladder, with our yomim tovim as rungs to climb to elevate ourselves to greater spiritual heights. The year starts on Pesach, as it says, "Hachodesh hazeh lochem rosh chodoshim," which is the birth of Am Yisroel. Just as with a newborn one sterilizes and carefully supervises everything the baby consumes, so too on Pesach, we are extremely careful not to have any chometz.

We grow until our bar mitzva on Shavuos, when we accept the yoke of Torah and mitzvos. Succos is like the chasunah. Just as we do teshuva and fast preceding our wedding, likewise before Succos we do teshuva on Rosh Hashana and fast on Yom Kippur.

Finally, the height of celebration of our unity with Hashem is on Simchas Torah, when we dance with joy.

How does Chanukah transcend the chasunah itself? Although the chasunah is a joyous occasion, there is always apprehension and fear for the future. How will the partner react once the "show" is over and "real life" begins with its petty quarrels and differences?

When the dark, cold months bring Yovon challenging our dedication to Hashem, commanding, "Kisvu lochem al keren hashor she'ein lochem cheilek Be'Elokei Yisroel," and many Jews turned to the Hellenistic culture, we found that even in the darkest moments there was an eternal light that preserves a connection with love. Therefore, Chanukah is even a higher rung of unity than the chasunah itself that took place on Succos.

However, the epitome of kedusha is Purim. Purim is the greatest day of the year. There is so much kedusha and closeness to Hashem with the opportunity to merit miracles in unnatural ways. Chazal state, "Kol haposheit yad nosnim lo" on Purim, and Hashem as well follows this rule on Purim.

In fact, Chazal say, "Ein bodkim bemo'os Purim" -- on Purim we don't check who is requesting a donation; we just give to all. Similarly, on this day Hashem doesn't check us to see if we are really deserving. He just gives. Therefore, it is a special day for tefilloh, brochos, and bentching, more than any other time.

In order for us to know how to utilize Purim, it is important for us to understand its uniqueness and how it caps the progress from Pesach through Chanukah.

Purim is the day we realized our true identity. The essence of a Jew is "Neshomoh tehoroh shenosato bi," the breath of Hashem that is within us. That is what makes us holy in essence. On Purim we appreciate the importance of every Jew, and we give them monos and mo'os to be sure to fill everyone's need, for the essence of every Jew is holy.

Many Jews have difficulty accepting the fact that Jews are special and elevated above the nations of the world (though anyone can join if he is sincere and committed). We get so influenced by our environment, that we lose our identity. Sometimes, outside circumstances can bring us greater understanding of who we are and what responsibilities we shoulder.

When Homon decreed that he would kill every last Jewish man, woman, and child, he didn't make any conditions that if we convert to the Persian religion we would be spared. The Jews realized that the reason for his extreme hatred was nothing but our very existence. It was not our philosophies, beliefs or Jewish dress that they objected to. They weren't trying to change us. They did not want Jews to exist because our very existence is a contradiction and therefore a threat to them.

Who are we?

This situation caused introspection and, after analyzing the facts, we realized that our physical existence is a threat to Amolek because we are in essence holy and, since Amolek's purpose is to conceal any vestige of spirituality and holiness, its success is dependent upon our annihilation. The simple existence of a Jew is an antithesis to Amolek's conviction.

In parshas Beshalach Hashem declares, "Ki yod al Keis Koh milchomoh laHashem ba'Amolek midor dor." Rashi explains, "Ein Shemi vekis'i sholeim." The word "Keis" is a shortened version of Kisei, with the final letter Alef missing. "Koh" a shortened name of Hashem, missing the vov and hei to complete His name. The omitted letters from these two word (hei, vov, alef) spell "hu," which in Hebrew is the third person pronoun, also termed "nistar," hidden. Amolek opposes kiddush Hashem and works on keeping Hashem's reality hidden.

Amolek is the one who conceals and blocks out the truth of the world by encouraging people to "believe only what you see with your senses." They are the atheists who ridicule any spirituality and always come up with a "scientific" explanation for the most supernatural occurrences. Therefore, Hashem says His Name, which is His Hanhogoh, and His Throne, symbolizing His rule, cannot be complete until Amolek is destroyed.

Purim is the culmination of "mechias Amolek," the destruction of Amolek. They work to obliterate any hint of spirituality, emphasizing only the physical as real, and on Purim we celebrate that for a Jew, the physical itself is spiritual. We have a mitzva of seudas Purim, to eat. It is not like on yom tov when the food is meant as a means to get one besimchoh. On Purim the meal is itself the purpose because the meat and wine are holy when consumed by a Jew to sustain himself.

It is also customary to get drunk, and we wonder what actually happened on Purim that causes us to behave in such an uncharacteristic manner.

HaRav Shimshon Pincus zt"l explains the situation by analogy to a little boy who, on the way to cheder, got hit by a car. His worried parents rushed him to the hospital and waited anxiously to hear the diagnosis of the professors and the doctors. After many attempts to revive the child, the family doctor sadly told the parents that their child had perished. Amidst their anguished cries, a professor rushed over and declared that he detected a faint pulse. The child will live!

The joy and relief of the parents is unparalleled, especially because of the turnabout. After his recovery, upon his return home, the child is greeted with a huge spread of treats and his room turns into a miniature toy store from all the gifts of his grandparents and relatives. The love for this child who was declared dead but came back to life, is indescribable.

When Mordechai heard of Homon's decree, he was unimpressed. After all, in every generation the gentiles attempt to destroy us but Hashem saves us from their hands. However, when Mordechai asked Eliyahu Hanovi what Hashem says to this decree, and when Eliyahu Hanovi revealed that Hashem signed it, then Mordechai realized that it was all over. Teshuvoh itself would not save the Jews because now they needed something as powerful as resurrection.

Mordechai devised a plan that figuratively "broke Hashem's heart." He gathered all the children and prescribed a fast for three days and nights. The painful cries of the toddlers rose to Heaven and Hashem asked, What are these sheep I hear bleating? When Hashem heard that it was the Jewish children who were fasting because they were soon to be destroyed, the Megilla relates, "Noddedoh shenas Hamelech" -- The King spent a sleepless night. Chazal say that "Melech" in the Megilla refers to Hashem. Hashem could not rest when His one and only child was signed by Him for destruction.

On the threshold of sure death, the Jews realized that the only important thing in life is their connection with HaKodosh Boruch Hu, and they clung to this reality. The Jewish people, realizing their true identity, returned to HaKodosh Boruch Hu, and clung to Hashem with renewed dedication. Then, all of a sudden, Hashem saw the possibility of bringing Am Yisroel back to life. That moment was so precious, there was such a burning love, that the Torah tells us "LaYehudim hoysoh oroh vesimchoh vesosson viykor." Hashem showered us with beautiful gifts of new life, a new matan Torah, and even the building of the Second Beis Hamikdosh, which was a result of Purim.

Hashem turned over heaven and earth, and gave Homon such a bang that hundreds of years later its repercussions are still felt in every shul when his name is mentioned.

To this day there is a great outpouring of unconditional love from Hashem to his beloved Am Yisroel on Purim. The celebration is because of life itself. We realized that our very essence is holy and that is why we are the Amolek's target. Our essence is holy because we are Hashem's nation, and once we realized our essence, it caused a similar reaction in heaven. True, we were deserving of destruction, but in essence, we remain Hashem's beloved children no matter how "filthy" we have become. And when Hashem's children are threatened, no miracle is too great to save them.

After climbing the rungs of our yearly cycle of yomim tovim, we reach Purim and reflect on the progress we made with trepidation. What greatness have we attained after going through Pesach, Shavuos, Yomim Noraim, Succos, and Chanukah? There is perhaps a tinge of discouragement when we reflect, "How are we doing?"

Purim is the ecstasy of just "being." We discover how precious our life is, because our very existence is a kiddush Hashem. Realizing our exalted identity is truly a reason to get drunk with joy.

The drunkenness perhaps manifests the unconditional love Hashem has for His people. Just as parents adore their infant, who drools, burps, and is totally unintelligent, because it is their special child, so too we discovered that Hashem loves Am Yisroel the same way. As long as we recall our identity and we identify ourselves as Hashem's nation -- as reflected even in our Jewish names, speech, and dress, and our dedication to a life of Torah and mitzvos -- we will always merit miraculous intervention.

The greatest joy of Purim is internalizing the fact that with all our shortcomings and failures, we are always left with our beautiful holy essence and connection with Hashem. The epitome of kedusha is this wonderful day, when we celebrate the joy of life itself, of just simply "being."

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