Based on an address by Rabbi Zev Leff at Aish HaTorah, 5
Why were the Jews worthy of destruction at the time of Purim?
The gemora offers two possibilities: Either because
they had bowed to the avoda zora of Nevuchadnetzer, or
because "nehenu miseudas Achashverosh" -- they took
pleasure from the party of Achashverosh.
The incident with Nevuchadnetzer occurred many years before
the Purim story, in the aftermath of the destruction of the
first Beis Hamikdosh. The Jews at the time were a
defeated nation. They secretly remained faithful to Hashem.
In their hearts, they paid no allegiance to the idol of
Nevuchadnetzer. Still, they were now subjects of
Nevuchadnetzer and as such they deemed it politically
expedient to pay respects to his god.
They were anxious for Nevuchadnetzer to favor them. Had they
truly believed that G-d was controlling their destiny, they
never would have made this calculation. They certainly would
have preferred to be favored by Him!
This led to their second sin some years later. The Jews were
certainly not faulted for participating in Achashverosh's
party. Attendance was not optional. Even tzadikim such
as Mordechai were in attendance. But the Jews went -- and had
a good time! They are faulted for nehenu -- for
enjoying themselves at that festival of gluttony.
Their enjoyment was particularly galling, since Achashverosh
was specifically celebrating the downfall of the Jews!
Achashverosh had calculated -- wrongly -- that seventy years
had passed without the Beis Hamikdosh being rebuilt,
as the novi had said that it would. As a result,
Achashverosh donned the garments of the Kohen Godol,
took out the vessels of the Beis Hamikdosh, and
celebrated the demise of the Jewish People -- and the Jews
rejoiced with him!
How could they do this? Only a people with absolutely no self-
respect could have done such a thing. In proportion to how
much Jews feel that G-d is not controlling the world, they'll
feel that the Jewish Nation is unimportant and they will have
no self- respect. The Jews are significant only in their
destiny of being Hashem's Chosen People. When they rejected
this, they fell to the abysmal level of actually celebrating
their own downfall.
Because of this, they became vulnerable to the manifestation
of Amolek known as Homon. Homon said, "I will show you that
there is no Divine Providence and no Divine Protection. I'm
the one with the money. I'm the one with the might. And I
control the world!"
The Megilla states, "Hippil poor hu hagorol"
(3:7). Normally, this verse is translated: "He threw a
poor, which is lots." There is uncertainty as to
whether poor is a Persian word or a Hebrew word.
If it is a Hebrew word, the final phrase is obviously
redundant. Why write poor, and then say that
poor is synonymous with gorol? The
Megilla could have simply utilized the more common
term gorol. It would be more understandable if
poor is a Persian word. Then the Megilla is
translating the unknown Persian word poor as the
Hebrew word gorol. However, this too is problematic,
for the Megilla says again in the ninth perek
(v. 24) that poor is gorol.
The answer is that it is not a translation. The verse says,
"Hippil poor," meaning that Homon threw lots, and then
Homon said, "hu hagorol" -- these lots are your
Homon told the Jews: your destiny is determined solely by
blind fate, like this lottery. There is no Divine Protection
as you claim. You are not guided by G-d. Your fortunes are
controlled by impersonal "natural" forces and whoever has the
most money and the most power -- and that is now me, Homon --
is in control of those forces.
Homon's intent was "Lehashmid laharoge uele'abeid" --
to destroy, to slay and to exterminate. This is an excessive
use of words. It sounds literally like overkill!
What is the intent of lehashmid? It means more than
"to destroy." It comes from the term shmad, to make a
person feel that he has been abandoned; to make a person
hefker. Homon did not even feel pressured to carry out
his plans immediately. He planned to wait nearly a year and
for eleven months the Jewish People were to be in a situation
of massive despair. The Jews were purposely made to feel that
there was absolutely nothing protecting them, and that there
was nothing that they could do to save themselves. This was
total negation of the Jews. Then, he would kill them, and he
would wipe out any memory of the Jewish People.
This brought the Jews to teshuva. The Jews were
plunged into "tzom ubechi umispeid' -- fasting,
weeping, and hesped, eulogies. Why were there
eulogies? No one had died yet.
Once they fasted and cried, they repented. They found Hashem
again and they realized that He is always there. Then,
they realized that the Jewish People are important. They
started saying eulogies -- for themselves! They began to see
-- and then to say -- how they are important, how they are G-
d's People, and what a shame it would be if they were
This is why the holiday is called Purim. Homon said that the
entire world is one huge coincidence. He claimed that the
fortunes of every nation are merely happenstance. The Jews
discovered that there is no such thing as happenstance. The
Hebrew word for happenstance is mikreh. The letters of
this word can be rearranged to read, "Rak meiHashem" --
only from Hashem.
The outcome of the Purim miracle was "Divrei sholom
ve'emes" -- words of peace and truth (9:31). Rabbi Yaakov
of Lissa points out that sholom and emes are
both names of Hashem.
Emes is the truth that G-d is involved in the world.
The Jews learned that no matter what things look like, all
affairs are really controlled by Hashem. They learned not to
be like the dog that bites the stick that hits it, failing to
realize that someone is wielding it. When this emes
becomes clear, naturally there is sholom, peace
between the Jews, since they have a reason to unite as a
nation -- a common destiny.
Hence, the mitzvos of Purim.
We are commanded to read the Megilla. The Megilla
demonstrates how G-d is involved in every aspect of
"nature." The events of the Megilla, if viewed on
their own, appear as normal occurrences in history. But when
considered all together, the confluence of so many happenings
is more than uncanny. It is miraculous. It is yad
Hashem, the Hand of G- d.
The gemora says that the Megilla scroll needs
"Sirtut, ke'amito shel Torah." The Megilloh
scroll must have sirtut -- faint lines which are
etched into the parchment before the sofer writes the
words. The gemora calls these lines amito shel
Torah -- like the truth of Torah. Why are they called
Generally, we may think that the events in the Torah happened
by chance and that they were written in the Torah in the way
that they happened. This is wrong! Before any of these events
ever happened, there were already lines. They are almost
invisible, but they are there. G-d had a plan for the world
and the events aligned themselves in accordance with His
plan. The nearly invisible lines on the Torah scroll, and on
the Megilla as well, represent Hashem's unseen Hand in
Therefore, the word derech is very significant in the
entire Purim story and in the history of Amolek. "Asher
korcho baderech" (Devorim 25:17). "Baderech
betzeischem miMitzrayim" (v. 18). This is because the
Jewish People know that there is a plan for this world. We
acknowledge the existence of a derech. Amolek preaches
that there is no derech, that everything is chance. We
know that there is a Heavenly rhyme and reason for
Another frequently used word is mochor, tomorrow.
Moshe told Yehoshua, "We fight Amolek tomorrow" (Shemos
17:9). Esther said, "Let tomorrow be given to the Jews"
(9:13). According to Amolek, there is no tomorrow! Every day
is just a jumble of happenstance. If the whole world is
simply a muddle of accidents, there may in fact be no
tomorrow. The accident of any given moment could be the very
last one. There is no guaranteed future.
If G-d is guiding the world, there is a plan, there is a
derech. When there is derech, there's a future;
there is a mochor!
When we understand that G-d is guiding the world and that He
is in control of the world, we automatically realize that the
Jewish People are important, since we have a relationship
with Him. If we are important, we want to promote our
existence. That's why we eat: to show that it's significant
for us to be alive. So, we have a good meal -- the Purim
However, not only are we important, but our friends and
neighbors are also important, since they are also Jews. Thus,
we send M'shloach Monos to family and friends. And
even the very poor Jew, the evyon who has nothing, is
also important -- for he too is a Jew. And therefore, we also
give to him -- but not tzedoko but matonos. He
deserves it -- after all, he is a member of G-d's People. He
is a descendant of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.
The simcha of Purim is ein simcha kehatoras
hasefeikos. The greatest simchah is when one has
no doubts. On Purim, the Jewish People saw clearly that G-d
is with them. They saw clearly who they are and how much
esteem G-d has for them. We relive this every Purim.
This explains the achdus, which comes from Purim. It
comes from "Kiyemu vekiblu." The gemora says
that the Jews experienced a new Kabolas haTorah. They
received the Torah anew.
When the Jewish People received the Torah at Sinai, they did
not truly appreciate its importance. But on Purim they
recognized how important they are. Only then did they
begin to realize how important the Torah is. If we appreciate
who we really are, then what we do matters. If so, it is also
important to know how to conduct our lives properly.
The gemora says that the miracle of Esther was like
the crack of dawn. Why? Just like dawn is the end of the
night, so too Esther was the end of the miracles that were
written in Tanach. Dawn precedes day. If, following
Esther there were no more miracles, it would seem that the
situation became worse. So Esther should be compared to dusk,
not to dawn.
Rabbi Yonoson Eibshitz answers with a parable. A man is
walking through the dark night. He cannot see, but ever so
often there is flash of lightning, which illuminates his way.
Each time, he can see the terrain coming up in front of him.
This continues throughout the night, until dawn. Once dawn
arrives, he no longer needs the lightning; he can see
Throughout Jewish history, before the miracle of Purim, there
were always low ebbs in belief in Hashem's control of the
world. Every few hundred years, the Jews needed an open
miracle to strengthen their knowledge of Hashem's control.
They needed miracles to show us that G-d was really there. So
every few hundred years, He sent us a reminder. But Purim
taught us that Hashem is always here! We learned that
even if we cannot see open miracles, He is always present,
controlling all that happens. We no longer need flashes in
the darkness; we have emerged into broad daylight.
In Shoshanas Yaakov we sing, "Teshu'osom hoyisoh
lonetzach" -- You will forever be their salvation. The
Hebrew is really in the past tense: hoyisoh actually
means "You have been." This means that the salvation of the
Jewish People is a given.
Ultimately, we will always be saved; it's guaranteed. But
sadly we cannot always see that. There are generations in
which the future of the Jews appears far from assured. Still
we say, "vesikvosom bechol dor vodor" -- Hashem is the
hope of every generation. We will always have hope.
In the worst of situations, we maintain our hope. We always
know that there will be a tomorrow, and that His deliverance
will arrive. Even though circumstances appear difficult -- or
worse -- we know that they are all part of His "Grand
The corollary is "lehodi'a shekol kovecho lo
yeivoshu." All those who have hope in G-d and who trust
in G-d and who believe in G-d, will never be shamed. For, if
G-d exists we are important since we are close to Him. We
possess His Torah, so we have nothing to be ashamed of.
Purim (in regular cities) can fall on Sunday, Thursday or
Friday. Sunday is yom Alef; Thursday -- yom
Hei; and Friday -- yom Vov. With Amolek present,
as it says at the end of parshas Beshalach, Hei and
Vov are missing from G-d's Name, which is now only two
letters instead of four. The letter Alef is missing
from kisei, His Heavenly Throne. Purim puts these
letters back into the world.
There is one more day upon which Purim can fall -- Tuesday,
yom Gimmel. When the Gimmel is placed in front
of the alef, vov, hei, it forms gaavoh --
That is the ultimate lesson of Purim. We believe that G- d is
profoundly involved in the world, and this is our pride. This
is what Purim is all about.
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