GOOD MORNING! Purim is coming up next week - Saturday night, March 19th, through all day Sunday (except in those places noted below)! Purim is the holiday that reminds us that God runs the world behind the scenes. (Coincidence is just God's way of staying anonymous!) Nowhere in the Megillas Esther is the name of God mentioned, though there is a tradition that every time the words "the King" are used it also refers to the Almighty.
Megillas Esther is a book full of suspense and intrigue with a very satisfying ending - the Jewish people are saved from destruction! I highly recommend Turnabout - it has an English translation of the Megillah (literally: scroll) as well as a rendition of the Purim story incorporating the commentary of the Malbim.
Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther. It is named in her honor for asking that the Jewish people fast for three days before she approached King Ahashverosh with her request which led to the salvation of the Jewish people. The fast is in memory of the fast observed by Israel on the day of their mobilization against their enemies. This year we fast on Thursday, March 17th. Usually the fast takes place the day before Purim. However, this year that day is Shabbat. One only fasts on Shabbat when it coincides with Yom Kippur.
A great book elucidating Purim is Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf's The One Hour Purim Primer - Everything a family needs to understand, celebrate and enjoy Purim (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.comor by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). Writes Rabbi Apisdorf: If a family is a "twice a year to synagogue" family, then those days should at least be Purim and Simchas Torah (when everyone dances around celebrating the completion and beginning of reading the Torah). Our kids should see and be a part of the joy of being Jewish!
Purim comes from the word "pur" in Persian which means "lots" - as in, "Haman cast lots for the most 'auspicious' date to kill the Jews." The date fell on the 13th of Adar. The events of that date were turned around from a day of destruction to a day of victory and joy. We celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar for "they gained relief on the fourteenth, which they made a day of feasting and gladness" (Megillas Esther 9:17).
In very few places - most notably in Jerusalem - Purim is celebrated the following day, the 15th day of Adar. The Sages declared that all cities which were walled cities at the time of Joshua should celebrate Purim the following day. This is to commemorate the extra day which King Ahashverosh granted Esther to allow the Jews of Shushan (the capital of Persia, which was a walled city) to deal with their enemies). In Shushan they gained relief on the fifteenth. The holiday celebrated on the 15th of Adar is called Shushan Purim.
There are two ways in which to try to destroy the Jewish people -physically and spiritually. Our enemies have attempted both. Chanukah is the celebration over those who have tried and failed to culturally assimilate us (the Greeks and Western Culture); Purim is the celebration over those who have tried and failed to physically destroy us (the Persians, ad nauseam).
Why do we masquerade with costumes and masks on Purim? As mentioned above, nowhere in the Megillas Esther does God's name appear. If one so desires, he can see the whole Purim story as a chain of coincidences totally devoid of Divine Providence. Just as we hide behind masks, but our essence is still there, so too God has "hidden His face" behind the forces of history, but is still there guiding history.
Why do we make noise every time Haman's name is mentioned in the Megillah? The answer: Haman was an Amalekite, from that people which embodies evil and which the Torah commands us to obliterate. By blotting out Haman's name we are symbolically wiping out the Amalekites and evil.
The holiday is celebrated by hearing the Megillah Saturday night and Sunday morning. During the day only, we fulfill three mitzvot: (1) Matanot L'evyonim - giving gifts or money to at least two poor people. (While it is good to give locally, one can fulfill the mitzvot by giving at http://www.kerenyehoshuavyisroel.com for the poor Jews of Jerusalem), (2) Mishloach Manot, the "sending of portions," giving at least two ready-to-eat foods to a minimum of one person. One should send via a messenger. (You can order Kosher Purim baskets from: Rabbi Chaim Casper's Surf Florist of Miami Beach 305-865-0433 or SurfFlorist@juno.com), and (3) Seudah, a festive meal. During the meal we are commanded to drink wine until we don't know the difference between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman." (It is best fulfilled by drinking a little and taking a nap - one doesn't know the difference between them while sleeping!) One should NOT drink to excess. The mitzva is about connecting to the Almighty - and sloppy drunks are lousy at spirituality. Drinking can be dangerous. The mitzva is only at the meal with wine and should be well-controlled and minimized.
Why are we instructed to drink this amount? In a certain sense, Purim is greater than Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur we fast and it is easy for our soul to have dominance over the body. Purim is the epitome of integrating the physical and the spiritual towards realizing that the Almighty loves us. The only thing that stands between you and the Almighty - is you. The wine and the spirit of the day help us get beyond the barrier - to realize that everything comes from the Almighty for our good! We may perceive things that happen to us as "bad" though ultimately they benefit us either physically and/or spiritually.
The mitzvot of Mishloach Manot and giving gifts to the poor were prescribed to generate brotherly love between all Jews. When there is love and unity amongst us, our enemies cannot harm us!
For more on Purim, go to: http://www.aish.com/holidays/purim/ . Enjoy "Lego Purim" - a short aish.com film unique retelling of the Purim story. Also, "Purim and Spain's Hidden Jews," Rabbi Ken Spiro's "Purim in Persia" from his Crash Course in Jewish History and Rabbi Shraga Simmons' "The ABC's of Purim."
For more on "Purim" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) primarily deals with what are commonly called "sacrifices" or "offerings." According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch: a "sacrifice" implies giving up something that is of value to oneself for the benefit of another. An "offering" implies a gift which satisfies the receiver. The Almighty does not need our gifts. He has no needs or desires. The Hebrew word is korban, which is best translated as a means of bringing oneself into a closer relationship with the Almighty. The offering of korbanot was only for our benefit to come close to the Almighty.
Ramban, one of the essential commentaries on Torah, explains that through the vicarious experience of what happened to the animal korbanot, the transgressor realized the seriousness of his transgression. This aided him in the process of teshuva -correcting his erring ways.
This week's portion includes the details of various types of korbanot: burnt offering, flour offering (proof that one does not need to offer "blood" to gain atonement), the first grain offering, peace offering, unintentional sin offering (private and communal), guilt (for an intentional sin) offerings - varied upon one's ability to pay, and an offering for personal use of something designated or belonging to the Tabernacle or the Temple.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, 'When any man (adam) of you offers an offering to God, of the cattle, of the herd, or of the flock you shall bring your offering' " (Leviticus 1:2).
Why does the Almighty use the word "adam" and not "ish" when referring to a man in this verse of the Torah?
Rashi cites the Midrash which explains that the term adam is used in this verse to denote "man" - rather than the term ish - in order to teach us a principle. Just as the first man (Adam) did not bring an offering from anything that was stolen, since everything was his, so too, should you not bring an offering from that which is stolen. Likewise, we should make sure that whenever we do a mitzvah, a commandment, we must be careful not to cause a loss to or harm anyone else!
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 11
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New York 5:40 - Singapore 7:00 - Toronto 6:00
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Do today - there are only so many tomorrows.
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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