GOOD MORNING! Purim is coming up next week -- Wednesday night, March 7th, through all day Thursday. 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 -- from dawn until after the Megilla is read. Named in her honor, it is in memory of the Jew's fast before going to battle the anti-Semites in the Purim story. This year we fast on Wednesday, March 7th.
A great book about 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.com or 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 (from the Amalekites to 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: By blotting out Haman's name we are symbolically obliterating evil.
The holiday is celebrated by hearing the Megillah Wednesday night and Thursday 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 the "Crash Course on Purim", "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".
Torah Portion of the Week
The Torah continues this week with the command to make for use in the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary -- oil for the Menorah and clothes for the Cohanim, the Priests. It then gives instruction for the consecration of the Cohanim and the Outer Altar. The portion concludes with instructions for constructing the Incense Altar.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states in reference to the Breastplate of Judgment, one of the vestments worn by the Kohen Gadol, High Priest, that:
"...Aaron shall carry the judgment of the Children of Israel on his heart..." (Exodus 28:30).
What is the meaning and implication of the phrase "on his heart"?
Rabbi Aharon Levine, author of Hadrash Vehaiyun, elucidates: When a judge has to render a decision in a quarrel between two people, he cannot rely on the feelings of his heart. Following one's feelings can lead to a distortion of justice. When a wealthy person and a poor person are involved in a financial quarrel, one's feelings might be prejudiced in favor of the poor person. However, it is possible that the wealthy person is right and justice should be on his side. Therefore, the Torah states, "on his heart" to teach us "above his heart" -- one cannot decide by his feelings, but rather that law and justice must be the key deciding factors.
While compassion and mercy are important, they are not always appropriate. One cannot pervert justice. If you want to help a poor person, do so at your own expense, not at the expense of someone else and not at the expense of justice.
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 2
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
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With Deep Appreciation to
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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