GOOD MORNING! Purim is coming up next week – Saturday night, March 15th, through all day Sunday. Purim is the holiday that reminds us that God runs the world behind the scenes. Coincidence is 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.
Usually the Fast of Esther immediately precedes Purim. However, this year the day before Purim is Shabbat. Since we only fast on Shabbat for Yom Kippur, the fast is moved up to Thursday, March 13th. The fast commemorates the three day Fast of Esther and the Jewish people before she approached King Ahashverosh with her request. Named in her honor, it is also in memory of the Jews' fast before going to battle the anti-Semites in the Purim story.
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 (it and other books on Purim are available at your local Jewish bookstore). 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 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 mitzvah is about connecting to the Almighty – and sloppy drunks are lousy at spirituality. Drinking can be dangerous. The mitzvah 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."
Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26
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.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Every meal offering that you offer to the Almighty do not make it chometz (leavened); for you shall burn no yeast, nor any honey, in any offering of the Almighty made by fire. With all your offerings you shall offer salt" (Leviticus 2:11-13).
Yeast and honey were not permitted in the offering on the altar. Yeast makes the dough rise higher, but it is an external additive. Honey makes things taste sweet, but it is also an external additive. Salt, on the other hand, brings out the flavor of the food, but only the flavor that is already there. This, says Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, symbolizes a basic principle in spiritual matters.
When serving the Almighty you should follow the model of salt. That is, utilize all the abilities and talents that you have to serve Him. Do not be like yeast that causes distortion of what is there. Do not be like honey that is very sweet, but is something borrowed from the outside. Be yourself, but make every effort to be all that you can be.
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
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Happiness is joy digesting
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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