GOOD MORNING! This week begins the 8th year of the Shabbat Shalom Fax and the Internet edition, (available by email by sending your request to firstname.lastname@example.org). Purim is coming up next week, Monday night, March 1st through all day Tuesday.
Q & A: What is Purim and How Do We Celebrate It?
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 out on the 13th of Adar. The events of that date were turned around to make it one of the most joyous days in the Jewish year and is thus the date we celebrate Purim.
(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, by the way, was a walled city] to deal with their enemies. The holiday is called Shushan Purim in those locales.)
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? Nowhere in the Megilat Esther is G-d's name mentioned. 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 G-d 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 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 2) giving at least two ready-to-eat foods to a minimum of one person (called Mishloach Manot, the "sending of portions" which is best fulfilled via a messenger (you can order Kosher Purim baskets from: White's Candies Tel. (305) 865-0433 or http://www.ftd.com/surf or from The Kosher Connection, 800-950-7227) and 3) having a Seudah, a festive meal, where we are commanded to drink wine until we don't know the difference between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman." 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 and is ultimately for our good!
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!
Torah Portion of the Week
The Torah continues this Tetzaveh 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.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "You shall make the Choshen Mishpat ("the Breastplate of Judgement" -- one of the eight garments of the High Priest, the Cohen Gadol) (Exodus 28:15). Each of the garments had a specific spirtitual impact and purpose. What do we learn from the Choshen Mishpat?
Rashi, the essential commentary on the Torah, tells us that the Choshen Mishpat "substantiates its statements and its promises come true." When a question was asked to the High Priest, the letters of the breastplate would light up in a sequence spelling out the answer.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz clarifies that Rashi is coming to teach you to be very clear exactly what you are and are not promising. If you do not clarify and qualify when you make your promise, it is not truth. To promise "the world" but intend to offer limited help shows a lack of integrity. It creates greater problems later on. Being specific in promises is especially important in raising children; it teaches them whether or not they can trust their parents!
EIGHT LEVELS OF JOY!
- Your metabolism changes so that you can lose weight eating chocolate.
- You realize that your kid's report card was really a bad dream.
- Your computer actually crashes when the technician is there.
- You bought Amazon.com 2 years ago -- and held it.
- Steven Speilberg calls your boss looking for you.
- You haven't put on weight -- your clothes shrank.
- Your child calls from college just to say hi.
- The IRS loses your name