GOOD MORNING! Purim is coming up next week, Monday night, March 20th through all day Tuesday! The Fast of Esther is Monday, March 20th.
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 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." (Megillat 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, by the way, was a walled city] to deal with their enemies. In Shushan they gained relief on the fifteenth. (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 God'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 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 Monday night and Tuesday morning. During the day only, we fulfill three mitzvot:
- Matanot L'evyonim -- giving gifts or money to at least two poor people.
- 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).
- 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." (It can also be fulfilled by drinking a little and taking a nap -- one doesn't know the difference between them while sleeping...) 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!
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, a noted Spanish rabbi, explained 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, flour offering (proof that one does not need to offer "blood" to gain atonemen), first grain, peace, sin (private and communal), guilt korbanot (varied upon one's ability to pay), korban for inadvertently expropriating something sacred to God, and also to help atone for dishonesty.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And if you bring near a flour offering baked in the oven ... and if your offering is a flour offering baked in a pan ... and if your offering is a flour offering baked in a pot..." Leviticus 2:4-7). What significance is there to the multiple manners in which one's flour offering is baked?
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch comments: The Minchah, flour offering, in general expresses our acknowledgment to the Almighty in respect to our happiness in life. If we compare the offerings baked in the oven, pan and pot -- they seem to have the relation to each other of bread, cake, and specially prepared dishes.
Bread ("baked in the oven") is ordinary food for happy daily life. Cake ("baked in a pan") signifies the extra enjoyment, the unusual condition of luxury. "Baked in a pot" is a dish prepared for a special occasion, the temporary, passing moment of special joy. Taken all together, they express our consciousness that not only the actual necessities for a happy daily life, but also the extras are to be looked upon as gifts of the Almighty. We must recognize this and be grateful for the many blessing He has bestowed upon us -- far above the basic necessities!
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 17:
Jerusalem 5:10 Miami 6:13 New York 5:47
L.A. 5:44 Hong Kong 6:15 Singapore 6:59
Guatemala 5:55 Honolulu 6:23 J'Burg 6:04
Melbourne 7:19 Moscow 6:18 London 5:50
Atlanta 6:29 Toronto 6:08
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
In this world it is not what we take,
but what we give, that makes us rich.
-- Henry Ward Beecher
In Loving Memory of
by his son, Norbert