Purim 5778

Holiday #8 (234)

Purim 5778

March 1 (+2)

From the Masters of Kabala From Ascent QuarterlyFrom the Chassidic RebbesSome Laws and Customs

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From the Chassidic Rebbes - The PURIM Feast

The reason that the Sages instituted drinking and feasting on Purim and not on Chanukah is as follows: In the days of Mordechai and Esther, the Jews sinned through eating, by partaking of the feast of Ahashuerus. This was physical sin, and therefore they were endangered, measure for measure, with physical annihilation. In contrast, in the days of the Hasmoneans, the Jews sinned through almost assimilating into Greek culture and thereby ignoring the study of the Torah; therefore they were endangered not physically but spiritually he Greeks wanted to outlaw the practice of Judaism. Therefore, the commemoration of the miracle of Chanukah is chiefly through vocal observance: praise and thanksgiving, which emphasize the spiritual, whereas that of Purim is chiefly through drinking and eating, which emphasize the physical.
[from Benei Yissachar]

From the Masters of Kabbalah -- From Yaakov to Mordechai
Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (the "Chida")

[When Yaakov saw that Esav was coming] he went ahead of [his family] and bowed down seven times until he reached his brother. (Bereishis 33:3)

It says in Sefer Hakinuyim that Mordechai was the reincarnation of Yaakov and Haman the reincarnation of Esav. Since Yaakov did wrong by bowing before Esav seven times, Mordechai came and repaired Yaakov's failing by refusing to bow down to Haman.

The question is, how could Yaakov, the most perfect of the patriarchs, bow down to the wicked Esav? He surely knew that it is forbidden to greet an evildoer. [The answer is:] Yaakov did not do anything wrong. When he prostrated himself he was bowing down to the Shechinah that was coming to meet him.

[Then why is it counted as a failing that needs rectification?] Yaakov was guilty of giving a false impression to his wives and his children, causing them to think that he was bowing down toEsav. [Mordechai repaired this misstep by refusing to bow down to Haman.]

[From KABBALAH: Selections from Classic Kabbalistic Works from Raziel HaMalach to the Present Day (Targum Press). Translations by Avraham Yaakov Finkel]

From Ascent Quarterly-- PURIM's Many Gifts from Rabbi Shaul Y. Leiter

Two mitzvot of Purim's are the sending of two food items to another Jew (ideally via a messenger) and the giving of food or money to two poor Jews. A few questions arise:

1) What is the connection between the sending of two food items and the holiday of Purim?
2) Considering the advantage of giving charity secretly so that the recipient won't know the benefactor's identity, why aren't gifts to the poor given via a messenger, instead of the sending of food items to a friend?
3) Why are two food types given to one person, but one charitable gift is given to two poor people?
4) Why must we give food to a friend, but for the poor we can choose between food and money?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us that Purim is physically and spiritually unique. During the time of Mordechai and Ester there was a decree made in the physical realm to annihilate every person identified as a Jew, and the subsequent salvation included all Jews.

Similarly, our tradition says that on a spiritual plane the Jews decided to complete the process begun at Mount Sinai. After their deliverance from Haman and his evil plans, they unanimously accepted the Torah and its laws of their own free will, not under duress, as was the case at Mt. Sinai (see commentaries on Exodus 19:17).

The purpose of giving the Torah is to create a dwelling place for G-d in this earthly domain. An important prerequisite for the giving of the Torah was the unity of the Jewish People. Since Purim was the completion of the process which began at Sinai, the mitzvot of Purim hint at these three revolutionary events: 1) Making a dwelling place for G-d in this dimension, 2) Jewish unity, and 3) things happening from our own initiative.

In this light, the Rebbe examines the mitzvot of Purim. Making a dwelling place for G-d occurs in two ways: perfecting our relationship with Him through our involvement in Torah and mitzvot, and by encouraging others to follow suit.
Torah and mitzvot, which connect us to G-d, are compared to food and drink, which connect our souls to our bodies. Love and awe of G-d, which accompany our divine service, are compared to gold and silver, which are used to buy food and drink.

With the sending of food items, when each Jew gives to another person (understood as other, i.e. G-d) gifts of food (i.e. mitzvot), there must be two foods in each gift to prove that we are not performing these good deeds easily and naturally but rather are breaking out of our limitations to achieve the higher standard - for the sake of Heaven. Just as mitzvot cannot be elevated on their own, but must be "accompanied" with love and awe, so also the sending of food items must also be through a messenger. On the other hand, money alone can't suffice, because love and fear are not by themselves valued gifts to G-d. It is our actions that count.

The mitzva of giving gifts to the poor hints at our obligation to encourage the "poor" in knowledge of G-d to come closer to Judaism. For some, encouragement comes through seeing peers performing a mitzva and wanting to join in. For others, intellectual explanations may inspire them. In the same way that there is not just one way to help another Jew become more aware, so too gifts to the poor can be either food or money. Our responsibility is to give only one gift to each because our task is to take them out of poverty, to start them on their Jewish journey. However, there are two parts to every Jew, the body and the soul. Both of these elements must be influenced to serve G-d.

herefore the mitzva of giving to the poor must be to two needy Jews. Happy Purim!

Some Laws and Customs -- Some PURIM-Related Observances

SHABBAT ZACHOR ["Shabbat of Remembering"] 9 Adar (Feb 24, 2018)

This is the only Shabbat each year that every man and woman is obligated (according to most authorities) by Torah law to go to shul. On this day, Zachor is appended to the weekly Torah reading. By hearing it read publicly on the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim, we fulfill the Torah commandment in it [Deut. 25:17-19]: "Remember what Amalek [the ancestor and inspiration of Haman, the villain of Purim] did to you."
(Anyone who is unable to be present at this reading should make an extra effort to hear the Torah reading [Ex. 17] that takes place immediately before the morning Megillah reading on Purim, or at least to hear Zachor read when it comes up in the regular Shabbat cycle of Torah readings [Aug. 29, 2015] as the final verses of the portion Ki Teitzei.)

TA'ANIT [Fast of] ESTHER 7 Adar (Wednesday, Feb 28)
The fast starts before dawn and ends after dark. No eating or drinking. Special services at shul morning and afternoon. The money saved by not eating should go to charity; the time, to Torah-study and mitzvot-performance.

PURIM 14 Adar (Wed. night - Thursday, Feb 28 - March 1)
1. Hear a public reading of the Scroll of Esther in the evening and again during the day.
2. Give money [matanot l'evyonim] to at least 2 needy individuals. (If you don't encounter anyone that qualifies, put the money in a safe place until you do.)
3. Send (via a third party) a gift [mishlo'ach manot] of 2 or more kinds of ready-to-eat foods and/or drink to at least 1 friend (not a relative).
4. Celebrate at a festive day-time meal with bread, good food, and plenty of wine. The Talmud and Codes of Law instruct us to drink until we can no longer differentiate between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman"! (A few authorities opine that the minimum obligation is to drink only "a bit more than what one is used to." Looking ahead to Pesach night, perhaps the quantity implied is 4 cups plus!)
5. Add "Al HaNissim" to the Amidah prayers and to the Blessings-After-Meals.

SHUSHAN PURIM 15 Adar (Friday, March 2)
Inhabitants of cities that were important enough to be surrounded by walls at the time of the Jews' entrance into the Holy Land celebrate Purim one day later than everyone else (see Esther 9:17-19). Prime example: Jerusalem. The status of Tsfat and several other cities in Israel is unclear, so the day is celebrated somewhat in addition to regular-Purim, "just-in-case."
(When Shushan Purim falls on Shabbat, the celebration in Jerusalem lasts three days: The Megillah is read on Friday, the Al Hanissim prayer additions are said on Shabbat, and the festive meal is conducted on Sunday.)

last year's Purim page

for more Kabbalah insights on Purim

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