Purim 5783 / 2023

Holiday #8 (322)

Purim 5783

March 6-7(8)

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

Come to ASCENT for "Purim Fun"

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From the Chassidic Rebbes

One secret of the success of the Jewish people is "Love your fellow[Jew] as yourself." Whenever Jews sitting together swallow a sip of hard liquor, immediately "when wine enters, secrets emerge," so the love between them is strengthened. This is the secret of the drinking on Purim. Haman accused us of being "a separated, scattered people," without unity. Each year we disprove him as we gather and solidify our unity. Great is the drinking of Purim, for it draws our hearts close to each other! [Rebbe of Vorka].

* * *

"Thus these days were named Purim based on the word pur." The fundamental miracle of Purim was the lottery. Although a lottery is above the system of Worlds where darkness matches light, nevertheless even in respect to the lottery itself, Jewish souls were chosen.

Haman's evil scheme was frustrated. "They hung Haman and his sons on the gallows." And they were hanged on the very "gallows that he had prepared for Mordechai." That is, Haman was hanged in the realm of Infinity, which is above the system of Worlds! (Lubavitcher Rebbe]

From the Masters of Kabbalah -- "Esther's Secret of Success"
(From "Manos HaLevi" by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, composer of Lecha Dodi)

Rabbi Yosef Gackon writes, concerning Esther's three-day fast, that Esther [in fasting for exactly three days] had the following kabbalistic intention. Namely, that three days and nights contain seventy-two hours, and "B'chen" ["thus", in 4:16] equals seventy-two numerically [in letter-gematria], corresponding to the [exalted 72-letter] Name of G-d hinted in the three verses [that begin], "Vayisa", "Vayavo", "Vayet" [Exodus 14:19, 20, 21, each of which contain seventy-two letters precisely]. It was with the power of this Name that G-d split the [Red] sea and had the Israelites cross over, and He guided them in His protection and they had no fear [of the enemy].

From that Name, [the flow of] the Divine life-force comes to Esther's supernal [corresponding] sefira; for Esther [as our Sages say] was greenish in complexion [green is a color associated with the sefira Chesed, Divine kindness, as the life-flow descends through the upper worlds, and the numerical value of "chesed is 72 !].

Esther, with the power of these seventy-two hours, approached [G-d], King of the world, in her prayers; for she was sure of His help [that He would answer her and save the Jews]. Then, in this [lowly physical] world, she approached King Ahasuerus.

[Translated and annotated by Carmel Kehati (POB 494, Safed Israel.]

From Ascent Quarterly-- "Is G-d Missing?" by Yerachmiel Tilles

As a Safed writer, I was once asked by a secular Israeli publication to contribute an article about Kabbalah, Chassidut, meditation, etc.- all those special elements of Judaism which are identified with Safed. I did so. The feedback was that the mysticism and 'spirituality' in it was excellent, but "there is too much mention of 'G-d'."

I could crack a few good jokes here, but I'll refrain. Instead, in the spirit of the season, I'll simply say, if that comment reflects your feelings too, dear reader, do I have the book for you!

It chronicles a series of events and circumstances that would seem to have been conspicuously effected by divine intervention, but the name 'G-d' is never mentioned. And yet, it is one of the twenty-four books of the Holy Scripture! Did you figure it out yet?

That's right. The Scroll of Esther, read publicly evening and morning on the festival of Purim.

Many reasons have been offered to explain this anomaly. Among them: perhaps Esther was concerned that her book would not be accepted as Holy Scripture. Or that when the Persians translated it for their official annals, they would substitute the name of one of their deities.

But it goes deeper. A main motif of the Megillah is disguise, things not being what they seem to be. Even the name "Esther" in Hebrew connotes hiddenness and invokes the theme of G-d's concealment from us: "Anochi hastir astir panai - I shall surely hide My face." [Deut. 31:18].

This is certainly appropriate, as one of the striking things about the incredible succession of events is how easily (for a biblical book) they could be rationalized as a series of natural coincidences. Indeed, with the exception of Esther and Mordechai, it took years until people gained enough perspective to realize the extraordinary extent of G-d's involvement.

So, just because you don't see Him or recognize Him or think of Him, it doesn't mean He is not there. That is why in this case I didn't mind re-writing the article. The bottom line is: even if G-d is not in the text, He can never be removed from the picture!

Some Laws and Customs --


SHABBAT ZACHOR ["Shabbat of Remembering"] 11 Adar (March 4, 2023)
This is the only Shabbat each year that every man and woman is obligated (accord-ing 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]: "Re-member what Amalek [the ancestor and in-spira-tion 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 [August. 26, 2023] as the final verses of the portion Ki Teitzei.)

TA'ANIT [Fast of] ESTHER 13 Adar (March 6) 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 (Monday night - Tuesday, March 6-7)

  1. Hear a public reading of the Scroll of Esther (kriat megilah) 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 (seudat Purim) 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 (ednesday, March 8)
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 some-what in addition to regular-Purim, "just-in-case."

(When Erev Purim falls on Shabbat, the Fast of Esther is moved up to Thursday, a in this year. 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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