Purim 5784 / 2024

Holiday #10 (341)

Purim 5784

Sat. night, March 23-24(25)

From the Masters of Kabala From Ascent Quarterly From the Chassidic Rebbes Some Laws and Customs

Come to ASCENT for "Purim Fun"

(To receive thoughts seasonally for the upcoming holiday by e-mail --sign up here!


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 -- Electronic Megillah Readings

We cannot fulfill our obligation to hear the reading of the Scroll of Esther (or any other mitzvah that requires hearing words) by hearing it over a loud-speaker, radio, television or telephone. These devices all change the human voice to an electric current or electro-magnetic waves, transmit it, and then reconstruct it back into voice. As far as Jewish Law is concerned, the Megillah must be heard read by a human voice, while in these processes, the human voice has been essentially changed and therefore is being heard only indirectly.

According to current scientific understanding, the voice of a person is heard through mechanical vibrations formed in the air, which may also seem indirect. The energy of the sound waves travels through the air, vibrating the particles until the vibration reaches the ear. But air is a tangible substance according to Jewish Law; particles of matter are actually vibrating. The movement of electromagnetic waves or electric current, however, doesn't involve anything tangible.

If, however, the listener uses a device that mechanically amplifies the sound without transforming it into something else first, he does fulfill his obligation.

It is acceptable, however, to respond Amen to a blessing heard over a live broadcast (even though no mitzvah is fulfilled through this hearing). In this case it is not hearing a voice that is primary, but responding Amen at the moment the blessing is concluded. We know this from the synagogue in Alexandria described in the Talmud that was so big, signal flags had to be waved for people in the rear sections to know when to say Amen.

But why would anyone want to hear Megillat Esther over the radio? Go for a live reading. It is a big mitzvah. Also, the atmosphere can be quite inspiring, as well as exciting and entertaining. Doing so will also make it easier to fulfill the many other pleasurable mitzvahs of the day - Happy Purim!



last year's Purim page

for more Kabbalah insights on Purim


Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION