Sparks of Torah – Purim


In a few short hours Purim will arrive and we need to prepare ourselves for this important Yom Tov. Perhaps you may question why I am referring to it as a Yom Tov since we are not barred from any forbidden work as on Shabbos or other Yomim Tovim? The saintly Arizal commented that the holiness of Yom Kippur is secondary to that of Purim. Surely this statement requires much explanation. On Yom Kippur we are compared to the angels as we fast and abstain from earthly matters whereas on Purim we enjoy a day of merriment and exuberance.

We know that on Purim we have an obligatory meal on the afternoon towards the end of the day. The commentators question why is Purim different from Chanukah where there isn’t an obligation to partake of a festive meal? They answer that the intent of Haman was to annihilate us and therefore since our very existence was threatened the salvation and subsequent celebration focuses on the physical, the essence of the struggle between Haman and the nation. Whereas Chanukah was essentially an attempt to steal the soul of the people from Torah and mitzvos and Hellenize us. Therefore, the mitzvah is to relate to Hashem on a spiritual level, hence we have an obligation to recite Hallel. However, perhaps we can suggest another approach.

Hashem’s name doesn’t appear at all in the entire Megillah that we read on Purim. The commentators understand this omission to indicate that Hashem’s role in the entire episode is hidden. Although we realize that the events that transpired were orchestrated by Hashem, nonetheless, the Divine intervention and assistance that occurred was concealed by the overlay of political intrigue and the interpalatial dynamics that took place. Therefore, His name is not mentioned outright in the Megillah, only alluded to. We may say that Hashem’s name is hidden and concealed within the context of the episode of Haman and Mordechai. Therefore, it is possible to suggest that there is a need to stress that the physical events that transpire in this world are truly Heavenly ordained and coordinated. We need to elevate the material resources at our disposal to a higher level of existence. When we are involved in the mundane matters of life, we must view them with a different perspective. They are not simply necessities in life that we attend to; rather they are avenues of approaching Hashem through the element of this world. As a result, the obligation to feast on Purim is a direct extension of that concept. We take food which is the ultimate physical reality of this world and transform it in to a sacrifice, so to speak, a way to draw close to Hashem.

On the other hand, Chaunkah was visibly a war that was only won due to the intervention of Hashem. We were outgunned, outmanned and outmaneuvered and nonetheless we defeated an army of well trained warriors. Certainly Hashem’s hand is quite noticeable in that setting. Therefore, our obligation on Chanukah is to sing Hashem’s praises and glorify His Name as we recall the events that took place so long ago yet remain fixated in our minds.

Subsequently as we approach Purim it is incumbent upon us to take stock of our lives and asses how we can upgrade our actions from simply being a way to live from one day to the next into vehicles to express our ongoing gratitude to Hashem for all that He has bestowed upon us.

The Kohen Gadol, High Priest, wore a garment that atoned for the sin of loshon hora. It was made with a fabric that resembled the sky. Upon viewing that color one would remind himself of Hashem’s throne which exists in the uppermost regions of the Heavens. We can avoid defying the Torah if we take simple steps such as small reminders of our obligations to Hashem. Another example is the mezuzah which is affixed on our doorposts. When we see a mezuzah we can remember that Hashem took us out of Egypt and therefore we need to reciprocate and fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah.