Our Sages teach us that the Jews did not accept the Torah joyously at Sinai, but only under duress. Only after the miracle of Purim during the time of Achashverosh, did they accept the Torah and Mitzvos with joy and goodwill.
What is more special about the miracle of Purim than other miracles that the Jewish people experienced throughout history, that it caused them to accept the Torah with joy?
The culture of the Western World in the past two hundred years, has been concentrating on issues of equal rights. This theory may sound lofty, but in fact can be utilized as a tool of the yetzer hara to draw Jewish hearts, which are naturally merciful and charitable, to their beliefs, and become impressed by the ideas which seem just and upright, thus resulting them to stop learning the Holy Torah and keeping its mitzvos.
This is what the sages teach us on the verse “the kindness of the nations is sinful” (Mishlei/Proverbs 14:34), The vast majority of charitable work done in the world is not altruistic, but rather selfish, to gain honor or pride. Just like people spend money to enjoy food, or purchase expensive clothing to relish the honor they gain from it, so too they are willing to splurge just to be recognized and honored as humanitarians and philanthropists.
However, pious Jews are spiritually elevated by studying the Holy Torah, which is called a “law of kindness”. Therefore, when a devout Jew uses his energy or money, which Hashem gave him, to perform acts of kindness, it is solely to fulfill the mitzvah commanded by Hashem, Who gave us many commandments in His Torah which teach us to perform tzedakah and chesed, and through this we are worthy to connect ourselves to the Divine Attributes of Hashem, Who is exclusively chessed, thus fulfilling life’s true purpose.
There are three differences between the sinful charity of heathens and the true kindness of Torah scholars:
1. Privacy: Someone who is charitable only for honor, works hard on advertising their efforts, only to be recognized and honored, and therefore they will never give in secret. A true altruist will give only for the sake of doing a mitzvah and not to receive reward, and will therefore give secretly, even if the beneficiary does not know the identity of his benefactor.
2. Unity: The selfish giver seeks pride to raise his stature over others. If he feels that the recipient fails to show him his due respect, or even more so if he insults him, he will immediately stop giving, and go out in anger, fighting against the recipient. On the other hand, a believing Jew, gives for the Sake of Heaven, even to his enemies who will return the good with bad, unifying our people and turning old enemies into friends.
3. Joy: The selfish giver feels compelled to give. Being that he will not receive the honor he desires if he doesn’t give, he gives despite his objection to do so. Once he receives his honor, or if he did not receive the honor he wanted, he regrets giving, and feels that he wasted his money, and can become depressed. However, the pious Jew, who gives only to satisfy the Will of his Maker, believes and knows that everything is from Hashem, and will pursue opportunities to perform kindness joyfully, and the joy that he receives from this is eternal.
Now, in the time of the Miracle of Purim, the Jews saw these differences between the acts of Achashverosh and Haman, and the acts of Mordechai and Esther.
King Achashverosh wanted to show off what a philanthropist he was, by opening his palace and hosting a large feast for all nations, lasting half a year. There, he proclaimed a commitment to equal rights, by giving each person exactly what they wanted. He even appointed Mordechai to be the mashgiach at the meal to ensure that the Jews all had Kosher food, exactly as they wanted. Haman was one of the prime ministers of the kingdom, and he oversaw the drinks at the affair, serving each person the beverage they requested, with a smile.
The Jews who failed to realize that the entire party was only so the king and his servants could be boastful, enjoyed this feast that Achashverosh and Haman gave them. They saw this as a kindness, thus being drawn to feel befriended with them. However, Hashem had mercy on the Jews, and sought to prevent them from assimilating among the other nations, and showed them the true nature of Achashverosh and Haman.
On the final day of the feast, when everyone already had joined in and gave the king the honor and praise he sought, Achashverosh became unhappy when he realized how much money he spent on this. He decided to imbibe some wine that would make him feel better. Once the king’s heart was merry with alcohol, he began to act foolishly and lustfully, and asked that Queen Vashti be brought in to show her off to the participants at the feast. When Vashti refused to make her appearance, Achashverosh became very angry that his honor had been denied, to the point where he killed his own wife over this!
Subsequently, the Jews saw how the wicked Haman boasted to his wife Zeresh and all his friends how wealthy and honored he is. He had many children, and in addition to this, the King appointed him to be the second in command over 127 countries. Millions of people bowed to him wherever he went. He also mentioned many other things that gave him satisfaction. After mentioning all of the above, he concluded that all the tremendous distinction meant nothing to him, when he noticed one Jew named Mordechai, who sat by the king’s entrance, refused to show him any respect. It is incredible to what depth a human can fall, that these great delights were meaningless to him, because of one person who refused to bow to him! Zeresh his wife, and his entire family agreed that the right thing to do would be to immediately hang Mordechai on a gallows 50 cubits high, so everyone could see the punishment for failing to honor Haman. This decision was compounded by the decree to kill all Jews, just because they belonged to the same nation as Mordechai!
On the contrary, the Jews experienced the exact opposite by Queen Esther. She had the greatest reverence, to be queen over 127 countries, and despite this, was ready to give up everything to help others. She followed Mordechai’s advice, and went to the king without his prior notice. Achashverosh was generally an irate person, who never extended his scepter to anyone who violated his will, and it was clear that Esther was risking her life, and would probably not be able to save the Jews at all. Despite the tremendous risk, she was ready to give up life itself for the sake of a small possibility that she might be able to help the Jewish People.
This defies basic nature, particularly for a woman. How could she have so much willpower that she was ready to sacrifice her life for the slight possibility of saving others? Esther grew up in the home of Mordechai, one of the greatest Torah scholars, a leader of the Sanhedrin. Through the power of the Holy Torah, he was elevated to the level of true kindness, to the point where even when he was made second in command to King Achashverosh, he still remembered to seek the good welfare of all Jews and to speak peacefully to them, even to those who were distant from him and insulted him. This attribute of kindness was also taught to Queen Esther by Mordechai the Tzaddik.
The Jews then saw the tremendous difference between someone who is raised in a heathen culture and someone who is raised and educated in a Torah environment. This is the reason why particularly in this epoch the Jews reaccepted the Holy Torah, with joy.
The reason why the Megillah is called the Scroll of Esther, and not the Scroll of Mordechai, is to demonstrate to future generations the power of a Torah education, which can change the very nature of the naturally selfish human heart, that even a woman could be taught, through the Torah path, and elevated to the high level of kindness held by Queen Esther. This is why the mitzvos of mishloach manos and matanos l’evyonim were established for this time, to show how studying the miracle of Purim increases the attributes of kindness and increases unity in our communities.
The Megillah says: “and these days will be remembered and done in every generation, in every family, in every country, in every city. These days of Purim will never pass away from among the Jews, and their memory will never end among their progeny”. This is a timely message for our generation, where we can clearly see the vulgarity of the heathen culture, and the selfishness of all their deeds, which causes wars between countries and even between cities, to the point where nobody is doing anything for the sake of righteousness and uprightness, but only for selfishness and pride. This is the time when we should commit ourselves to avoid learning from their ways, and only to focus on studying the Holy Torah, and follow the upright and just paths that Hashem gave us in His Torah. Subsequently, we can give our children a Torah education, which will make them beloved to Hashem and to their peers, so that the memory of Purim will never cease among our progeny.