Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
There are many dozens of explanations of the teaching of Chazal that the Yom Tov of Purim is similar to Yom Kippur, though that is not the point of this column. However, I do wonder how we are supposed to be when Purim is done. Since Purim is similar to Yom Kippur, it stands to reason that they are meant to accomplish a similar goal. What is it?
After engaging in the days of Elul and the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, when Yom Kippur arrives we are prepared for tasks of the holy day and spend 24 hours perfecting ourselves.
If we had conducted ourselves according to the halachos of the day, as Yom Kippur ends we should be cleansed of our sins and prepared to lead better lives.
By the end of the day, we have a clear understanding of our obligations and where we stand in relationship to our tasks in this world.
We arrive at the conclusion of Purim very differently. We begin increasing our joy as the month of Adar begins. In order to be happier despite the many challenges life presents, we need to grow in emunah and bitachon. The greater and more real our faith in Hashem is, the easier it is for us to relate to our personal hills and valleys, for we recognize that everything that happens is by design and nothing is by chance.
There is a reason we struggle. There is a reason we work hard. There is a reason our kids get sick and there is a reason we get sick. There is a reason our neighbor has an expensive car and we have a cheap one. Everything in life is for a reason. Knowing that life is not a haphazard collection of minutes, days, months and years helps us get through the drag and drudgery that often accompany our sojourn through life.
So to make ourselves increasingly happier each day of Adar, we study and work on chovos halevavos, our duties of faith, and when Purim arrives and we thoroughly become familiar with its story and many lessons, we are strengthened in our beliefs that everything that transpires in this world is orchestrated by Hashem, who seeks the best for us.
Then, by performing the mitzvos of Purim, we gain further clarity of our obligations to ourselves and to each other. Topping everything off with the drinking of wine at the mishteh hayayin, we gain clarity with respect to our sense of purpose and obligation. Wine removes the dirt from our lenses and helps us see things in a way we usually don’t.
At the conclusion of Purim, we should experience the same type of clarity regarding our obligations in the world as we would after Yom Kippur. What we reach on Yom Kippur through seriousness, we accomplish on Purim through joy. After the avodah of Purim, we should feel so spiritually high that we can to seek to draw that joy into our souls and have reserves of simcha available at all times.
The Shela explains that Binyomin was the only one of the shevotim who did not bow to Eisov. When a person bows, he accepts some degree of the power possessed by the person or object he is bowing to. All of the shevotim, except Binyomin, bowed to Eisov, and thus, to a certain degree, Eisov was able to harm them, and maintain a hold on them, with his powers of tumah.
Shmuel Hanovi anointed Shaul Hamelech king, because, as a descendant of Binyomin, he was confident that Shaul would be able to remove the effect of Amaleik, the descendant of Eisov, from Am Yisroel. However, Shaul sinned and failed in his mission.
Mordechai Hatzaddik took over where Shaul left off (see Medrash, Esther Rabbah 10:14). As a descendant of Binyomin, he was also untouched by Eisov and Amaleik and was able to stand up to Haman and remove Amaleik’s hold. With strength inherited from his forefather, Binyomin, who did not bow to Eisov and remained untainted by him, “lo yichra velo yishtachaveh,” Mordechai did not bow to the Amaleik of his day. Putting his life in jeopardy to reject the power of Amaleik, Mordechai was able to defeat him.
Binyomin and his offspring are blessed with an additional source of strength to withstand the forces of evil. The Medrash in Esther Rabbah (7:7) lists several similarities in pesukim pertaining to Yosef and those talking about Mordechai. This strength came from Rochel Imeinu, mother of Yosef and ancestor of Mordechai, says Rav Gamliel Rabinovich. She was moser nefesh to preserve the pride of her sister Leah and implanted this ability, a burning ga’avah d’kedusha, in her children.
Mordechai fused the pride and strength of Rochel with Binyomin’s purity and was thus able to withstand Haman’s threats. He rallied Am Yisroel around him and, b’achdus, together, they dislodged Amaleik’s grip over them.
Hence the new light of Purim, laYehudim hoysah orah, for their light had been dimmed by Amaleik and their Torah wasn’t complete as long as the shadow of Amaleik hovered over them. Purim marks the day when all the Jews were freed from the veil of darkness.
Purim serves as a beacon to us to withstand temptation and threats of evil. On Purim, we are pumped and realize our true strength. We realize that we really do have what it takes to be good, to do good, to withstand life’s challenges and to not grow morbid. We are all strong enough to stand up to our enemies. Not only shevet Binyomin, but all of Klal Yisroel. Not only the children of Rochel, but all of us.
Our first encounter with Eisov’s grandson, Amaleik, comes in Shemos (17:8), where the posuk states, “Vayavo Amaleik vayilocheim im Yisroel b’Refidim.” Amaleik came and battled Klal Yisroel in Refidim. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 101a) explains that the posuk states that the battle took place in Refidim to tell us that Amaleik was able to fight Klal Yisroel because the nation became weak – rofu yedeihem – in their study and observance of Torah.
In order to defeat Amaleik and his descendants, we have to be dedicated to the Torah. Amaleik is the descendant of Eisov and inherited his abilities. Yitzchok promised Eisov that when Yaakov is weak, he shall rise over him.
So much about what goes on around us is fallacious that it becomes harder to recognize the truth. Politicians think that we are all fools, and the ability to lie and obfuscate seems to have become the strength du jour.
There has been a non-stop bashing of Donald Trump by Democrats and a nice number of Republicans saying that he had worked with Russians to manipulate the election so that he would win. Dossiers were written, leaked and published by Trump’s political enemies to prove how depraved the man is and the levels to which he sank to steal an election. The heads of the FBI, CIA and National Intelligence colluded with leaders of the Justice Department, the national media and politicians to seek to unseat a duly elected president through a series of investigations and concerted public lampooning.
It was for naught, however, because the lengthy investigation upon which the opposition based its hopes for the overthrow failed to turn up anything that could be used to unseat the president or portray him as corrupt or complicit in any collusion.
National leaders swore, testified, wrote books and staked their reputations on claims that turned out to be lies, yet they escape scrutiny and carry on with new allegations and investigations and ways to impede the work of the administration.
Similarly, as the election campaign continues in Israel, candidates continue to portray themselves as things they are not. Everyone becomes an expert, lobbying shells at each other and at entire segments of the country in a bid to be viewed as an effective leader.
For example, General Benny Gantz, who formed a party together with our old friend, Yair Lapid, spoke at Aipac this week. He knows a lot about religion and is an expert on the Kosel. This is what he said: “In Bergen-Belsen, no one asked who is Reform and who is Conservative, who is Orthodox and who is secular. Before going into battle, I never checked to see who had a kippah under their helmets. …As a proud owner of a red beret, worn by this liberator of the Kotel, I can tell you with confidence that the Western Wall is long enough to accommodate everyone. Everyone!”
Of course, the secular crowd went nuts, roaring its approval for the man who wants to topple the best prime minister Israel has ever been blessed with in a time of war.
Another genius who addressed Aipac sought to portray the Democrat Party as pro-Israel, when everyone knows that it has taken a frightening shift leftward and away from the Zionist state.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, majority leader in Congress, said, “There are 62 freshman Democrats. You hear me? Sixty-two — not three.” He was trying to fool the gathered Jews into thinking that the three prominent freshmen Democrats who are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel have a minor role in the party, though it is so clear that even senior Democrats are following the lead of these three freshmen. Another politician, another liar.
These examples are emblematic of the sheker of this world. We can’t let ourselves be subsumed by it or think that we have to resort to using the implements of Eisov to defeat him.
If we want to be able to combat the various evils prevalent in the world, we have to embody the powers of good, the koach hatov. We cannot overcome our enemies if we become as vacuous as they are. Darkness is beaten by light. If we aren’t drawn to the light, we won’t be able to stand up to the forces of darkness.
On Purim, we relearn how to grab on to the faith of Mordechai as we do on Yom Kippur. We recognize that our personal and national strength emanates from Torah, and we do not bow or capitulate to anyone, nor do we compromise with people who seek our destruction. We proclaim our loyalty to the truth and strengthen its tributaries.
And most of all, on Purim we solidify that which we have learned since the beginning of Adar, bringing ourselves simcha and yishuv hadaas, which come not from what we see, but from what we believe.
The believer possesses a calm assurance that engenders the joy of faith. Those attributes enable us to happily and successfully conquer life.
In this week’s parsha, we learn how Aharon Hakohein reacted with silence to the terrible pain of losing two sons.
Aharon’s reward for his acceptance of Hashem’s will was that the Ribbono Shel Olam taught Klal Yisroel a new parsha, a halacha transmitted through Aharon alone (Vayikra Rabbah 12:2). The law that a kohein may not perform the avodah while intoxicated was said by Hashem directly to Aharon.
Because Aharon reacted calmly to a difficult blow, he was rewarded by Hashem teaching through him the halacha that avodah can only be performed by a person who is in a calm state and not intoxicated.
Through internalizing the lessons of Purim, we increase our happiness and calmness as we confront daily challenges. We don’t leave behind Purim and its unique mix of utopian joy when we remove the masks and unwrap the mishloach manos packages.
The efforts we expended to fashion for ourselves and our families the Purim experience should yield not only good pictures and memories, but also a joyous spirit to carry us through the coming weeks.