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Transcript
BeMIB
Beit Midrash in Bnei Akiva
Session 20
In What Sense is Purim
Different From Other Days?
‫בס"ד‬
In what sense is Purim different than other days?
The nature of the festival of Purim and its meaning has always been something that
requires deep study. In a number of Midrashim, Purim is attributed a level of
significance beyond what we might have expected. In Midrash Shochar Tov on Mishlei
9 (Source #1) it says:
All of the festivals will become void, whereas Purim will never become
void.
A parallel idea is brought in the Yerushalmi (Megilla 1:5):
R. Yochanan said: The books of Neviim and Ketuvim will become void, but
the 5 books of the Torah will never become void…R’ Shimon b. Lakish
said: Megillat Esther and its laws will also never become void.
For what reason did Purim, which is a festival of rabbinic origin, and doesn’t even
have a prohibition against work on it, merit being preferred over all of the other festivals,
especially those commanded in the Torah? (There is another opinion in the Midrash that
Yom Kippur will also not become void in the future, but our question remains even
according to this opinion, in regards to the rest of the chagim.) Why will all of the books
of Neviim that prophecy about the days of Mashiach be void, and only Megillat Esther,
which doesn’t even contain God’s name in it, will remain?
Even more extreme is the well-known saying ‘Kippurim is Ke- (like) Purim”. The
source of this saying is in the words of the Kabbalists, based on the Tikkunei Zohar that
Yom HaKippurim is named after Purim, because in the future Hashem will make Yom
Kippur into a day of enjoyment like Purim. According to the Zohar, it seems that Yom
Kippur is only comparable to, but doesn’t reach, the level of Purim. Is this possible??
Can we compare the spiritual peak of the whole year, in the last moments of Neila,
when Knesset Yisrael calls out the Shma, to Purim, when there isn’t even a prohibition
against melacha?
Chazal expounded in Masechet Shabbat 88a (Source #2):
‘And they stood under the mount’: R. Abdimi b. Chama b. Chasa said: This
teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, overturned the mountain upon
them like an [inverted] cask, and said to them,'If you accept the Torah,
good; if not, there shall be your burial.' R. Acha b. Yaakov observed: This
furnishes a strong protest against the Torah. (Rashi: For if God calls them
to be judged, asking- why didn’t you fulfill what you accepted, they have an
answer- that they accepted it by coercion) Said Raba, Yet even so, they reaccepted it in the days of Achashverosh, for it is written, ‘[the Jews]
Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada
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Telephone (212)465-9536 ● Fax (212)465-2155 ● www.bneiakiva.org
BeMIB
Beit Midrash in Bnei Akiva
Session 20
In What Sense is Purim
Different From Other Days?
confirmed, and took upon them [etc.]’: [i.e.,] they confirmed what they had
accepted long before
From this Gemara it seems that the Torah was only accepted by Bnei Yisrael
through coercion. Could it be? In the continuation of the same Gemara, there are
Midrashim which praise the “Na’aseh VeNishma” of Bnei Yisrael. If they only accepted it
through coercion, what is there to praise? The additional comment of Rava is even
more strange. How can you say that ma’amad Har Sinai, when God revealed himself to
Am Yisrael, doesn’t obligate us in fulfilling Torah and Mitzvot, and what does obligate us
is the “Kiymu VeKiblu” of Megillat Esther, where Hashem’s name isn’t mentioned at all?
What kind of acceptance of Torah was there? True, the phrase “Kiymu VeKiblu”
parallels “Na’aseh VeNishma” (putting action before acceptance) but how can they be
compared?
The Meshech Chochma (Source #3), answers this question in the following way:
Hashem had revealed Himself clearly and miraculously to Am Yisrael, in a
way that their natural freedom of choice ceased, and their soul was
overwhelmed by encountering the Divine presence. This created an
atmosphere in which they were virtually forced to obey Hashem just as the
angels do, and they witnessed that the existence of all creatures depends
solely on the acceptance of the Torah.
In other words, the result of coercion is the negation of a person’s free will. Free
will is based on having an equal chance and opportunity to choose one of various paths.
God didn’t coerce any Jew in the simple sense. Bnei Yisrael said “Naaseh VeNishma”
and accepted the Torah of their own free will. But how could they have done anything
else?? Could they have said ‘no’ to God who is standing there revealing himself to them
face to face? This is the meaning of the coercion that existed at maamad Har Sinai- the
lack of opportunity or possibility to choose anything else.
This also explains Rava’s comment. Indeed, maamad Har Sinai can’t obligate us,
because of the level of coercion that was involved. Accepting the Torah in this way
wasn’t complete, nor did it last. The model of an acceptance of the Torah which does
obligate, which comes fully from our own free choice, similar to the one there will be in
the future, is the model of the Megilla- “Kiymu vekiblu haYehudim”, “The Jews fulfilled
and accepted”. The story of the Megilla seems on the face of things to be simply a story
of a series of coincidences- it just happens that at the moment the King enters, Haman
fell on the bed in front of Esther. At the exact moment when Haman comes to hang
Mordechai- the King can’t sleep. The examples of coincidences in the Megilla are many
and well known. Only one thing can’t be found in it- the name of God. While Chazal tried
to find many places where God’s name is hinted to, in the simple understanding of the
Megilla, the name of God is hidden.
Bnei Yisrael at that time had the option to interpret everything that was
happening to them as pure coincidence. There was no coercion about how to choose
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7 Penn Plaza ● Suite 205 ● New York, NY 10001-3900
Telephone (212)465-9536 ● Fax (212)465-2155 ● www.bneiakiva.org
BeMIB
Beit Midrash in Bnei Akiva
Session 20
In What Sense is Purim
Different From Other Days?
and interpret events. Nevertheless, the people chose the Torah and chose God, despite
the hiddenness. This is the real acceptance of Torah- acceptance that comes from a
revelation of God which is hidden.
This understanding also explains another strange Midrash Chazal (Source #4,
Chulin 139b):
How do we derive Esther from the Torah? in the Torah it says (Devarim
31:18) “Anochi haster asteer”, I am the Lord who will surely conceal.
(“asteer”, I will hide, is written with the same letters as ‘Esther’.)
This isn’t a mere word game. The intention of the Midrash is to clarify where the
idea of Megillat Esther is found in the Torah- the idea of a hidden revelation of God. The
answer is the verse “I will surely conceal…”, in other words, God reveals to Moshe that
in the future the nation will sin, since their acceptance of Torah is still not a complete
one. The sins of the nation will bring terrible situations of God’s hiddenness, but in the
end the nation will reveal God from within the hiddenness, saying “ Because God wasn’t
in my midst have all of these evils befallen me”. Perhaps this is also the reason why we
generally call the Megilla by it’s full name “Megillat Esther”, as opposed to the other
Megillot, which we also refer to often without the word “Megilla” attached- Kohelet, Shir
haShirim, Eicha, Ruth. The word “Megilla” is an integral part of the name and the
content of Esther, because the whole idea of a ‘Megilla’ is ‘giluy’- revealing the hidden.
In this way we might also explain the importance of Purim. The Maharal explains
why only Purim will not become void in the future (Source #5):
Because in the future, Israeli independence will be regarded of first
importance, and the exiting of Egypt secondary importance, therefore it is
possible to say that all the festivals that are celebrated in remembrance of
the exiting of Egypt, will be void, as they are not of main importance. But
rather Purim, which is not celebrated in memory of the exiting of Egypt will
not be void.
All of the festivals commemorate yetzi’at Mitzrayim- i.e., the acceptance of Torah
through ‘coercion’, so when we reach the point of fully receiving the Torah, in the future,
there will be no reason to mention the first redemption which wasn’t complete.
Therefore, all of the festivals will be nullified. Purim, however, which represents a model
of the future redemption, of acceptance of Torah from a state of God’s hiddenness, will
not be nullified. Its message is all the more relevant to the period of Geula. This is also
the reason why Neviim and Ketuvim will be nullified in the time to come. Even though
they lead up to the Geula, they are simply part of the path there, they are the means by
which Geula is hastened, as the Korban Ha’Edah explains the Yerushalmi “Since they
were only for giving rebuke to Bnei Yisrael, and in the future everyone, from big to
small, will know God. “ Megillat Esther, on the other hand, which is itself a glimpse into
the future redemption, will not be nullified.
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7 Penn Plaza ● Suite 205 ● New York, NY 10001-3900
Telephone (212)465-9536 ● Fax (212)465-2155 ● www.bneiakiva.org
BeMIB
Beit Midrash in Bnei Akiva
Session 20
In What Sense is Purim
Different From Other Days?
It’s possible that this is also the meaning of the phrase “Kippurim- ke-Purim”. On
Yom Kippur, we rise to a very high spiritual level. But this has a trace of the nature of
the acceptance of the written Torah- is it possible for someone to sin on a day like that?
It’s a day when Satan isn’t accusing us, when the evil inclination doesn’t have power.
Although there’s a level of greatness in being ready for this day, it has an aspect of the
coercion of Har Sinai. An even greater achievement is the ability to reach an equivalent
spiritual level without the awesomeness of Yom Kippur, when every person feels the
holiness of the day, but rather on a day like any regular day, when there isn’t any
prohibition from doing melacha, and the holiness of the day is hidden. If we are able to
rise to such a level on Purim- this is truly the spiritual experience to strive for!
Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada
7 Penn Plaza ● Suite 205 ● New York, NY 10001-3900
Telephone (212)465-9536 ● Fax (212)465-2155 ● www.bneiakiva.org