From the Chassidic
"One who reads Megilat Esther backwards has not fulfilled
his obligation." (Mishna, Megila) A person must not view the story of Purim
as just a historical narrative, something that happened long ago in another time
and place. The purpose of reading the Megila on Purim is to ensure that these
days are remembered and kept throughout the generations. The events of Purim are
not only relevant to the present time, but each detail of the story contains lessons
to be applied in our daily lives. (Baal Shem Tov)
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].
From the Rebbes of Chabad
"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
From Ascent Quarterly
The word Purim is Persian for "lots." The whole manner
in which a lot works transcends rationality. Take, for example, the Temple service
of Yom Kippur: a lot was cast to determine which of two goats would be pushed
of the cliff to certain death, and which would have the distinction of being offered
on the altar. Before the lot was cast, it could go either way: neither goat was
logically more "fit" for one or the other of the two fates. Only the lot decided;
the entire affair was altogether beyond intellect.
the Jew is connected to G-d in the same superrational way. Despite whatever inconsistencies
there may be in his conscious or rational relationship with Him, the essential,
intrinsic. supperrational connection always exists; he can always fall back on
it. By tapping into it, all shortcomings can be overlooked and forgiven.
if there is a level at which evil is overlooked and doesn't matter, it would seem
that the forces of evil could also draw sustenance from that level, once the pipelines
of life-force are opened.
Now, a little evil is necessary
on the world. It is known that when the Sages prayed to G-d to remove the evil
inclination, the world was not able to function; they had to pray for G-d to return
it (Yoma 69b). But this evil must remain in check. It must remain a "domesticated
beast," the knows its place and is subservient to the forces of holiness. As soon
as it begins to assert itself, it must be considered a "monster," trying to take
over man and his world.
Haman knew that there is a superrational
level of relationship to G-d. from which good and evil can draw equally. This
is why he cast lots when devising his scheme to wipe out the Jews. He wanted to
"imitate" the Jews' relationship with G-d; to "rise" to that level where intellect
has no say and cannot deny him the power he wants.
realized what Haman didn't. She knew that there are two facets of the superconscious:
true, G-d is above good and evil; His essence exists outside the context of creation,
and "As for your many sins-can they harm Him?...and if you acted righteously-will
it benefit Him?" (Job 35:6-7).
But this is only when we take
reality at face value. What we see is that G-d gives life to all creation, and
no moral strings seem to be attached. Good and evil seem to be equally capable
of receiving, and there appears to be no advantage in being aligned with one or
But the Jew knows to look behind the facade, behind
the "mask" and "costume" the world is wearing. The Jew knows that G-d created
the world for the purpose of ultimately revealing Himself in it, and whatever
creative force he invests in keeping the externalities of the world operative
if there only to serve the higher purpose. G-d needs a running world to serve
as a backdrop for the drama of human history, He gives life-force to the world
regardless of its moral performance. But that life-force is only the external
dimension of His energy and interest in the world. G-d's inner intention is that
His presence be revealed in the world and this is possible only through holiness,
Torah, mitzvot, and Jews. On this level, the highest of all, evil has no "equal
rights." A dog may be able to eat from a king's table, but only what is thrown
"over the shoulder." the scraps. To actually sit down and dine at a royal feast,
one must be refined, one must be worthy. Esther knew this, and took advantage
of Haman's ascending to the vantage point where rationality has no sway in order
to reveal his true colors.
In order to prevent Haman from
succeeding, Esther did two things. First, she and Mordechai inspired the Jewish
people to do teshuvah: "Then Esther told them to tell Mordechai: 'Go gather all
the Jews in Shushan and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink for three days,
nights and day: Also I and my maidens will fast...'" (Esther 4:15-16). It was
necessary for the Jewish people to delve into themselves and reveal a deeper connection
to G-d than that normally operative; they had to rise to the level of His innermost
Will. This is the inner meaning of the continuation of the verse: "....and so
I will go into the king, though it is against the law." The soul ascends to its
most intimate level of communion with the King, higher than rationality- "against
Once that was done, Esther invited Haman to a
feast with the king (Esther 5:4). By according him the distinction of dining with
the royal couple, she led him to believe that he was in fact on their level. Now
that she and her people were holding by the inner dimension of G-d's will, she
was able to elevate Haman to that level as well. At that dramatic point, the king
realized Haman's true intentions to destroy the Queen and rape her in front of
him. When Haman's ultimate nerve was exposed, he was thrown to the gallows.
it is in this verse that G-d's name -which is not mentioned explicitly in the
entire book of Esther-appears as the initials of the words "Let the king and Haman
By revealing within himself his absolute
and essential bond with G-d, the Jew wipes out any possibility of evil getting
out of hand. This is the message if of Purim: by taking all things to their root,
the Jew eradicated evil automatically.
Ascent Quarterly #14 (based on Ma'amarei Admor HaZaken p.381)
Yaakov Wisnefsky is one of the founders of Ascent of Safed. He presently lives
and writes in Jerusalem.
Some Laws and Customs
SOME PURIM-RELATED OBSERVANCES
SHABBAT ZACHOR ["Shabbat of Remembering"] 13 Adar
(March 19, 2016)
This is the only Shabbat each year that every
man and woman is obligated (accord-ing to most authorities) by Torah law to go
to shul. On this day, Zachor is appended to the weekly Torah reading. By hearing
it read publicly on the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim, we fulfill the Torah
commandment in it [Deut. 25:17-19]: "Re-member what Amalek [the ancestor and in-spira-tion
of Haman, the villain of Purim] did to you."
(Anyone who is unable to be present at this reading should make an extra
effort to hear the Torah reading [Ex. 17] that takes place immediately
before the morning Megillah reading on Purim, or at least to hear Zachor
read when it comes up in the regular Shabbat cycle of Torah readings [August.
17, 2016] as the final verses of the portion Ki Teitzei.)
TA'ANIT [Fast of] ESTHER 13 Adar (March 23) The fast starts
before dawn and ends after dark. No eating or drink-ing. Special services
at shul morn-ing and afternoon. The money saved by not eating should go
to charity; the time, to Torah-study and mitzvot-performance.
PURIM 14 Adar (Wednessday night - Thursday, March 23-24)
- Hear a public reading of the Scroll
of Esther (kriat megilah) in the evening and again during the day.
Give money [matanot l'evyonim] to at least 2 needy individuals.
(If you don't encounter anyone that qualifies, put the money in a safe place until
- Send (via a third party) a gift [mishlo'ach manot]
of 2 or more kinds of ready-to-eat foods and/or drink to at least 1 friend (not
- Celebrate at a festive day-time meal (seudat Purim)
with bread, good food, and plenty of wine. The Talmud and Codes of Law instruct
us to drink until we can no longer differentiate between "Blessed is Mordechai"
and "Cursed is Haman"! (A few authorities opine that the minimum obligation is
to drink only "a bit more than what one is used to." Looking ahead to Pesach night,
perhaps the quantity implied is 4 cups plus!)
- Add "Al HaNissim"
to the Amidah prayers and to the Blessings-After-Meals.
SHUSHAN PURIM 15 Adar (Friday, March 25)
Inhabitants of cities that were important enough to be surrounded by walls
at the time of the Jews' entrance into the Holy Land celebrate Purim one
day later than everyone else (see Esther 9:17-19). Prime example: Jerusalem.
The status of Tsfat and several other cities in Israel is unclear, so
the day is celebrated some-what in addition to regular-Purim, "just-in-case."
(When Shushan Purim falls on Shabbat, the celebration in Jerusalem lasts
three days: The Megillah is read on Friday, the Al Hanissim prayer additions
are said on Shabbat, and the festive meal is conducted on Sunday.)
Chag Samayach -
Have a joyous holiday!
The ASCENT staff
last year's Purim page
Kabbalah insights on Purim