The 14th of adar
Sunday, March 24, 2024
WHAT IS PURIM?
The 14th of Adar is one of the most spiritual Jewish holidays (and the most fun one too!)
Purim means lots (yes, just a little gambling chits). It got its name from the actions of one wicked man named Haman, who threw lots to see what day to use to destroy the entire Jewish nation.
Purim in Jewish History
At the time of the Purim miracle, the Babylonians were gone, replaced by the Persian/Mede Empire. King Achashverosh, a common stable boy, had risen to power through brute force and by marrying the last princess of the previous empire. The Jews had a prophecy that after seventy years in exile, they would be returned to Eretz Yisroel, their homeland. The 70 years are winding down at the time the Purim story begins.
King Achashverosh decides to throw a lavish party because, according to his calculations, the 70 years are up, and the Jews are still in exile. He thinks downtrodden Jews are a cause to celebrate. He invites the Jews to his party to gloat over their continued pain and takes out the vessels captured from the Beis Hamikdash to degrade the Jews even more. The Jews attend despite Mordechai HaTzadik’s protestations.
At the party, Achashverosh, in a drunken rage, has Vashti the Queen assassinated. When he wakes up, he is lonely. Girls from all over the world are brought to him, and among them is Esther, the orphaned niece of Mordechai. Esther is the girl Achashverosh decides will be the new Queen, and she doesn’t tell him she is Jewish. Hashem always prepares salvation before the painful problem. Esther becomes Queen, put into place to save the Jews, even before their lives are threatened.
Interlude: Mordechai HaTzaddik overhears a plot between Bigsan and Seresh in which they plan to kill the king. Mordechai alerts Esther who alerts Achashverosh. The king is saved and has Mordechai’s act inscribed in a book called the “ספר הזכרון – Book of Remembrances,” where the king keeps tabs on who helped him.
Rise of Haman: Haman becomes powerful, second to the king. He enforces a rule that all must bow to him. Everyone quakes in fear of him, but not Mordechai. Haman decides to kill Mordechai…and the entire Jewish community. He gets Achashverosh’s approval, throws lots to decide on a day to kill all the Jews, and even gets the royal signet ring to do as he pleases.
Jewish Repentance: Mordechai tells Esther she is to be the savior of the Jews. He assembles the Jews and helps them repent. Esther invites Achashverosh and Haman to a party. The wheel of power starts turning badly for Haman. Achashverosh remembers Mordechai saving his life and makes Haman give Mordechai honor.
At a second party that she hosts for Achashverosh and Haman, Esther reveals she is Jewish and asks that her nation be saved. Haman is hanged for trying to kill the Jews. Mordechai rises to Haman’s post. The Jews are permitted to defend themselves..and do so brilliantly and successfully. When the fight is over, it is Purim Day, and the Jews celebrate by eating, sending gifts…and promising to accept Hashem’s will with happiness and complete commitment and to be a unified nation. Since Purim is a time of joy and acceptance, making it the holiest of days for the Jewish nation.
MITZVAHS OF THE DAY
There are 4 “מ” mitzvahs – main observances required on Purim
We need to hear the reading of Megillas Esther (from a kosher scroll) twice, once at night and once during the day. We do this before the other Mitzvos of Purim.
We need to send two food items to ONE friend. The food in the Purim gift basket has to be ready-to-eat. Mishloach Manos promotes unity and good cheer.
We need to give money to two poor people. Here’s your chance to donate towards Belz Institutions In Israel’s Torah, outreach, and support networks.
We need to have a festive meal, also sometimes referred to as the Purim Seudah. Basically, you are commanded to eat and be merry. Go ahead, plan your Purim party.
ADDITIONAL PURIM CUSTOMS
To show Hashem “masked” Himself in the story and Yidden saw through the Mask and found Hashem behind the film of events.
Chazal say “One should drink on Purim until he can “no longer distinguish between ארור המן לברוך מרדכי – cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai”
A traditional Purim pastry where the goodies is hidden depicts the story where Hashem’s good was hidden amidst the complexities.
Haman’s hat was shaped like a ‘hamantaschen’.
When Haman’s name is mentioned in the megillah, we whirl around this noise making tool to drown out the sound of his name.
PURIM- ONE OF THE HOLIEST DAYS OF THE YEAR
PURIM IN BELZ
The Purim rituals and celebrations start before reading the Megillah. The Belzer Rav shlita gives a half shekel in Israeli currency and a half American dollar for himself and his Rebbetzin. The “מחצית השקל” is placed in a copper bowl the Rav shlita received from his predecessor, Reb Aharon of Belz zt’’l. The money gets redeemed and is given to tzedakah.
Thousands of Chassidim from various cities in Eretz Yisroel come to Yerushalayim to hear the Belzer Rav shlita reading the Megillah. Like all previous Belzer Rebbes, the Rebbe reads the megillah in the unique style known to Belz, which brings the Purim story to life.
After Shachris, the Ruv shlita hands out Mishloach Manos to his gabbaim (Personal assistants) and community activists who assist the Ruv shlita in his home and various chessed and charitable activities. The Mishloach Manos consists of food that can be consumed at the Purim Seudah.
Gedolei Yisroel from Eretz Yisroel send Mishloach Manos to the Belzer Rav shlita. The Mishloach Manos is placed on the ‘tisch’ – table for the Rav to see. Following the fish appetizer course during the seudah, it is customary in Belz, during the Rebbe’s Purim Tisch, to place a big bowl of pure alcohol 96% on the tisch (table) and dip the challah in, taste it, and distribute it to all chassidim. The Purim Tisch is unique as it’s a spiritual ceremony full of Simcha – merriment. There is plenty of joyous singing, clapping, and dancing, yet no raucous or heavy drinking is present.
As was customary from decades ago, a Purim Rav, an esteemed Yid puts on a Purim hat (usually a Spodik – tall shtreimel as headgear), would bentch (bless) the Rav with heartfelt brochos. Today, a vibrant and dynamic dayan, Harav Yehoshua Fink shlita, dresses up in Purim Rav attire and delivers beautiful messages in rhyme, intertwining Divrei Torah, brochos, and some Purim jest to inspire chassidim. Each year, the Purim Rav addresses a different topic based on input he receives from the Belzer Rav shlita.
Following the fish appetizer course during the seudah, it is customary in Belz, during the Rebbe’s Purim Tisch, to place a big bowl of pure alcohol 96% on the tisch (table) and dip the challah in, taste it, and distribute it to all chassidim.
Mezonos – Cake
During the year, Belz doesn’t eat food which you recite a Mezonos (ex., cake) during a seudah. On Purim, you eat a mezonos as part of the meal.
Belz doesn’t conduct weddings on Shushan Purim (a day after Purim).
How many countries did Achashvarosh rule over?
Someone once asked the Vilna Gaon zt’’l, ‘It says Achashvarosh ruled over 127 countries. How many countries were on land, and how many were on sea? The Vilna Gaon replied that it says in the megillah:”וישם המלך “מס על הארץ ואיי הים – and the king imposed a tax on the land and the islands of the sea” – the word “מס” equals 100, these were the countries on land, and the word “ואיי” equals 27, these were the islands.
Two is Better Than One
When the Krakow Rav, Reb Herschel zt’’l, was six years old, his father asked him a question following the megillah reading. “Herschel, tell me, why did Mordechai reveal to Achashverosh that Bigsan and Seresh wanted to poison him? Wouldn’t it have been better that the rasha Achashverosh got killed, and there would be one less non-Jew in this world?” The young Hershels replied in a wink, “By revealing the secret to Achashverosh, two non-Jews were killed versus one!”
Why does Hashem Mask His name in Megillas Esther?
Chazal ask, ‘Where in the written Torah do we find an allusion to the story of Esther? Everything in the world, all the history and events are coded in the written Torah.
Therefore, there has to be an allusion to Esther somewhere in the Torah. Chazal answers in ( פרשת וילך (לא:יח it says: “ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני היום” – Hashem says “I will conceal My face on that day.” [referring to the day on which the Jews will sin.] There are times in history that we are told there is “hester panim,” when Hashem’s face is hidden. That usually happens when we turn away from Hashem. Here at this junction in history, when the Yidden thought they were never going back to Eretz Yisroel, they took a step away from Hashem, going to celebrate and assimilate. At that point, Hashem, as promised, decided “hester astir” to hide and allow danger to threaten the Jews.
In Megillas Esther, there is that “הסתר”, Hashem’s name is not mentioned once in the Megillah. It was the greatness of the Jews that they recognized through the hidden curtain; through the gauzy coverings of history and events, there was the clear outline of a Divine Creator who orchestrated every event. That was their repentance, to pierce the mysterious, frightening things happening to them and say, “there is naught other than Hashem.”
That leads to the custom of wearing masks and costumes on Purim to remind us that nothing is what it seems at first glance. A bandit comes into your house. His face puckered up with meanness. Then you remove his mask and reveal your friend behind the mask. Once you’ve figured out who is hiding behind the mask, the hiding party usually won’t replace the mask, for you won’t be fooled any longer.
Hashem is masked in seeming happenstance, history, nature, and life’s circumstances. It is up to us to ascertain that all the manifestations of these events are G-d driven, SEE Hashem behind every scene. And when we do that, Hashem doesn’t have to conceal Himself any longer, for we recognize Him and want a relationship with Him.
Learn Torah Before Performing a Mitzvah
The Sar Shalom of Belz zt’’l said on the pasuk “ובבאה לפני המלך אמר עם הספר ישוב מחשבתו הרעה” – and when she came before the king, he said, with this book my evil thoughts go away.”
This pasuk teaches us that Satan can destroy his inclination with evil thoughts when a person prepares to perform a mitzvah. An idea to combat these bad thoughts is “עם הספר” – if you first learn Torah in a sefer, then “ישוב מחשבתו הרעה” – the evil thoughts go away.
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