Purim – The Soul’s Affirmation

By Rabbi Dovid Markel

 

Purim expresses the deep bond of the Jewish soul and God.

The Talmud (Shabbat 88a) remarks: “The Jews established and accepted” (Esther 9:27): They established [in the days of Mordecai and Esther] that which they had already accepted [in the days of Moses].”

Prior to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Jews unanimously accepted to observe all its precepts, proclaiming (Shemot 24:7), “All that G d spoke we will do and we will hear.”

Yet the Talmud tells us that this acceptance was, for some reason, lacking and that it was only truly established by the Jews at the time of the Purim miracle nearly one thousand years later.

This is particularly peculiar considering that at the time of the giving of the Torah the Jews were spiritually attuned and in the midst of a passionate love-affair with God, whereas at the time of the Purim story, the Jews were on the opposite side of the pendulum, largely alienated from God and spirituality.

This is indicated in the Talmud’s (Megila 12a) statement regarding their participation in Achashverosh’s feast and their bowing to Haman’s icon.

In Haman’s statement (Esther 3:8) :”There is a certain people scattered and separated among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom…and they do not keep the king’s laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be,” it is explained that this was the claim of Haman’s spiritual agent to God himself.

“The Jewish people are scattered amongst the nations – they have no qualms against intermarrying and becoming one with the nations – and they do not keep the King’s laws – the commandments of God Himself. Therefore, The King, God has no use for them anymore.”

Not only were the Jewish people at an extremely low spiritual state, but this was the way God acted towards them as well.

The Jewish people at the time of the Megilla were as expressed in the verse (Devarim 31:18) “And I will hide My face on that day, because of all the evil they have committed, when they turned to other deities,” which the Talmud (Chulin 139b) conveys was said about the time of Esther.

The Talmud (Megila 15b, see Radak on the verse) explains that the statement (Tehillim 22:2) “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? [You are] far from my salvation [and] from the words of my moaning,” was said by Esther.

Indeed, the Jewish people at the time of the Megilla were at a situation that was the diametric opposite of the giving of the Torah.

While when the Torah was given they experienced the greatest spiritual revelation and God’s love (See Torah Or, Megilat Esther 98d) the Jews during the story of the megilla were not exactly feeling the love, and lived in a state of utter spiritual darkness.

Throughout the period of the Mishkan and first beit hamikdash, G-d’s presence and love were apparent. The Jews enjoyed autonomy, they had prophets who performed miracles and regularly communicated to them messages from God, there were the ten miracles everyone saw in the beit hamikdash, etc.

Furthermore, Yirmeyahu had prophesied that after seventy years of Bavel the Jews would be returned to their homeland. That hope went up in smoke: Seventy years passed—according to a widely-held miscalculation—and the prophecy was not realized. (See Megilla 11b)

The Jewish People at the time of the Megilla were faced with “a final solution” of utter annihilation, yet they had a simple way to save themselves.

Haman’s decree was because “There is a certain people scattered and separate among the people…and they do not keep the king’s laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be.” He rationalized that Jewish particularism is detrimental to the universalist ideals of the Persian Empire.

That being said the Alter Rebbe explains (Torah Or Megilat Esther 91a) the decree was only directed at Yehudim, i.e., those who reject idolatry.

Were the Jewish People to announce “we are no longer interested in being Jews. We are instead proud Persians,” the decree would have been abolished. Yet they didn’t.

The very people who had no qualms eating non-kosher foods, bowing down to idols, and in general integrating into Persian culture suddenly decided that they wished to be Jews, and sacrificed their lives to that end.

Why?! The seventy years were up, God – if He existed – abandoned them in Persia. They faced for the first time in their over 700 year history total and utter extinction.

The Jewish People had had a great run, 700 years is a long history, but they should have realized that the Jewish People had come to an end. The time to assimilate had arrived.

Yet, notwithstanding the rational arguments to give up their Judaic faith, they discovered that they could not. In their hearts of hearts, the very depth of their being, they realized that they wished to be Jews.

Although God was hiding from them, and they were hiding from Him, they decided that come what may, in life or in death, they will remain Jews.

Their desire did not stem from logic or reason – as the logic pointed for total abandonment of God – it instead arose from the depth of their souls.

When despite everything they *chose* God, and *revealed* an aspect of Godliness deep within their souls, G-d reciprocated in kind. Although they remained in exile, G-d brought them a salvation and expressed a great love towards them.

It is this act that we replicate with the experience of “ad d’lo yada,” and the joy of Purim. We are not choosing G-d because of rational reason, but because the depth of the Jewish soul wishes to be one with God.

It is for this reason that “The Jews established and accepted.” It is on Purim where the essential desire to connect to God and Torah is expressed. We choose to connect to Him, not because of logical reasons, but because that is the essential desire of the very essence of our being.

The verse (Esther 9:28) states: “And these days shall be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, in every family, every province, and every city, and these days of Purim shall not be revoked from amidst the Jews, and their memory shall not cease from their seed.”

The Midrash (Mishlei 9:1,) “All the holidays will be nullified except Purim.” The Talmud (Jerusalem Talmud 1:5) states: “All the prophets will be nullified besides the megilla of Esther.”

The reason is that all of the great revelations will be rendered inconsequential in light of the great revelations of the messianic era.

However, Purim is not a celebration of light, but that opposite. It is a testament that despite any darkness, the Jewish people will always remain one with God.

Because of this “throughout every generation,” we celebrate Purim.

While the joy of other holidays is perhaps somewhat mitigated in exile Purim is not.

On Purim we have the ability to transcend reason and declare that “come what may, I am a Jew.”

On Purim, we reach the level beyond reason and like the pinnacle of Yom Kippur declare “HaShem hu HaElokim.”

In the time of Eliyahu, Israel vacillated – unsure if God was God or Baal was God. They only made a decisive statement “HaShem Hu HaElokim,” when with their own eyes they witnessed indisputable proof.

However, on Purim, we reach infinitely deeper. Although rationally we are without proof, “ad dlo yada,” and on the contrary, we see that Haman is in power and that Israel’s destruction is imminent, we nevertheless declare “HaShem hu HaElokim.”

We find the depth of the soul and even in the state of utmost darkness we experience our soul and affirm our connection with God.

This experience is an awesome one, both in exile and even in the messianic period. It is the declaration that we choose God from the essence of our being, and God reciprocates and chooses us, with His whole being.

L’chaim!

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