Sobering Thoughts for Purim

By RABBI SHLOMO PRICE

*LISTEN MY CHILDREN AND YOU SHALL HEAR
THAT PURIM IS COMING PURIM IS NEAR,
FROM PURIM THERE ARE MANY LESSONS TO LEARN
BUT WHEN YOU'RE DRUNK, ONLY A HANGOVER YOU'LL EARN

SO I HOPE NOW BEFORE YOU GRAB YOUR CUP
AND YOUR MIND IS NOT YET MIXED UP
THAT YOU TAKE SOME TIME TO GET SET
TO LOOK AT THESE FEW WORDS ON THE INTERNET
(*This line "borrowed" from the "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere")

I usually give the sicha about "Hashgacha Protis" - Divine Supervision ("The Reader's Digest Sicha"), around Chanuka time. The truth is, however, that one can apply Hashgocho Protis to almost any holiday. Recently I gave the Hasgocho Protis sicha and applied it to Purim. I will just mention an important lesson that we learn from Purim concerning Hashgocho Protis. This is based mainly on the beautiful "Overview of the Artscroll Megilas Esther" by Rabbi Nosson Scherman.

He explains that when miracles are plentiful one can forget that the Hand of Hashem, is as present in what we call "Nature". Emphasis on Hashem's miraculous activity can make us forget that His guidance is everywhere. The Hebrew word for the world is "Olom", which comes from the root that means hidden. This shows us that in this world Hashem is hidden. Hashem placed us in this "Olom" of hiddenness and our job is to find our way to the truth because we were given enough tools to find it-if we really want to find it.

People can pray and observe mitzvos, yet when it comes to their business or other successes they attribute it to their own strengths and talents. If Hashem gets any billing at all it is not as a leading actor but as a silent and unseen partner (as I once heard of a bumper sticker that said "G-d is my Copilot").

Such was the reaction of the generation of the Mabul. They attributed it to a "natural act", some sort of earthquake that caused the great flood (see Rashi, Breishis 11:1). I even remember my Rebbi showing us an article that explained all the ten plagues through natural phenomena.

Openly revealed miracles ended with the period of Esther and Mordechai. From then on we had to find Hashem's hand in everyday events.

Rabbi Scherman then goes on to describe the events of Purim as "G-d's jigsaw puzzle" (In reality, I realize that it really is a lot different than a jigsaw puzzle. Usually a jigsaw puzzle is made in such a way that there is only one way to put the picture together to see the real picture. If you try to put the pieces together in a different way they won't fit. However, the events of Purim, as we will soon see, can be understood more logically in the wrong (natural) way. It takes what seems to be a distorted view to arrive at the "real picture".)

In the third year of Achasveirosh's reign the Jews enjoyed his feast. Nine years later, in the twelfth year of his kingdom, Haman makes a decree demanding that everyone should bow to him. Mordechai refuses and Haman then makes a decree to exterminate the Jews. Mordechai wants to attribute the decree as a result of the feast, an event that occurred nine years earlier. Logic dictated that is was Mordechai's refusal to bow down - an act which happened right before the decree, that was the real cause. How could an act from nine years ago be the cause and not the disrespect that happened right before the decree?

Then, widely separate links an chains began coming together. Consider the following.

The feast led to the death of Vashti. This in turn led to the rise of Queen Esther putting her in position to save the Jewish people.

Mordechai, as a member of Sanhedrin, knows seventy languages. Esther gets Mordechai promoted to a royal position. Consequently, he's in position to hear a plot against the King. The plotters speak their foreign tongue, not realizing that Mordechai understands it. Mordechai reports this to Esther who in turn tells the King of Mordechai's loyalty. It is inscribed in the royal chronicle and was forgotten until that fateful night that Hashem disturbed the King's sleep.

Haman was ready to hang Mordechai for his lack of respect. He comes to the King for royal permission. It was just at that very moment that the King was reminded that Mordechai saved his life. Not only didn't Haman get his permission to hang Mordechai, on the contrary, he had to belittle himself by parading Mordechai all around the city and showing him great respect.

When the right time came, these links (and more) came together to form the destruction of Haman and the salvation of the Jews.

The end result was that all realized that Mordechai was right, as to the cause of the decree and simple logic was wrong.

This is one of the reasons why Hashem's name was not mentioned in the Megilah (only symbolically), because Hashem was hidden throughout the miracle of Purim.

There is a beautiful thought from the Chasam Sofer which I heard from Rabbi Yissochor Frand.

The posuk in Ki Sisa (Shmos 33: 23) says, that Hashem told Moshe, ". . . . And you will see "Achorai"- My back, "Upanai" - My front you will not see". The Chasam Sofer points out that there are many events that look quite bad when they actually occur. We wonder why Hashem is doing this. Only much later do we sometimes see how this event led to a whole chain of events that ultimately led to a tremendous good for Klal Yisroel. Then we realize in retrospect that the first event was really good.

This, he said, can be alluded to in the posuk "Upanai - My front", - before that final event (that clarifies the first event) occurs then "we will not see" - we will not understand its goodness. However "Achorai" - My back", - when you see much later the great event that it led to, "you will see. . . ", you will then understand in retrospect why the first event was necessary.

When I looked up the Chasam Sofer I saw that he uses the story of Purim as an example.

He points out that when we look at the death of Vashti which caused the taking of Esther as Queen, it raises the obvious question. Why did Hashem cause Esther to be taken as Queen to this Goyishe King where she will be defiled?

Years later we discover that it was very necessary. It put Esther into a key position to help bring salvation to Klal Yisroel.

I will end off this point with a beautiful explanation found in the "Tzelach" (a commentary on the Talmud by Rav Yechezkel Landau) on Pesachim 50a, that I heard from my Rebbi.

The Gemoro says that one of the differences between Olom Hazeh (This World) and Olom Haboh (The Next World) is the following.

"Rabi Acha bar Chanina said. . . In this world, on good tidings you recite (a blessing) 'Hatov V'Hameitiv - One Who is good and does good'. On bad tidings however, you recite 'Boruch Dayan HaEmes - Blessed be the True Judge'. In the Next World (the blessing) is all 'Hatov V'Hameitiv. "
The simple explanation (see Rashi s. v. "Kulo Hatov V'Hametiv") is that in this world there are both good and bad tidings, but in the world to come there will be no bad tidings, consequently there will only be the blessing of "Hatov V'Hameitiv. "

However, the Tzelach asks the following question, which he heard from a great Magid of Brod, Rabbi Ephraim Reisher.

If this were the explanation, the main difference between Olom Haboh and Olom Hazeh is not the Brocho per se. Rather the main point is that in Olom Hazeh there will be good and bad tidings and in Olom Haboh there will only be good tidings. The Brocho is only a consequence of the main point. This being the case, the Gemoro should have just mentioned the main point about the good and bad tidings. We would realize the difference of the Brocho on our own.

Rav Reisher therefore explains this Gemoro in a novel way, which teaches us an important foundation.

From Hashem there is nothing intrinsically "bad". It is ultimately for our benefit. Even suffering is for our ultimate good to humble our Yetzer hara and to purify our Neshomo - Soul for Olom Habo. But a person in this world doesn't understand this truth and therefore views it as if it were "bad".

Compare this to a sick person who requires a medicine placed on his wound. Unfortunately, applying the medicine will cause him great pain. Only a fool will demand that it be removed. A wise person will endure it with patience and joy, knowing that only this medicine will eventually heal him. Suffering for our wickedness is such a medicine.

However, after one dies and gets to the Next World, he will see the truth. He had to endure a relatively short amount of suffering to be able to receive a great pleasure later. Consequently, he will thank Hashem now in retrospect for the so called "bad" that he complained about when it happened. (See "The Jerry Lewis Sicha-Gam Zu Ltovah" and "Letter to an Alumnus II")

This is what our Gemoro is saying. In this World people recite the Brocho "Dayan Haemes" on "bad" tidings because when it happens it is viewed as coming from Midas Hadin-Divine Judgment.

But when one gets to the Next World it will be "all Hatov V'Hameitiv". All will then realize, that what happened before, in this world, was really for our benefit. Our conclusion will be, that retroactively the brocha should have been Hatov V'Hameitv.

As my Rebbi told us about someone who prayed to Hashem, "Hashem, please give me "good" that even I understand is good, or give me the brains to understand that even the so called "bad" is really good. "

I want to close these Purim thoughts with a very "sobering" (no pun intended, as you will soon see) thought.
In truth this is the main point that I wanted to write about and I wanted to open my Purim thoughts with this theme. However, due to its unpopularity, I felt that I would lose everybody before they even got started. I beseech you, if you have already gotten this far, please continue. I know it might be painful to hear, as I wrote in Reader's Digest Tidbits, "The most painful wound in the world is a stab of conscience". But, it is like the wound of a Doctor's scalpel - painful but healing. (Even though the doctor uses anesthesia, sometimes they can't). We are much better bearing the momentary pain and being healed.

Unfortunately, there is one mitzvah which people, even those who are not so careful with other mitzvos, are very "machmir"-strict and try to observe this mitzvah as much as they can. A lot of this fervor comes unfortunately from a misunderstanding of that mitzvah.

I am talking about, of course, the mitzvah of "getting drunk" on Purim. The source is a Gemoro in Megilah 7b and is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch - (Orach Chaim 695:2). The Mechaber, says, "A person is obligated to "get drunk" (with wine - see Rashi Megilah 7b s. v. "L'Avsumei") on Purim, until he can't discern between Arur Haman and Boruch Mordechai-Cursed be Haman and Blessed be Mordechai."

First of all there are those "zerizim" -zealous people who want to do the mitzvah (at least this one) as soon as they can. They therefore imbibe as soon as they can, hopefully after the Megilah reading, on the night of Purim. I would like to point out to them that there is one technical halachic problem with this "zealousness".

[ The Rambam writes (and evidently it also the opinion of the Shulchan Oruch) that the mitzvah of "getting drunk" is during the course of the Purim Seuda. Y.L.] The Mechaber says this Halacha (of getting drunk) after he says that one has to make a seuda for Purim during the day. IF ONE ATE THE SEUDAH AT NIGHT HE IS NOT YOTZE (COMPLY WITH) THE MITZVAH. CONSEQUENTLY, GETTING DRUNK AT NIGHT IS LIKE EATING MOROR, WITH ALL OF ITS BITTERNESS, ON SUKKOS. (I hope you realize that we eat moror on Pesach).

Secondly, the Mechaber was a codifier for the Sefardim (I have nothing against them) and the Ashkenazim usually follow the ruling of the Ramah (Rabbi Moshe Isserles). (Now maybe you understand why the Ashkenazim don't eat rice on Pesach and Sefardim do). Consequently, we have to look further in the Shulchan Aruch and see what the Ramoh says:

"And some say that it is not necessary to get so drunk but rather drink "yoser milimudo" more than he is used to (if he's used to getting drunk - that's his problem) and (that will make him) go to sleep and since he is asleep he will not discern between Arur Haman and Boruch Mordechai. And whether you do much or do little the main thing is that the intentions of your heart should be towards Shamayim-Heaven"
The Chofetz Chaim there in his classic commentary "Mishnah Brurah" (ibid. 5) three very important words from the "Pri Megodim", that sum up the whole point. "VCHEIN RAUI LAASOS - AND SO ONE SHOULD ACT"

(I like to say a little piece of Purim Torah at this point. The term that the Ramah uses is "yoser milimudo" can also be translated as "more than you learn". Consequently, many of us, who don't learn too much, can be yotze with the bare minimum as that will be "yoser milimudo".)

Even according to the Mechaber, we have to understand what he really meant, by looking at the commentaries. First of all the Mishna Brurah (4), and the Mahrsha in Megilah 7b among many others, explain the deep concept of not discerning between Arur Haman and Boruch Mordechai. "The Mahrsha also points out there not to take literally what it says in the Gemoroh ibid. that Rabah got drunk and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira. . .

More than this, we have to read between the lines and see what aim did the Chazal have for us (not our own personal aim) in doing this mitzvah. When we discover the true purpose we then can know best how to do the mitzvah to reach the aim that the Chazal wanted. There are many of explanations as to the aim, but Iíll mention just a few.

The Mishna Brurah (Chofetz Chaim) in his commentary Biur Halacha s. v. "Ad D'lo Yadah" [the words of the Mechaber] cites the beautiful words of the Meiiri as follows:

"One is obligated to increase in joy and eating and drinking on this day [Purim] . . . HOWEVER, WE ARE NOT COMMANDED TO BELITTLE OURSELVES THROUGH THIS JOY. WE WERE NOT COMMANDED ON A JOY OF VANITY AND INSANITY, RATHER A JOY OF PLEASURE THAT WILL LEAD TO LOVING HASHEM YISBORACH AND TO PRAISE AND THANK HIM ON THE MIRACLES THAT HE HAS DONE FOR US."
The Biur Halacha also quotes the Chayei Adam as follows:
"Since the whole miracle happened through wine therefore the Sages commanded us to get drunk or at least drink more than we usually do to remember the great miracle. But in truth, one who knows himself that he will (when he's drunk) be lax in one of the Mitzvos, in Washing his Hands, Blessings, Grace after Meals, or that he won't daven Mincha or Maariv, or he will act with lightheadedness, it is better if he does not get drunk. And all of his deeds should be for the Sake of Heaven."
Of course, people will cite examples of great Rabbis who imbibed on Purim quite a lot. In fact some of their best Torah came out as a result of their drinking.

This is no contradiction. The Gemoro in Eruvin 65a says, "Nichnas yayin yotzo sod" - When wine comes in our innermost secrets come out (Rashi explains that the numerical value of YAYIN-wine and SOD-secret are both 70.)

Now these great Rabbis whose innermost secrets were holy thoughts, that's what comes out. During the year they may too embarrassed to say it, so the wine helps to bring out these holy thoughts.

But, unfortunately we know what innermost secrets we are hiding and we hope that no one else knows. So if we get drunk, our innermost comes out (besides a lot of other stuff) and we are better off taking it easy.

I am not saying don't drink at all, rather be careful. Purim is a time to thank Hashem for all he has done for us . It is also time to work on bein odom l'chaveiro - making peace with friends (or chas vsholom enemies) that can be seen in the mitzvah of Mishloach Manos. It is also a time of getting close to our Rebbeim and thanking them for all they have done for us. During the year we are embarrassed and have natural inhibitions against such actions. When we drink more than usual and reach a little higher spirit (no pun intended) we break through our inhibitions and it's much easier to accomplish these things.

I'll conclude with a beautiful vort that I heard from Rabbi Friedlander shlit"a, our Posek and Rosh Kollel.

The Shulchan Aruch (694:3) that "When it comes to giving charity on Purim we are not selective. Whoever outstretches his hand to take you give him."Hashem also listens to the Shulchan Aruch and if we "put out our hand" and ask Hashem for whatever we need "He is not selective and He will give" He will listen.

May Hashem fulfill our heartfelt requests for the good. Amen, Selah.

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