MARCH 6-7, 2009 11 ADAR 5769
Shabbat Zachor - This Shabbat, we will read an extra portion of Torah which commands us to remember what Amalek did to us and our obligation to wipe him out. All men are required to hear this special reading and even women should try to fulfill this obligation.
Remember to change your clocks forward one hour this Saturday night.
"Esther had not told of her people" (Esther 2:10)
In the story of Purim, Mordechai gives Esther specific instructions not to tell Ahashverosh that she was Jewish. Even though this was a detail in the very intricate story of Purim, it has a lesson for us in life. Rabbi David Feinstein explains, if Ahashverosh were to know that Esther was Jewish, it could work out for either good or bad. Knowledge of her origin might cause the king to reject her, in which case he should be told that she was Jewish. Or perhaps knowing she was Jewish and also that she was of royal blood (a descendant of King Shaul), made her a more desirable candidate for the throne, in which case she should be silent. While in such a dilemma it was hard to know what to do, Mordechai decided it was best to do nothing and not reveal her identity.
Although he could not know exactly what would happen, there was no question in his mind that Esther's abduction was part of a precisely conceived plan to save Israel. He realized that Hashem would not subject a righteous woman like Esther to such a degrading experience (to marry a gentile king) unless it was necessary to save Israel from some great danger, even though that danger was yet to surface, for this was before the evil decree brought about by Haman. Meanwhile, however, he could only watch silently and expectantly as Hashem unfolded His plan. Later, however, when the time came for action, Mordechai would move heaven and earth to accomplish whatever had to be done.
One could only admire Mordechai's deep wisdom, especially since he played his cards perfectly. The lesson for us is profound. Not always is the course of action clear. One can be a genius, but there are times to do nothing, and adopt a wait and see attitude, for Hashem runs the world. Just make sure you don't get in His way. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim. Rabbi Reuven Semah
The Gemara tells us that the Jewish people accepted the Torah under duress in the wilderness, and at the time of Purim, they re-accepted it willingly. How do we reconcile this with the fact that the Jews said, "?????????? - We will do and we will listen," which symbolizes an acceptance of the Torah which is purely voluntary, without coercion?
The Midrash answers by saying that indeed the Jewish nation willingly accepted the Written Torah, but the Oral Torah was not accepted wholeheartedly until the story of Purim. The reason is fairly simple. If it says in the Torah that I have to do this, fine, that's the law. But if the Rabbis tell me this is good for me and this isn't, this I may do and this I cannot do, this is difficult to swallow. Who says the Sages know everything? Who says that I have to follow them? When the Jewish people saw that Mordechai was right for not bowing down to Haman, and he was also right when he said not to go to the party years back, they realized that Hashem was teaching a fundamental lesson. The salvation came through Mordechai and Esther because they are our spiritual leaders and listening to them is listening to Hashem. As we celebrate Purim, let us rededicate ourselves to the acceptance of the Oral Law and the guidance of our Sages so that we may merit salvation and redemption. Happy Holiday. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Push! Push! Don't give up!"
The coach's face turned red as he screamed at the aspiring athlete. The young man poured his strength into the workout until he could hardly go on - but instead of surrendering to exhaustion, he exerted himself just a little more. When he successfully completed the exercise routine, he fell to the floor and lay there for a few moments, short of breath, yet smiling. He had done the job. He felt the satisfaction that accomplishment brings.
Tests of strength are not limited to the physical realm of sports competitions. At every turn - day to day and hour to hour - a person faces challenges. In business, people must develop the principles that will enable them to meet the test of honesty. In relationships, people must build up their spiritual muscle to defeat jealousy, anger and greed. In order to fulfill our obligations to Hashem, we must become strong enough to overcome innate laziness and selfishness. Life is a series of tests.
We may complain when things get rough, because we feel life is not fair. When we think that we are getting a raw deal - when our efforts are being expended with no payback - we may grunt and express disapproval. But we must believe that Hashem is in charge and He does everything for our welfare. The tests he sends are exercises to help us improve and grow to our full potential. Just as the coach pushes the athlete, nudging his innate talents towards physical success, so, too, Hashem tests us to help our potential develop into reality.
We all have our individual ingredients for greatness instilled in us when we are born. Hashem knows what tests we need to turn our potential into real powers. We must study Torah in order to perfect our Yirat Shamayim - fear of Hashem - so that when we are tested, we react in a way that will please Hashem.
Perhaps our potential is not as great as Abraham Abinu's or - at least in a relative sense - perhaps it is. One thing is certain: Hashem knows that we are capable of achieving and He will provide the precise, personalized training program to develop each of us into the perfect "me." Our job is to rise to the occasion - to accept the challenges and build our spiritual muscle step by step to reach our full potential. May we all use it - so that we don't lose it. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
1. A species of yeast splits into two every second. If, after a period of thirty seconds, it fills an entire cup, how long does it take for the yeast to fill half a cup?
2. A third of the inhabitants in a remote village in Mozambique are missing one leg. Of the remaining villagers, half wear shoes and half walk barefoot. How many shoes need the shoemaker make to shoe his fellow villagers?
3. A package of hot dog buns contains five buns. How can you distribute the buns to five children in a way that each child will receive a whole bun and, yet, one bun will still remain in the package?
4. All of Chaim's vests, with the exception of one, are navy. Similarly, all of Chaim's vests, with the exception of one, are black. How many black vests and how many navy vests does Chaim own?
The misvah of matanot la'ebyonim, giving charity to the poor on Purim day, is mentioned in Megillat Esther (9:22). Rabbi Elisha Galiko, one of the prime disciples of Maran Harav Yosef Karo, composed a commentary on Megillat Esther. He explained that the reason our Sages saw fit to institute this misvah is because poor people are obligated to celebrate Purim with feasting and merrymaking just as much as all other Jews, since the miracle of Purim was performed for their sake as much as it was for all other Jews. If they would lack the means to celebrate they would be remiss in fulfilling this obligation. Therefore our Sages instituted the obligation to give charity to the poor on Purim day and enable them to fulfill the misvah of celebrating Purim along with everyone else. This explains why our Sages were so adamant that the funds earmarked for Purim celebration be used for that purpose only. Thus, the misvah of matanot la'ebyonim is twofold, that of charity and the merit of enabling others to fulfill the misvah of celebrating Purim.
Harav HIDA pointed out that the initial letters of the words of the Megillah - ish lere'ehu umatanot la'ebyonim - spell the name Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah. This comes to allude to us that just as the month of Elul is a time when we must repent in preparation for the annual Day of Judgment, we must also repent in the coming days as the Yom Tob of Pesah approaches. Pesah is a day of judgment as well. Our Sages taught that Amalek will be destroyed on the festival of Pesah and that Mashiah will arrive at that time. Therefore, we give extra funds to charity now as atonement for our sins so we will be prepared for the Final Redemption on Pesah.
The sefer Torat Emet explained yet another reason for giving extra funds to charity on Purim. Purim day is related to Yom Kippur, and the miracles of Purim occurred in response to the Jews repenting. Repenting consists of three acts, fasting, praying and giving charity. We fast on 13 Adar in preparation for Purim, we pray and call out to G-d through the act of reading the Megillah and we give charity as well to make our efforts complete. (Yalkut Yosef - Purim)
"The Jews had light, joy, happiness and honor" (Esther 8:16)
Our Sages taught that Rav Yehudah expounded that "light" refers to the Torah, "joy" refers to Yom Tob, "happiness" refers to the misvah of circumcision and "honor" refers to the misvah of tefillin. It is not clear, however, what connection these misvot have to the celebration of Purim. One would think that the Jews' joy at that time was simply for the fact that the evil decree had been overturned.
The sefer Matenot Hayim explained this using the famous incident concerning Harav Eliyahu of Vilna. As he lay on his deathbed, his students saw that he was weeping and they asked him how they could eases his discomfort. He replied that he was not crying from any pain; he was distressed because he realized that he was about to leave this precious world. While here in this world, one can purchase a pair of sisit for a few coins and acquire all the reward and spiritual gain that this dear misvah gives to one who fulfills it. Soon, Rav Eliyahu lamented, he would no longer have the opportunity to perform any misvot.
Rav Eliyahu's sole desire during his lifetime was to fulfill G-d's will. The only thing that bothered him about dying was that he would no longer have the opportunity to serve G-d. All the millions of misvot that he had fulfilled during his lifetime were not sufficient for his insatiable hunger for more and more misvot. To him, fulfilling misvot was life itself, and no one ever feels that they have had enough of life.
There are people who, upon seeing the end of their lives approaching, are pained about leaving their possessions and their money. Others are stricken by the prospect of having to leave all their beloved family members. If someone realizes, like Rav Eliyahu did, that the true meaning of life is only Torah study and the fulfillment of the misvot, then his pain upon passing away will be for the loss of those opportunities.
Rav Yehuda wished to teach us that when the Jews of Shushan heard that Haman's decree was overturned and that they were granted a "second lease on life," their joy was for the fact that they would be able to continue to perform misvot for years to come until they would pass away from old age. Haman's decree had not frightened them for their own sake; they feared death only because it would snuff out their ability to fulfill G-d's will on this earth. (Yalkut Yosef - Purim)
"These days of Purim will not pass away from among the Jews, nor will their remembrance cease from their descendants" (Esther 9:28)
The Midrash writes that "All festivals are destined to be abolished, the Purim days will not be abolished." Why does Purim have this apparent superiority over the Biblical festivals?
The Midrash can be explained metaphorically. While the word "mo'ed" is usually translated as "festival," it really means "time." We are living in a time of change - changes in lifestyle, fashions, outlook, and man's whole approach to the world. One thing, however, is not changing, and that is the prevalence of anti-Semitism.
The Midrash is prophesying the sad truth, that even when the time comes when changes will take place in human existence, Purim - time - will not change; i.e. regarding the hatred to the Jew there will be no change. This hatred will "not pass away," and throughout all times there will always be a Haman in some shape or form who will instigate against the Jewish people. Should we tend to forget this and think that times have changed and that in a democratic world anti-Semitism is impossible, to our great amazement trouble will suddenly erupt and we will experience a rude awakening, G-d forbid, which will remind us that the remembrance of the Purim phenomenon will not cease from our descendants. (Vedibarta Bam)
1. Twenty-nine seconds.
2. The number of shoes needed equals the number of villagers.
3. This is only possible if the last child receives his bun in the original package.
4. Chaim owns exactly one blue vest and one black vest.
Although it is a misvah to drink on Purim, please remember that it is forbidden to endanger one's own life and the lives of others. Please do not drive if you have been drinking.
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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