"V'tov lev mishte tamid - a good-hearted person feasts continuously"
by Rabbi Moshe Yudkowsky - Menahel HaKollel
There is an inconsistency between the reason we celebrate Purim and the way it is actually celebrated. Purim was established to commemorate the saving of the Jews from Haman's evil decree. Specifically, Purim highlights the idea that although there was no overt miracle performed by Hashem, the seemingly random incidents were all in fact Divinely orchestrated to bring about our salvation. The king's drunken murder of Queen Vashti, Esther's selection as queen, Bigson and Seresh's plot to assassinate the king only to be revealed by Mordechai, etc - this was all part of the Heavenly plan of deliverance.
Yet, how do we celebrate Purim? We deliver Mishloach Manos, we have joyous meals with family and friends, we give tzedakah to fulfil the mitzva of matanos la'evyonim. Nowhere is there any activity to emphasise the fact that Hashem's hidden guidance effected the rescue. In fact, most Divrei Torah connected to Purim revolve around this major theme, why is there no mitzva to stress this idea?
True, one reason given for the eating of Haman-tashen is that the dough on the outside hides the filling on the inside, just as natural occurrences hide Hashem's coordinating events. This is also why we dress up in disguise, for just as Hashem concealed His salvation on Purim, we also masquerade. However, these are only customs and not actual rabbinic enactments. There is an important lesson to be derived from this. Indeed, Purim is all about recognising Hashem's involvement in our daily lives. However, how does one achieve this significant goal? And here lies the secret of Purim: by developing our love for and our appreciation for one another, by bonding with each other, we elevate our souls and open our hearts to acknowledge the existence of Hashem and His ever present association with our lives. Thus, while Purim was definitely designed to enhance our awareness of Hashem, the method to accomplish this is by doing mitzvos bein adam lechaveiro, between man and man. By drawing closer to our fellow man, we draw closer to Hashem as well.
Proof to this thought can be brought from the famous incident involving Hillel, who was confronted by a potential convert, asking to be taught the entire Torah while standing on one leg. Hillel taught him, "Ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha - love your fellow man like yourself. This is the focus of the whole Torah; everything else emanates from this idea". The obvious question is that while this may encompass all the mitzvos between man and man, what about the second half of a Jews' responsibilities, bein adam laMakom? Apparently, Hillel was conveying a very deep concept. If the convert would focus on bein adam lechaveiro, he would also grow bein adam laMakom. The two are inter-linked, and opening one's heart to others is the key to opening his heart to Hashem.
Another proof: The final law brought in Rema to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim is that when there are two Adars, Purim is celebrated in the second Adar. Nevertheless, one should still have some feasting on Purim of the first Adar as well. Rema concludes the law with the very last words of Shulchan Aruch, "v'tov lev mishte tamid - a good-hearted person feasts continuously". The opening words of Rema to Shulchan Aruch are, "Shivisi Hashem lenegdi tamid - I place Hashem before me continuously". Seemingly, the use of the word tamid at the opening and closing of Shulchan Aruch is meant to unite the two ideas. The lesson is that the way to be connected to Hashem is by being good-hearted. He who enjoys others, will also enjoy a close relationship with Hashem. The road to Shivisi tamid is through v'tov lev mishte tamid.
Thus we find that the Jews received the Torah at Sinai only because they reached the level of, "ish echad beleiv echad - one person with one heart". Why is unity an absolute imperative to receiving the Torah? As long as they are holy and in touch with Hashem, shouldn't that suffice? The answer is no, it is not enough. Being holy, but being insensitive to others, is mutually exclusive. A warm and feeling heart is the soil in which spirituality and faith grows.
Parenthetically, my older brother, the Stutchiner Rebbe shlit"a, asked what is the significance of ish echad. As long as we are beleiv echad, united in spirit with one heart, what else is needed? He answered that ish echad raises the bar on the concept of unity. Someone would do everything possible not to lose a finger because it's a part of himself. So too, we should see another Jew as an extension of ourselves. True, he may be different than I; still, nobody is ready to relinquish even the minutest part of himself no matter how inconsequential it may be. This is the meaning of ish echad: together we are all one large human being, a loss of a part is a loss to the whole.
We know that after the miracle of Purim the Jews dedicated themselves anew to the Torah. "Hadar kibluah beratzon - they reaccepted the Torah with will". What inspired them to this? Perhaps they recreated the ish echad beleiv echad phenomenon; they united with one another. This was the antidote to Haman who had told Achashveirosh, "yeshno am echad mefuzar umeforad - there is a nation fractured with conflict and disharmony". Haman perceived a slight breach amongst the Jews and sought to use that crack to rupture and destroy the whole nation. The Jews healed their friction and devoted themselves to each other. This effected their salvation; it also brought them to the state of ish echad beleiv echad, which in turn led to reaccepting the Torah.
Haman's ancestor Amalek originally attacked the Jews as punishment for their querying, "hayesh Hashem bekirbeinu im ayin - Is Hashem amongst us or not?" Rashi brings the story of a man who placed his son on his shoulders and went on a journey. Whenever they passed objects that the child desired, he asked his father to give them to him, and the father happily obliged. At some point they encountered a man, and the boy asked him, "Have you seen my father?" The father, offended, said, "Oh, so you don't know where I am?" and he dropped his son. Along came a dog and bit the lad. So too, after all the miracles Hashem had done for the Jews, when they doubted His Presence amidst them, Hashem sent Amalek to assault them. Rashi uses this example to convey that denial of Hashem's goodness is a direct manifestation of callousness. What should be obvious becomes obfuscated only because of unfavourable character.
With this premise, we can also understand another difficulty. Holy sefarim tell us that Yom HaKipurim is like Purim, but not as great as Purim. The ramifications of this statement are staggering. All the intensity of Yom Kippur, the fasting, not wearing shoes, staying in shule almost all day, all of this doesn't reach the holiness of Purim! And how do we act on Purim, the day more sublime than Yom Kippur? We eat and drink, sing and dance! How can we reconcile our actions with what the Sages see as an awesome day?
The answer is that we are doing exactly what is necessary to absorb the significance of the day. Through fulfilling v'tov lev mishte tamid, we arrive at Shivisi Hashem lenegdi tamid. Rav Moshe Schwab zt"l, Mashgiach in Gateshead Yeshiva, writes that boys in the yeshiva who spent a whole Yom Kippur in sincere davening and repentance still did not manage to truly effect a turn-around in their behaviour. However, on Purim when the bochurim would drink and make merry and act totally silly, they would conduct an honest soul-searching, and in the days following Purim there would be a noticeable improvement in their conduct. What the seriousness of Yom Kippur couldn't accomplish, the revelry of Purim achieved.
In closing, there is an extraordinary halacha that in the days of Moshiach all holidays will be annulled excluding Purim. Why should Yomim Tovim be voided, and if indeed they will be, why is Purim an exception? The answer is that Yomim Tovim generally commemorate open miracles. In the times of Moshiach, Hashem's Presence will be revealed continuously, and the great surprise and wonder associated with miracles will be mitigated. Thus, while Yomim Tovim will certainly be celebrated, the festivity will be muted. However, Purim commemorates Hashem's daily protection and relationship with us. This will remain in Moshiach's times as well, and will celebrated in its full glory.
May we merit channelling the joy of Purim towards its true intention, to cherish each closer and to appreciate Hashem, and with this we'll merit seeing Moshiach, Amein.
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