(In memory of my mother and teacher, Rivkah bas Yitzchok, in commemoration of her shloshim.)
On Purim, as on Chanukah, we recite Al Hanissim. In this thanksgiving prayer, the stories of the miracles of both festivals are related in a short and concise synopsis.
There is, however, an obvious difference.
In the Al Hanissim of Chanukah there is a finale: “Afterward your sons came to Your House, they cleansed Your Sanctuary, purified Your Place of Holiness and lit lights in Your Holy Courts, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah for giving thanks and praise to Your Great Name.”
In contrast, the Al Hanissim of Purim concludes abruptly: “You in Your Abundant Compassion voided Haman’s plan and caused that which he sought to do to recoil on his own head, and they hanged him and his sons upon the gallows.”
What kind of an ending is this? Where is the rest of the story? Why not tell us that Purim is to be commemorated with reading the megillah, dispensing mishloach manot, giving gifts to the poor, and partaking in a Purim feast?
Is it because the theme of Purim is never ending and just one example of the ceaseless hatred of Jews throughout history?
Though the history of our people is full of Hamans, our rabbis chose not mention that in the Al Hanissim and thereby spoil our joyous celebration of Purim.
Even so, why is there no uplifting conclusion to the Al Hanissim prayer of Purim?
The answer is that the central point of the story of Purim is the Jews’ rededication to the Torah over and above the merrymaking, and that this time it was done willingly and with love, unlike at Mount Sinai when it took some coercion.
In fact, the joy of Purim is in honor of our renewed commitment to Torah, when we became rejuvenated as Jews.
Therefore, the megillah scroll is to be written on parchment and requires sirtut, etched lines. Sirtut denotes the permanency of the writing. Tractate Megillah 16 states that etched lines are required in the megillah because its words of truth are the words of the Torah –an eternal message.
As the megillah teaches us, Purim “should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed.”
About the Author: Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher is dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
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