Latest update: March 7th, 2012
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Why is Purim not celebrated on the 13th of Adar when the Jewish people were victorious over their enemies, but instead on the 14th of Adar when they rested? Jews do not rejoice at another’s demise, even if that person is a rasha or an enemy. Instead, we celebrate our salvation and our being uplifted. Based on this idea, our simchas Purim is not about the revenge against Haman and his cronies, but rather about our survival against all odds. As such, Purim was established on the 14th, the day we rested from fighting and realized our salvation, not on the 13th when we defeated our enemies. (Manos HaLevi)
Why are Hamantaschen eaten on Purim? One of the main themes of Purim is that of V’nahafoch hu, the “turnabout.” The story represents not only salvation from our enemies, but a complete reversal and interchanging of situations for the parties involved. The Jews switched from being completely dominated by their enemies to completely dominating them. There are many avenues through which Hashem could have caused His plan to come about. On Purim, Hashem used Haman, the very person who desired to destroy Hashem’s people, to actually bring about their salvation. Haman’s decree to annihilate the Jews caused a massive teshuvah movement and recommitment to the Torah; culminating in the hanging of Haman on the same gallows he had built to execute Mordechai. We eat Hamantaschen on Purim, a sweet cookie named after the bitter Haman, to symbolize the V’nahafoch hu of Haman and his evil actions turning into the source of sweetness and nourishment for Jewish survival. (Rabbi David Aaron)
How is Mordechai a hero, when it was his refusal to bow to Haman that led to Haman’s desire to annihilate the Jewish people? In general, one is not only permitted, but required to transgress mitzvos and Torah obligations in a situation where life is at risk (see Sanhedrin 74a). However, with the severe sins of murder, idolatry and immorality, one is required to give his life rather than transgress. The Chofetz Chaim explains that although it might seem as if Mordechai should have bowed to Haman because Haman was known to be a big anti-Semite, and, as such, refusing to bow would severely threaten Jewish lives, that is not the case. Haman carried an idol on his person, making bowing to him the equivalent of bowing to an idol, one of the three transgressions that may not be transgressed even under threat of death. Therefore, even though Mordechai realized the danger, he could not bow in this situation. He continued to hold his ground for this same reason even when his fellow Jews begged him to appease Haman after the evil plan was made known.
The Chofetz Chaim explains that one should never, chas v’shalom, think that keeping the Torah can result in suffering, because it cannot. Nothing can be more illustrative of this point than the Purim story. In the end, not only did nothing happen to Klal Yisrael, but Mordechai’s steadfast adherence to the Torah resulted in a tremendous salvation in which Haman and his sons were killed, 75,000 Amalekim and many more of the enemies of the Jews were wiped out, and the Jews were able to live in joy and tranquility. The Midrash teaches that when Hashem created the world He looked into the Torah and used it as a blueprint (Bereishis Rabbah 1:1). In other words, knowing all that would occur in the future, Hashem created the world with the Torah in mind. He considered all future scenarios, so that adherence to the Torah would not only never cause suffering in any situation that would arise (big or small), but would in actuality cause goodness and salvation on every personal, national and global level.
Therefore, Mordechai was in fact a very great Jewish hero. He not only brought about the destruction of our enemies and the salvation of the Jews through his unshakable commitment to the Torah, but he also effected a tremendous Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of Hashem’s Name, by demonstrating to the Jews, and making them realize, that one can never ever go wrong by following the Torah. This new perception on the part of the Jews resulted in tremendous simcha, and prompted their voluntary reacceptance of the Torah on Purim with love. (Shalmei Todah)
Why did Haman want to kill all the Jews in response to Mordechai’s refusal? The Meggilah says וּמָרְדֳּכַי לֹא יִכְרַע, which literally translates as “and Mordechai will not bow,” in the future tense (Esther 3:2). This comes to hint that in every generation there will be one person in Klal Yisrael who will refuse to bow in this way. Haman understood this, and realized that even if he killed Mordechai there would always be some other Jew who would defy him. So he decided to not only kill Mordechai, but to also destroy the entire עַם מָרְדֳּכָי– nation of Mordechai (Esther 3:6), so that the defiance would end. (Sfas Emes)
What is the deeper meaning to Haman’s “title” of צֹרֵר הַיְּהוּדִים-Tormentor of the Jews (Esther 3:10)? Simply translated, צֹרֵר הַיְּהוּדִים means tormentor of the Jews. However, the word צֹרֵר or צוֹרֵר derives from the word לִצְרוֹר, meaning to bind together, as is used in the commonly known brachah recited for a deceased person תְּהֵא נִשְׁמָתוֹ צְרוּרָה בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים-May his soul be bound up in the everlasting bonds of life. At the time of Purim, there was a lack of achdus, unity, amongst the Jewish people. In fact, Haman predicated the success of his extermination plan on their lack of achdus, describing the Jews to Achashveirosh as a distinct nation that is splintered and scattered (Esther 3:8). Klal Yisrael finds strength and success in their achdus, as was the case when they gathered together at Sinai like one person with one heart (Rashi, Shemos 19:2) to receive the Torah. Divisiveness, on the other hand, can cause their destruction, as can be seen by the fact that divisiveness was the main cause of the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash (see Yoma 9b).
However, although Haman based his success on Jewish disunity, his decree sparked a teshuvah movement amongst the Jews that fostered tremendous unity. Upon the issuance of the decree, Esther called for the Jews to gather together in their cities to fast for three days in repentance, saying Go gather all the Jews together (Esther 4:16). The Jews also banded together in defense of their enemies on the following 13th of Adar, as the Megillah says The Jews came together in their cities (Esther 9:2). Since it was his decree that brought Klal Yisrael together, Haman is called צֹרֵר כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים-The one who caused all of the Jews to be bound together (ibid. 24). (HaRav Michoelson of Warsaw)
How did Achashveirosh hint to Haman that he would never succeed in causing the downfall of Klal Yisrael? When Achashveirosh surprised Haman by instructing him to do to Mordechai all that he had suggested be done to the person whom the king desired to honor, Achashveirosh said אַל-תַּפֵּל דָּבָר מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ–do not omit a single detail that you suggested (Esther 6:10). The word תַּפֵּל derives from the word לִפֹּל–to fall, and the gematria of the words אַל-תַּפֵּל–do not omit equals the gematria of יִשְׂרָאֵל –Israel. Taking it all together, Achashveirosh was unwittingly informing Haman אַל-תַּפֵּל יִשְׂרָאֵל–Israel will not fall no matter how hard you try. (The Rokeach)
These are excerpts from the sefer “Inside Purim” which contains additional answers to the above questions and much more. With haskamos from HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Harav Shlomo Eliyahu Miller, HaRav Noach Isaac Oelbaum, and HaRav Yisrael Reisman, the sefer contains a collection of over 200 fascinating divrei Torah in a short, quick pick-up, and easy to read and remember format, and is a great place to find an exciting Purim vort to say over to family and friends. Inside Purim has been published in both English and French, and is available at Jewish bookstores, and at www.Feldheim.com. To contact the author, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Aryeh Pinchas Strickoff
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