The first Adar may be winding down, but luckily we get to enjoy an extension of the most favorable month of year for the Jewish nation. The next time luck visits us this way – in the form of a leap year – will be two years and five years hence.
We bentch Rosh Chodesh Adar Beis on Shabbos Parshas Pekudei, Rosh Chodesh falling on Sunday and Monday, the 29th and 30th of Adar Aleph (March 2nd and 3rd). And so the countdown to Purim begins in earnest.
Readers who have kept up with this series since its inception will have noted a consistent emphasis on the role women have played in our rich heritage.
Here we go again, and we don’t have to look far – for none other than a woman takes center stage, so to speak, in the story of Purim. Notwithstanding her tremendous humility and modesty, Esther famously wins the king’s favor, unmasks the wickedness of Haman and saves her landsleit from extinction. Of course we know that G-d orchestrated the events behind the scenes, though He could have just as easily performed open miracles to bring about the desired results.
In fact, the whole Megillah is steeped in an element of secrecy. The Talmud teaches us that blessing rests only on that which is hidden from the eye. Even Esther’s name (satar – hidden) alludes to the invisible component in the Purim saga – from the concealment of her true identity and exceptional modesty, to the unpredictable unfolding of events.
Those who play the misogyny card with increased frequency, claiming that Orthodox Judaism regards women as inferior to men, are pathetically oblivious to the beauty and essence of our way of life. They, moreover, don’t get that we choose to live in this fashion (per our Torah guidelines) and relish the quiet dignity our lifestyle affords us.
Last month’s Shabbos Mevorchim Adar I article memorialized the life of Sarah Schenirer, whose yahrtzeit falls on the 26th of Adar I. The Gaon Reb Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld is among the tzaddikim who left for a better world in the second Adar of a leap year (19 Adar II). R’ Zonenfeld, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem in the latter part of his life, related an extraordinary episode that took place in his younger years when he was a talmid of the Baal Ksav Sofer in Pressburg.
The wife of a prominent well-to-do man in Pressburg had for years taken upon herself the mitzvah of “buying” Kaddish for the merit of departed souls who had no one to say it for them. She would make generous donations to the Pressburg Yeshiva towards her lofty objective, to have an orphaned bochur recite this Mourner’s Kaddish.
When her husband unexpectedly passed away, his poor widow, left with two daughters of marriageable age, gradually found herself destitute. Though she graciously accepted her fate as the will of G-d, she despaired for the souls she had sustained through her charitable donations.
With a heavy heart, the widow paid a visit to the head of the yeshiva to implore him to continue the chesed shel emes that had been such a vital part of her existence for so long, assuring him that she would resume her monetary support of the yeshiva as soon as Hashem in His goodness would grant her the means.
On her way home she encountered an elderly man who inquired about her welfare and initiated a discussion about her financial state. The widow soon found herself confiding her woes, and the gentleman asked her how much she would need to see her two daughters comfortably married off. He then produced a bank draft made out in the amount she had given him and asked her to find two people to witness him signing the check. The stunned woman reentered the yeshiva she had just left and promptly returned with two young talmidim in tow.