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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Megillas Esther’

Why Do We Read The Megillah?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

On Purim we read Megillas Esther twice, once by night and once by day. It is uncertain what the nature of the obligation is. Did the rabbanan obligate us to read the megillah as a part of Kesuvim, similar to the obligation of reading the other megillos (such as Eichah and Shir HaShirim) and similar to the reading of the Torah? Or is the obligation to read only for the purpose of publicizing the miracle (pirsumei nisa)?

It says in Maseches Sofrim 14:3 that prior to reading Megillos Rus, Eichah, Shir HaShirim and Esther one must recite the berachah of “…al mikra megillah.” The fact that the Mesechta Sofrim combined all of the megillos into one halacha implies that the obligation to read each of them is the same – namely to read Kesuvim.

The Yerushalmi in Megillah 3:4 says that the reason we are not allowed to read Megillas Esther on Shabbos (when Purim falls out on Shabbos) is because it is forbidden to read Kesuvim on Shabbos. If the obligation to read Megillas Esther were merely for the mitzvah of publicizing the miracle, it would not be considered as if we are reading Kesuvim – and would therefore be permitted on Shabbos. The fact that the Yerushalmi prohibits the reading of Megillas Esther on Purim, when it falls out on Shabbos, clearly indicates that the obligation is to read Kesuvim.

Based on this, the Sefer Harirai Kedem suggests that we can answer the following question: The Gemara in Shabbos 23a and Sukkah 46a ask how we can say “vetzivanu – and He [Hashem] commanded us” in the berachah that we recite on lighting the menorah on Chanukah, for it is only a mitzvah mi’derabbanan. The Gemara answers that if one does not adhere to the command of the rabbanan, it is a transgression of the pasuk in the Torah of “lo sasur.” Therefore one can say that the Torah commanded him to perform this mitzvah. The question is raised: Why does the Gemara not have the same discussion regarding the mitzvah of reading Megillas Esther, which is also a mitzvah mi’derabbanan – but at which time vetzivanu is recited?

If we understand that the berachah of “…vetzivanu al mikra megillah” is a berachah that one recites when reading any megillah that is part of Kesuvim and not for the mitzvah, we can understand why the Gemara does not inquire as to how we can say vetzivanu prior to reading Megillas Esther. Since the berachah is recited even when there is no obligation to read it, the Gemara understood that the berachah is not recited because the rabbanan commanded us to read it, but rather because reading a megillah requires that this berachah be recited.

The Brisker Rav asked the following question: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 690:3) rules, based on the Gemara in Megillah 18b, that one must read the entire megillah while looking inside the megillah. If the sofer skipped several words (up to half the megillah) the reader may recite those words by heart. (The Ramah says that this only applies if an entire inyan (topic) was not skipped. Reb Moshe Soloveitchik said that today we are not certain what an entire inyan is, and therefore we cannot rely on this halacha.) Reading Kesuvim must be read while directly looking at the words – just like krias HaTorah. How then can the obligation to read the megillah be to read Kesuvim, if one can read the megillah by heart? Rather, from this halacha, it seems that the obligation is to publicize the miracle.

The Sefer Harirai Kedem explains that the reason one may read part of the megillah by heart is because we apply the rule of rubo kekulo – the majority is considered as if it is the whole megillah. Since the majority of the megillah is written, when one reads the remaining part by heart it is considered as if he read the entire megillah directly from the megillah. The reason we do not apply this rule to krias HaTorah is because the rule can only be applied when the subject matter is a complete item but lacking a part of it. However, if the matter of discussion is not a complete item, even when it is in its entirety, we cannot apply the rule. As Megillas Esther is a complete item, we can apply the rule. But when one must read a certain amount of p’sukim in the Torah, those p’sukim do not combine to create a complete entity on their own. Rather they are only a part of the complete Torah, and therefore the rule is not applied.

If, though, there was a halacha to read the entire Torah at once, we would apply the rule and it would suffice to only read the majority directly from the Torah. Similarly we do not apply the rule when one must eat a specific amount of matzah (a k’zayis) and say that it suffices to eat the majority of the matzah since a k’zayis is not a complete item but rather an amount. As a result, we can suggest that the obligation to read the megillah is to read Kesuvim.

Why Purim Is Forever

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

“The holiday of Purim will never be abolished. Even at the end of days when all commemorations of our travails will not apply, the Book of Esther will be like the Five Books of Moses and last for all eternity.” (Rambam, Laws of Megillah, 2:18).

Why is Purim eternal?

I would suggest that Purim is the prototype of the End of Exile, and as such will remain forever linked to the Era of Mashiach that will occur after the Final Redemption. Therefore, Purim will be part of that entire period at the culmination of history.

And the fact is, we are living it – the events of Purim are the events of today. Purim is different from any other Redemption. Achashveirosh’s domain encompassed the world (Megillah 11b). There was apparently no escape for the Jews; every place was ruled by our enemies.

Today it is the same. Just as the Jews in Shushan haBira were completely surrounded, so are we, wherever we may be. Throughout history we have faced countless dangers, but there was always a place to run. Even during the twentieth century’s world wars, there were places where Jews were safe. It may not have been possible for every Jew to reach those places, but Jews there were safe.

Today, whether we like it or not, there is no place to run.

“In the final war of which the prophets spoke, all of the nations of the world will simultaneously rise up against us. It will be clear to all that there is no possibility of our survival by any natural means” (Redemption Unfolding by Rabbi A. A. Mandelbaum).

The events of Purim resemble the final days of the present Exile. Rabbi Moshe Shapira explains: “Haman received authorization from a king who ruled over the entire world…. Therefore the Jews had no possibility of fighting against Haman. They could not expect any place of refuge, since the entire world was against them” (Redemption Unfolding).

Since this scenario prevails now, Purim offers us direction. To be brutally frank, we should understand that unless we adopt the protective measures shown to us in the days of Mordechai and Esther, our lives are in danger.

Recently Rav Moshe Wolfson, revered mashgiach of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and rav of Emunas Yisroel in Boro Park, spoke about the current situation. “The leader in Iran says clearly…that he wants to kill, rachmana litzlan, every Yid in the world, just like Haman. If he will be successful, chas v’shalom, in getting the nuclear bomb – and experts say he will have it by the summer – it will be a great danger for Klal Yisrael.”

Rav Wolfson quoted the Midrash that says, “the year when Mashiach will come, all nations will battle each other,” and he asked, “Why are we quiet? Where is the awakening? Why is everyone so apathetic?…. We have to pierce the heavens for rachamim from the Ribbono shel Olam.”

He added that we need not panic.

Indeed, it is clear from Megillas Esther that we do not have to panic – but only if we understand the serious nature of the situation.

Queen Esther said, “Go, assemble all the Jews…in Shushan, and fast for me” (Megillas Esther 4:16).

They did assemble. They did fast.

If we are sufficiently frightened, we will also “assemble” and “fast.” We can bring about the Final Redemption if – but only if – we too follow Queen Esther’s advice.

If we believed that in “the year when Mashiach will come, all nations will battle each other,” wouldn’t we be acting differently? Wouldn’t we be desperately seeking to unite? Wouldn’t we pray and learn with lifesaving intensity?

“The rabbis taught in a beraisa, the early chassidim would tarry for one hour [before praying], pray for one hour and again tarry for one hour after completing [their prayer]” (Berachos 32b).

If we rush out after davening, if we start shmoozing and acting “normal” as soon as we finish “Aleinu,” then something is wrong. It means we have already forgotten those tefillos. It means we are not shaking from the realization that we have been standing before the Ribbono shel Olam and screaming for our lives.

Is davening the reality or is “after davening” the reality?

Purim is upon us. We have the opportunity to enter a world of eternal simcha. But in order to enter that world, we have to take our present world seriously. We are in terrible danger. Our entire way of life is threatened. But we have a way out, and it is all spelled out for us in the megillah.

May this be the year we not only say but experience – as our ancestors experienced in the days of Mordechai and Esther – the declaration that “the Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor.”

More Reader Reaction: Don’t Dismiss A Survivor’s Prophetic Words

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

I had planned to respond this week to the letter from the UCLA student (which appeared in the March 11 issue in response to a letter the week before from an elderly Holocaust survivor), but so many e-mails have reached my desk that I decided to devote yet one more column to reader reaction.

The subject of assimilation and Jewish self-hate that is so prevalent nowadays among many young people has touched a sensitive chord, especially in the older generation that still has vivid recollections of the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.

I ask our many readers to please understand that while I greatly appreciate their taking the time to write and share their thoughts, and while I find their letters worthy and deserving of publication, I cannot possibly publish them all. The following letter also responds to the concerns raised by the Holocaust survivor – but from a far different perspective than that of the UCLA student. It speaks for itself and requires no further elucidation. B’ezrat Hashem, in my next column I will share my own views.

Dearest Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I was inspired to comment on the letter you published in the March 4 issue of The Jewish Press from a rapidly expiring breed of Jew – a Holocaust survivor – because her words, or I should say her poignant plea, struck a chord in me due to my age (60), my family’s history in the Shoah, and my having a 22-month-old grandson and a daughter who, b”h, is engaged to be married.

The Holocaust survivor wrote, “Ours is a youth culture, and people have no respect for the elderly. When I speak, my children and grandchildren listen respectfully – but they dismiss my words and attribute everything that I say to my Holocaust experience and my ago . I follow the news regularly and, frankly, am terrified by what I read, see, and hear. I see pre-Holocaust Europe being repeated all over again and no one is paying attention. And now that Eretz Yisrael is being surrounded on all sides by Muslim terrorists who openly proclaim that their main agenda is to, heaven forbid, annihilate our people, I am overwhelmed with fear. It doesn’t leave me for a second! I am not afraid for myself – I am already eighty-five – but I fear for my children and grandchildren and for all our Jewish people.”

This unknown woman eloquently put forth the quintessential message of Parshas Zachor and Purim. Unfortunately (and maybe rightfully so), she views many of us – Jews in America and around the world who are younger than she and did not see, feel and hear what she and you did – as those described in the Hallel prayer: “They have a mouth, but cannot speak. They have eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear . O’ Israel trust in Hashem; their help and their shield is He!”

Her words, though simple, have a powerful message that cuts to the heart of the meaning of the word zachor in the Torah, and I agree with her that it is time to heed it because as I see it, whether we believe her or not, they are prophetic. So let’s not dismiss her as an old fool – as revisionists no doubt would – but as a woman who speaks with a Ruach HaKodesh that comes out of the flames of Auschwitz, one of the dwindling number of such voices that will, within a matter of years, be lost to us forever.

As we know, Megillas Esther does not mention G-d’s name even once. Why is this? Because all of G-d’s actions surrounding the events of Purim were hidden, and though there were vivid hints, only Mordechai and Esther saw and acted on them. This woman who wrote you that letter is a modern-day Esther.

Look around – we too have vivid hints of impending tragedy, so why are we not seeing them – the fractions among Jews; the unrest and terrorist bombings in Eretz Yisrael; and the spreading political upheaval in the Middle East and the rest of the Arab world that may yet lead to a united and strong Islamic kingdom.

Then look at the significant rise in global anti-Semitism, especially in Europe, not coincidentally sparked by poor economic conditions and an underlying hatred of Jews and apathy for our enemies – just like in the days preceding the Shoah.

If an 85-year-old woman is able to see all this, why can’t we?

My purpose in writing, however, is not to identify the problem but to reiterate a timeworn but often pushed-aside solution, which in this case is quite simple yet for whatever reason quite hard to put into practice, especially among our youth, both learned and unlearned.

Mordechai and Esther saw the signs and sparked a return to tefillah and teshuvah. It was this combination that succeeded in toppling Haman the Amalekite and neutralizing King Achashveirosh.

And how do we neutralize our enemies in our day? We must understand that we will not succeed without Hashem’s intercession. Our salvation can be found in increased and improved tefillah, and better midos from ourselves and our children at all ages.

And while we must support Israel, in hard economic times we should look at what has worked in the past and will work in the future and first support our own makom tefillah and local yeshiva where we pray and where the next generation of Jews is being educated. We must also do a lot of kiruv rechokim, bringing lost souls back into the fold. And I think we also need to work on kiruv kerovim, bringing the frum world back to basics; as observant Jews we should no longer take our middos and our rushed prayers for granted.

Think Amalek

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Someone asked me what we should have in mind on Purim.

I would answer with one word: Amalek.

You want simcha?

You want geulah?

Think Amalek!

Chazal stipulated that we read Parshas Amalek directly before Purim. Why? Because without understanding the threat there is no liberation.

Without understanding the reality of Amalek there is no reality in Purim.

“Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt, that he happened upon you on the way and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear God. It shall be that when Hashem, your God, gives you rest from all your enemies all around, in the Land that Hashem, your God, gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven – you shall not forget.” (Devarim 25:17-19)

Imagine the scenario. We have just been liberated from Egypt. God is guiding us through the desert. Our enemies seem to have vanished under the Red Sea. We have nothing to worry about. We can take it easy now.

BOOM!

Out of nowhere comes the worst threat of all. The nation that “did not fear God,” whose entire existence is focused onhatred of us, whose jealousy of the Children of Israel is a consuming passion, suddenly appears with murderous malice and threatens us with complete annihilation, God forbid. Just when we thought everything was perfect.

Twice a day, at least, we say the following words:

“And it will come to pass that if you continually hearken to My commandments that I will provide rain for your land that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied .”(Shema/Devarim 11)

Beautiful. Perfect. We are satisfied and well fed in our beautiful land.

What comes next?

“Beware lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you and you will swiftly be banished from the goodly land that Hashem gives you.”

What happened? We were so secure. Why were we suddenly banished?

Leaving Egypt is not enough. Sitting complacently in our land is not enough. “Not by bread alone does man live” (Devarim 8:3).

When we walk the road of life complacently, that is when Amalek strikes. And he is deadly.

Like everything else in our holy Torah, Purim has direct meaning this very day, this moment. “Ma’ase avos siman l’banim – what happened to our fathers is a sign for the children.”

Look around. The world is in flames. Israel is surrounded. We are all surrounded.

And what are we doing? We are sitting at the table of Achashveirosh, eating and drinking.

We are satisfied. All is good. The banquet is glatt kosher!

This is the most dangerous moment, right now. The moment when we believe we are secure. We live in a bounteous land, a land that has treated us well. We are free citizens, able to pursue any path we desire. We are comfortable.

But the footsteps of Amalek can be heard.

How did Moshe Rabbeinu battle Amalek? It sounds unbelievable:

“Moshe, Aharon and Hur ascended to the top of the hill. It happened that when Moshe raised his hand Israel was stronger, and when he lowered his hand Amalek was stronger. Moshe’s hands grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it, and Aharon and Hur supported his hands, one on this side and one on that side, and he remained with his hands in faithful prayer until sunset.” (Shemos 17:10-12)

How can this be? Moshe Rabbeinu defeated Amalek by raising his hands? Come on! We are trying to deal with reality here.

But this is reality. This is our only way out.

Beware the banquet. It’s a trick.

Do you think we are secure? Do you think we can “eat and be satisfied”? The time has not yet come. We will be secure only when we raise our hands and understand that our security comes from the One Above. We must pray with all our heart and soul. And if our hands are “heavy,” we must help each other. We must hold our friend’s hands up in the air and help him pray, help him learn Torah. And he in turn will help us.

Purim And The Blessing Of Unity

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Klal Yisrael. All of Israel.
One people. One community.
One.

Recent news accounts told of several hundred passengers – Orthodox yeshiva students, tourists, secular college-aged Jews on Birthright – scheduled to fly to Israel who found themselves stranded at JFK by the terrible blizzard that struck the northeast at the end of 2010.

As one report put it, “Several rabbis traveling with the group sprang into action, working their connections with the local Orthodox communities to get help. In an amazing act of chesed and a deeply rooted sense of Klal Yisrael, the Five Towns local Orthodox community worked to bring meals to the airport and provide temporary housing to the young passengers who didn’t want to wait at the airport. Advertisement

“Despite continuing blizzard conditions and snow drifting to heights of four feet or more, they shuttled food to the nearby airport and transformed what could have been a completely abysmal experience into an uplifting one. In a day and age where we often hear about the divisions within the Jewish community it is always nice to see that, despite our differences, Jews are always willing to help each other out in a jam.”

If only it were always so!

There is no greater blessing for Jews than unity, and no greater curse than discord, strife and machlokes. And yet, despite the clear blessing of unity, we seem so often to be defined by our divisions rather than our common purpose and community. There is hardly a corner among Jews where acrimony, negativism, and hatred don’t reign supreme; barely a place where we don’t hear Jews defaming others’ spiritual leaders, opinions, and writings. Such factionalism and feuding can lead only to disaster.

True happiness for Jews is only possible when there is unity. Absent unity, we will always be diminished by festering anger, angst, and anxiety. We know we should constantly re-dedicate ourselves to our sacred, nobler natures, yet we too often fall victim to our baser inclinations. As a result, pettiness, jealousy, misunderstanding and disrespect define our dealings with our fellows.

How timely, then, that Purim is before us. How good it is that the ultimate purpose and focus of this, the happiest of Jewish holidays, and of its central source, Megillas Esther, is to create and reinforce unity and harmony among Jews. How good it is that Purim teaches me to embrace the community I share not only with those I consider friends but also with those far distant who come “stretching out their hand” asking for my understanding and generosity.

For on Purim we must reach out to one another. If only for this one marvelous day, we must get beyond our stubborn refusal to acknowledge others who are “not like us.” If only for this one day, we must reach out to anyone and everyone in the Jewish community.

On Purim, we give gifts. The mitzvah of mishloach manos – that each person give a friend two varieties of food as a present – is based on the pasuk “U’mishloach manot ish l’reiyhu.” Many commentaries observe that this custom comes to us in direct remembrance of the unity that defined the Jewish people in Shushan, when disaster was looming darkly on the horizon.

Then, in response to Esther’s call, we gathered as one in prayer and fasting. Every Jew and his fellow. Together. Our unity of need, purpose and practice was surely the key factor in reversing Haman’s cruel decree. Our unity implicitly and explicitly disproved Haman’s argument that “there is a certain people scattered and dispersed (mefuzar u’meforad) among the peoples.”

The p’shat of Haman’s argument is the accusation that the nation of Israel “stands opposed and apart,” refusing to assimilate among the nations of the world. It is something we continue to hear even today. But in the heavenly courts, “scatteredand dispersed” had a deeper meaning. It was an allusion to machlokes – the disunity that was pervasive among Jews at the time. To dispel evil decrees against our nation, the heavenly courts expect us to live in harmony with ish l’reiyhu.

What greater expression of harmony between ish l’reiyhu than the breaking of bread? Isn’t this what happened at JFK that snowy night? Isn’t this how we show our true willingness to reach out to another Jew? Which makes the mitzvah of mishloach manot all the more powerful.

Let’s Not Give Haman The Last Laugh

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Purim is the “topsy-turvy” day of the Jewish calendar – the day of v’nahafoch hu. Boys and girls wear costumes, and we expect children to make noise in shul. It is a festive and happy day. But Purim may also be the day a Jewish boy or girl takes his or her first drink and the first step toward alcohol abuse.

For generations, American Orthodox Jewry denied the existence of aberrant behavior in its midst. The shikkor was “not one of us” – it was someone belonging to another ethnic group.

The old men in shul would enjoy a shot of Canadian Club, kichel and herring after davening. They would think it was funny to tell a child to try a small amount of liquor in a schnapps cup and watch as the kid spit out the drink in disgust. By and large families’ liquor cabinets contained the same unfinished liquor bottles from one simcha to the next. Teen drinking consisted of boys having some beer at a shalom zachar.

Then times changed.

Today Orthodox teens and young adults drink. Even otherwise staid young men and women with excellent reputations develop drinking problems. Alcoholism does not differentiate between shtiebel and Young Israel, Bais Yaakov/cheder or day school.

Sometimes a shul’s Kiddush Club may be the cause of that first drink. Despite the efforts of rabbis and ba’alei batim to eradicate these clubs, many still exist. And in shuls where they do not exist, a regular Kiddush or a Purim still serve as an easy source for that first drink.

I remember when Purim was the excuse for ordinarily sober people to over-imbibe. Each year on Purim, in my grandparents’ building, one or two inebriated chassidim would ride an elevator floor to floor wishing everyone they met “simchas Purim.”

When I attended mesivta, one or two talmidim got drunk each Purim; usually they became so ill there was never a repeat performance. Today, some yeshivas no longer have a Purim chagiga and some have had to hire security to prevent drinking – especially underage drinking. At Shabbatonim, where there is responsible supervision, teens still drink. Unless each suitcase is inspected, no Shabbaton is safe.

Parents must supervise their children when liquor is served at a simcha. Yeshivos should not serve liquor on Purim or Simchas Torah.

Parents must also set proper examples for their children. While “ein simcha elah b’basar v’yayin, (there is no simcha absent meat and wine), I don’t believe there is a source requiring a person to get drunk and sample every brand of single malt scotch at a Kiddush.

The very nature of Kiddush is to make the day holy. Drunkenness, even on Purim, when sleep can fulfill the obligation to be unable to differentiate between Haman and Mordechai, does nothing to sanctify the day.

At weddings, a person is likely to see young men and women with several ounces of Scotch in a glass. They may not have a designated driver for travel after the simcha, even if they have children waiting for them at home.

When my wife and I planned our children’s weddings, our mechutanim agreed with usto limit the liquor. We placed a bottle of wine at each table. The video shows no lack of simcha. None of my guests even asked why we did not have an open bar during the entirety of our simchos.

In response to this problem, some shuls have shut down their Kiddush Clubs, restricted access to liquor at shul events – and even outlawed liquor altogether on their premises. Parents must take responsibility as well. They need to be responsible drinkers themselves. They also need to discuss drinking with their children before they permit them to attend a Shabbaton or a simcha. Before Purim every parent is obliged to take steps to ensure that his or her child will spend the chag in a safe environment.

Parents must become aware of the dangers that lurk behind what passes for convivial, social drinking. Too many l’chaims can turn dangerous.

Megillas Esther begins with the participation of the Jews at the all-you-can drink party of Achashveirosh. As a result of that party, Haman came to power. Haman’s decree affected people of all ages. It took v’nahafoch hu to save them. Teen drinking on Purim can only commemorate the party that caused all the problems to begin with.

A Taxi Driver, A Flaming Sword, And Purim’s Redemption

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

“Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha” – with the coming of Adar simcha increases.

What is the biggest simcha? When God saves us.

There is an endless list of problems in this world. Every problem has a solution, but when the list gets too long, the solution seems beyond us. How can we cope with it all?

Saving the Jews in the days of Mordechai and Esther was beyond human capability. The Children of Israel were powerless in a vast empire that encircled the globe, at the head of which stood a monomaniac whose consuming desire was to “destroy, to slay and to exterminate all the Jews, from young to old, children and women, in one day and to plunder their possessions.” (Megillas Esther 3:13)

How did the Children of Israel react? Did they appeal to the UN? Did they petition Congress? What did they do?

“Esther … said to Mordechai: ‘Go, assemble all the Jews that are to be found in Shushan and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day, and I, with my maids, will fast also. Thus, I will come to the king and, if I perish, I perish.” (Megillas Esther 4:15-16)

Do you hear this?

“If I perish, I perish.”

This is courage. This is greatness. Esther put the survival of her people before her own survival.

I am writing these words from Yerushalayim. They say war is brewing in the north. On the streets the children of Ishmael walk unafraid. In Iran a wild man postures and gestures, and the world cringes. Turkey, once Israel’s friend, fires off diatribes of scorn and ridicule.

Who in the vast world is our friend? Who will stand up for us? And, if one does, is he strong enough to confront the rest of the world, which is bent on our destruction, God forbid?

I will tell you who can stand up for us: it could be the smallest, weakest man.

King David was relatively small in stature, but he defeated Goliath because he spoke in the Name of God.

Queen Esther entered the palace of Achashveirosh alone, and she was alone when she came before him and Haman to save her people. One woman defeated the entire evil machinery poised to destroy all the Jews. How? Because she spoke in the Name of God.

There is a taxi driver in Yerushalayim who late one night drove us home from a simcha. At every red light, he would turn on the overhead lamp and look down. What was he doing? Peering over his shoulder, I realized he had a sefer in his lap and was learning Torah at every stop. When we got out, I expressed my admiration, and he looked at me. “Ein bereirah” (there is no choice), he said. He has learned by heart entire sections of Torah while stopped at red lights.

This man is a mighty warrior of God. He may be unknown in this world, but in the World of Truth he is a giant in stature. He carries a flaming sword. He is personally standing in the way of empires bent on destroying the Children of Israel. This unknown taxi driver in the Holy City of Yerushalayim is holding the entire world together.

What is wrong with us? Are we living in a fantasy? Don’t we understand our lives are at stake? Are we greeting each other with love? Do we say “Shalom aleichem“? When someone says “Shalom aleichem” to us, do we answer? Do we daven for each other?

When Esther risked her life, God turned a supposedly impossible situation around. The weak were victorious and the strong were vanquished. Because in the eyes of Hashem it makes absolutely no difference who is weak and who is strong.

On the day we act like loving friends and family, the day we are willing to risk our lives for our brothers and sisters, the day we take seriously Hashem’s total control of the world, the day we understand that there “is no choice” other than to dedicate ourselves completely to Torah and service of Hashem, the Jews will once again have “light and gladness and joy and honor.” (Megillas Esther 8:16)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-taxi-driver-a-flaming-sword-and-purims-redemption/2010/02/24/

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