Amazingly, Purim is already upon us. What lesson can we take from this special day for the rest of the year?
On the words “HaMelech v’Haman yoshvu lishtos – the king and Haman sat down to drink [to celebrate their agreement to annihilate the Jews],” the Medrash states that the threat against the Jews was a direct result of the brothers of Yosef eating a meal after they sold him. As the Torah testifies, “Vayeishvu lechol lechem – They sat down to eat bread.”
One of the central themes of Purim is that sinas ha’achim – hatred amongst Jewish brethren – leads to dangerous anti-Semitism.
I would like to share with you a fascinating story that happened approximately 1,000 years ago. At the time lived a very wealthy Jew who had the exalted privilege of possessing a Sefer Torah written by the great Ezra HaSofer. This wealthy man passed away, leaving two sons and no instructions about who should inherit the holy Torah scroll.
There ensued a great quarrel with each son ready to give up much of his monetary inheritance in order to inherit this rarified Torah. Finally, the question came before the Torah authorities, who decided that a lot should be cast to determine which son should receive it. They followed through and thus the sefer Torah passed into one of the son’s hands.
At that time, a sinful Jew lived in town who couldn’t understand what he thought to be the sheer stupidity of the son who gave up so much wealth for a mere Torah. To teach him a lesson, he snuck into the shul that housed the Sefer Torah and secretly caused a blemish in it.
He opened up the Torah to the verse, “Va’avaditem es Hashem Elokeichem u’veirach es lachmecha – You should serve Hashem your G-d and He will bless your bread (livelihood),” and changed the letter “ayin” in the word “va’avaditem” to an “aleph,” causing it to blasphemously read, “You should destroy Hashem, your G-d.”
Weeks later, when reading this verse in Kerias HaTorah, the people of the town discovered the misspelled word. It caused a great uproar for, although the mistake could be corrected, it seemed to prove – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that this Sefer Torah couldn’t have been written by Ezra HaSofer for there was no way this saintly sage would have made such a mistake.
This discovery caused the son – who gave up much of his inheritance for this Torah – to become physically ill. One night, his father visited him in a dream and told him what had really happened – that a wicked Jew had come in the middle of the night and defaced the Sefer Torah. He told him as proof that under a certain table in the shul he would find the scraped off “ayin.” He then told him not to correct the Sefer Torah as Ezra himself would correct it. And he did.
While this story is quite remarkable, we must wonder: Why did Hashem allow Ezra’s holy Sefer Torah to be defaced in the first place? We know that Hashem provides special protection to items of great holiness. Why did Hashem therefore allow a wicked Jew to wreak such havoc on such a davar she’b’kedushah?
Perhaps the answer lies in the behavior of the brothers upon their father’s passing. They fought, each one wanting to possess the rarified treasure. We can be sure that each one did so with religious zeal, thinking that he was thereby serving Hashem by being ready to sacrifice great wealth to posses this cherished Torah. But what transpired? The “ayin” of “Va’avaditem es Hashem Elokeichem” was changed to an “aleph.” The very act which they thought was an act of serving Hashem in reality caused Hashem to perish from within their midst.
There is no greater way to chase Hashem from somewhere than to engage in machlokes. As we all know, “Ish v’isha shalom beineihem, Shechina shruya beineihem – The Divine Presence is with a husband and wife if there is peace between them.” Fights between them, however, chase the Shechinah away.
Even under the guise of serving Hashem, one shouldn’t fall prey to the great evil of machlokes. Stay away from being snared into shul politics – or bungalow politics or school politics – with the excuse that you’re doing it l’sheim Shamayim. There is almost no machlokes in these areas that’s condoned by Heaven.