Jewish survival and happiness are hallmarks of Purim, and achdus is key to both. Like everything else, though, achdus starts at home. We must always be acutely aware of the insidious yeitzer harah of “familiarity breeds contempt” and be ever mindful of the obligation to show the greatest friendship and warmth to our life-mate.
At Har Sinai, Moshe, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu, and the Elders saw an unusual vision of Hashem’s footstool, “v’sachas raglav k’maasei livnas hasapir – and beneath His feet was like the makings of sapphire brick.” The Medrash explains:
A Jewish man was struggling under backbreaking labor in Egypt. His loving wife, who was pregnant (probably with sextuplets), saw her husband’s suffering and went to assist him. As she picked up a heavy stone, she miscarried, and her fetus fell into the soft cement of a brick. Hashem took this brick and used it as His footstool to “remember” Klal Yisrael’s suffering constantly.
One wonders, though, why Hashem chose this specific brick. Anytime a Jew fell short of his daily brick quota, the Egyptians took a Jewish baby and stuffed him into a wall of Pitom and Ramses. Tragically, many Jewish babies were buried in this manner. Why did Hashem select this specific brick then and not any of the other bricks with Jewish babies?
I believe He chose it because, not only did it symbolize Jewish suffering, it also reminded Him of the love and self-sacrifice of a Jewish wife for her husband.
Spousal devotion – even when times get tough – is actually a trademark of the Jewish people. Unfortunately, though, it’s not the norm in the environment in which we live. We live in a land of “What have you done for me lately?” and “What’s in it for me?” We also live at a time of economic pressures (especially in the tri-state area) amidst a frantic pace of life.
We must therefore constantly remind ourselves that it’s the Jewish way to stand by the side of a mate through thick and thin. The Meam Loez writes on this week’s parshah that one can actually tell the quality of a wife by how she treats her husband when he loses his job.
While we’re on the subject of spousal relationships, let me share with you another vital lesson. The Torah teaches us that if a person, G-d forbid, hits his father or mother and causes a wound, he is executed by chenek (strangulation). But if a person curses his parent, G-d forbid, he is executed by sekilah (stoning), which is a harsher form of death.
This halacha, though, is mystifying. Why should a person who curses his parent be more severely punished than a person who hits his parent?
Perhaps the Torah wishes to teach us that a verbal wound can sometimes hurt even more than a physical wound. While, of course, physical violence is abhorrent – after all, Moshe Rabbeinu called a Jew a “rasha” for merely raising a hand towards his fellow – the Torah wishes to teach us that verbal wounds are very serious matters, indeed.
The Torah does not agree that “sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.” Shlomo HaMelech says in Mishlei, “Yeish boteh k’madkores chorev – There are those who speak and their words are like the stabbing of knives.”
As we embark on the season of Pesach preparations, we must continue to embrace the spirit of Purim and attempt to keep it in our homes, mindful of how Shlomo HaMelech finishes this verse: “u’lashon chachomim marpeh – and the tongue of the wise heals.” Whether it’s a spouse undergoing a middle-age crisis, feeling lonely, or experiencing melancholy and depression, the words of a smart husband or wife – expressed with love, affection, and warmth – can bring healing and mental buoyancy into the home.
May Hashem bless us with a healthy and safe spring.