Thursday, February 21, 2013

Purim Torah Thoughts

Balance is key: (My own observation -) On Yom Kippur it is a mitzah to fast, yet this is preceded by a day on which it is a mitzvah to feast. On Purim it is a mitzvah to feast, yet this is preceded by a day on which it is a mitzvah to fast. Lesson - we don't serve G-d only by pulling away from the physical or by diving into it but by balancing the two. Thus, Yom Kippur's separation from the physical is balanced by a mitzvah to eat the entire day before. This is one reason why Yom Kippur is called Yom KePurim - a day "like" Purim, but not quite as holy. Purim's embrace of the physical in order to sanctify it is balanced by pulling back the day before.

Another theme of Purim that touches me - divine providence in daily life. Anyone who's good at math or TaNach may know the exact answer, but I'll just say that the Megilah story from start to finish took a lot of years (I've heard 13). If we each sat down and wrote about our lives over a large chunk of years and watched our trajectory from point A to point Z the result would be our own Megilat Esther, our own "Small Miracle" story. Rav Chaim Schmuelewitz says that this is the meaning behind the opinion that did not want Megilat Esther to be canonized (metamei yadayim). By labeling this miracle story, that includes G-d's name only between the lines, as holy a big risk is taken. People might miss the message that all of our lives are slow cooker miracle stories!

Another Purim thought: The last chapter of the megilah reads like a daily paper. There are taxes levied; hat's the top headline, then there's a summation and that's it. What's the message? Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky suggests that this news item feel of the short end piece of Esther serves to remind us to find G-d in seemingly banal events. Although this is often heralded as the theme of the whole megillah one can hardly escape the fact that it is a book that tells a miraculous tale and is read on an annual holiday. This chapter serves as a reminder that we need to see G-d's hand in the daily news. Though it is the message of the whole book the postscript locks in the point that we need to see G-d as our history is being written.


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