Thursday, February 22, 2018


PURIM 5778

   Rav Meir Goldwicht shlita related the following personal story:
“In 1967, I was a young elementary school, student. My father was one of the tzanchanim (paratroopers) who were present when the Kosel was liberated. The afternoon after it was recaptured, he was one of those who davened the first mincha at Kever Rochel, and then maariv at Me’aras Hamachpeilah.
“I didn’t see my father for 6 weeks after the war ended. When he finally came home for half a day, I stayed home from school, to spend the day with him. That day we went to Bayit Vegan, above Har Herzl. At the time, there was a huge open field in front of Bayit Vegan. As we approached the field I saw that there was a tremendous number of boxes scattered throughout the field. I asked my father "מה עם הקופסאות?". He replied that they weren’t boxes, but coffins. The country assumed that there would be 10,000 casualties during the war, and they would need to bury the dead very quickly while the war was still being fought. Just prior to the war, they scattered coffins around the open field, so they could bury people quickly there.
“A few months later, before Succos, the Mayor of Yerushalayim announced that people shouldn’t buy wood for their succos that year. The city was donating the wood.
“Hashem’s message to us was - don’t make coffins; use that wood to make succos!
“That is the essence of the celebration of Purim. Instead of coffins we created place for the shechina!”

When reading Megillas Esther on Purim, there is an accepted custom that at four points during the reading, the Ba’al Korei (reader) pauses to allow the congregation to recite the subsuquent verse, before he repeats it. The Rema writes that the four points are prior to the reading of four specific “pesukim of geulah - verses of redemption”.[2]
It is intriguing that all four pesukim are about Mordechai.[3] If the point of reading these four pesukim aloud is because they are ‘pesukim of geulah’, it seems that there are other pesukim more directly connected to redemption. Why are these considered the ‘pesukim of geulah”?
There is a fundamental idea regarding all relationships: When one fulfills his obligations, and does what’s expected, that does not convey love. Love is expressed in the sentiments beyond the expected norms. When a chosson gives his kallah a diamond ring, that is not a true expression of love, because it’s anticipated. It’s when he does the unexpected that he professes his love and devotion.
The Tsemach Dovid[4] explains that when the miracles of Mitzrayim, including the plagues, occurred, Klal Yisroel was unsure if they were really performed out of love for them. Perhaps they were really meant to be a source of punishment for the Egyptians, and the Jews happened to be the beneficiaries. Even when the nation received the wealth of Egypt, prior to their leaving, they were instructed to take it “so that that Tzaddik (Avrohom) won’t have a complaint.”[5]  
It was for that reason that when they were trapped at the sea, with their enemies in pursuit behind them and the sea before them, that they panicked. Even though they had been privy to so many miracles, they were unsure if they were worthy of personal salvation. Perhaps the Egyptians had been sufficiently punished, and now they would not be saved.  
Kerias Yam Suf however, was a clear revelation of Hashem’s love for Klal Yisroel. The Egyptians were destroyed when the sea reverted to its natural flow – "לאיתנו". That meant that the splitting of the sea and all the miracles that transpired there, were solely performed as a display of love for Klal Yisroel.
During shachris each morning, after we mention Yetzias Mitzrayim at the end of Shema, the main focus of our tefillos (in the paragraph beginning “Ezras Avoseinu”) is about Kerias Yam Suf. There we are referred to as ‘yedidim- beloved friends’, because it was there that we recognized the love and bond that Hashem feels with us. Because Kerias Yam Suf was where we recognized Hashem’s love for us, that it is our main source of pride.

Based on this idea, we can offer the following explanation about the four pesukim of redemption:
During the Purim story, the salvation was incredible. But what really displayed Hashem’s love for us, was that we were not only saved, but we also felt an infusion of confidence and pride. That resurgence of Jewish pride was the result of Mordechai’s political ascent. The fact is that the Purim story could have happened without the parade, and without Mordechai donning in royal clothing, and being promoted to viceroy. But those events were the ultimate display of Hashem’s love for us.
[Perhaps that is the deeper meaning of geulah (redemption). Yeshuah means salvation, when the immediate danger is thwarted, and those in danger are safe. But geulah connotes not merely being saved, but also a restoration of pride and dignity, which results from the manner in which the salvation occurs. 
That is why “V’ga’alti[6], according to Seforno, was achieved at Kerias Yam Suf. That is also why these four pesukim in the Megillah, which discuss the honor accorded to Mordechai, are deemed the pesukim of geulah. Geulah connotes an expression of love which results from a complete transformation, from victim to leader. The first pasuk[7] is a backdrop to Mordechai. It helps to develop the uncanny rise of Mordechai throughout the megillah – from an exiled sage to a glorified and redeemed Torah leader.]
Purim is a celebration not only of the salvation Hashem wrought for us, but also of our pride in who we are as the Chosen People. Through the miracles and incredible events and subsequent celebration, we know that Hashem is always watching us, and loves us. 
[8]According to the Sefer HaChinuch, Parshas Tetzaveh contains six mitzvos[9]:
Mitzvah 98 - Arranging the candles in the Mikdash; to light candles to enhance the honor and prestige of the House of Hashem.
Mitzvah 99 – Special vestments of the Kohanim. Aside for the atonement component, wearing the vestments showed honor for the Mikdash and the Avodah.
Mitzvah 100 – The Choshen cannot be removed from the Ephod – there had to be a meticulousness with the order and protocol of the Avodah, so that it be performed on the highest level.
Mitzvah 101 – The Me’il may not become torn; a torn garment demonstrates a lack of respect and would detract from the necessary honor.
Mitzvah 102 – Eating the meat of Korban Chatas and Asham (Sin and Guilt offerings). All the avodah regarding korbanos helped the offeror feel a higher calling and a sense of humility through the honor and greatness accorded to every aspect of the korbanos.
Mitzvah 103 – Burning Ketores – to add honor and prestige to Avodas Hamikdash. The sense of smell brings particular pleasure to a person.
Mitzvah 104 – Not to perform any other service on the inner Mizbeiach than Ketores. This demonstrated the completeness of the avodah, and how each has its proper place and manner of being performed.
The common theme of the parsha is fostering proper honor and respect for the Avodah. That in turn fosters within a person pride to be part of the Divine Service.
As mentioned, the celebration of Purim is not only of the salvation, but also of the increased prestige and pride we felt in being part of Klal Yisroel.
Achashveirosh sought to minimize the honor of the Avodah. He wore the bigdei kehuna and sacrilegiously used the vessels of the Bais Hamikdash. Achashveirosh wanted the Jews to view him as the replacement of the Kohain Gadol, and his palace as the new center of attention, like the Bais Hamikdash. He wanted us to be awed and impressed by his wealth and power, so that we would no longer care for the Bais Hamikdash, whose construction he had halted. 
But through the miracles of Purim we reclaimed our sense of “kavod v’tiferes – honor and pride” in our Avodah to Hashem, and in being part of the eternal people.  

“You shall make vestments of sanctity for Aharon… for glory and splendor”[10]
“The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor”[11]

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Tetzaveh/Zachor 5777. The explanation about the four verses in the Megillah is from a derasha given by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman shlita. I am indebted to my mother who is a dedicated attendee at the video hookup of Rabbi Reisman’s Motzei Shabbos shiurim. My mother shared with me the explanation Rabbi Reisman related. I enjoyed it so much that I purchased the recording of the lecture. [Note that the point in brackets is my own addition.]
[2] "הגה יש שכתבו שנוהגין לומר ד' פסוקים של גאולה בקול רם דהיינו איש יהודי וגו' ומרדכי יצא  וגו' ליהודים היתה וגו' כי מרדכי היהודי וגו' וכן נוהגין במדינות אלו (הגהות מיימוני פרק ח' וכל בו ואבודרהם)" רמ''א (תרצ: יז)
 The first is where the megillah introduces Mordechai in the second chapter. The other three are from the final few chapters of the Megillah: When Mordechai leaves the palace bedecked in royal finery after Haman is killed, that the Jews were filled with joy, and the final verse of the Megillah, which speaks about Mordechai’s devotion to the Jewish people.
[3] The Brisker Rav writes that the pasuk of “layehudim haysa ora – To the Jews there was light, joy, happiness, and honor,” is going back on the previous pasuk which describes Mordechai emerging from the palace in royal clothes. In other words, the happiness they felt was a result of seeing the elevated status of Mordechai.
[4] A Dayan in Pre-war Satmar (Rabbi Reisman noted that he found the sefer from this author while he was learning in the library of Yeshiva Aish HaTorah in Yerushalayim the summer prior).
[5] See Rashi, Shemos 11:2
[6] In Parshas Vaera, when Hashem foretells the exodus utilizing four expressions of redemption. The third one is “V’ga’alti – And I will redeem.”
[7] Which describes Mordechai as being from those who descended into exile with King Yochonia, prior to the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash
[8] The next segment is my addition to Rabbi Reisman’s previous thought.
[9] In a non-leap year, Purim falls out during the week of Parshas Tetzaveh
[10] Shemos 28:2
[11] Esther 8:16


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