Friday, March 9, 2012

Dvar Torah for Purim 5772/2012

The holiday of Purim conjures up images of eating, drinking, bright, colorful costumes, and big baskets of Mishloach Manos. The tremendous simcha is felt clearly by each and every Jew. In contrast, when we think of the holiday of Yom Kippur, the first images that come up are somber ones. A day spent in prayer and fasting, everyone dressed in white, tears spilled as we beg and pray Hashem for forgiveness. This somber day seems worlds apart from the unbridled joy we experience on Purim. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

The SHL”A brings from the Arizal that Yom Kippur and Purim are in fact more connected than you might think. Yom Kippur, which is known as יום הכיפורים in the Torah, can also be read as "יום כ-פורים", “the day that is similar to Purim”. This means that Purim is an even holier day than Yom Kippur, so much so that it is Yom Kippur that is compared to Purim and not the other way around! How can it be that Yom Kippur, the day where we lift ourselves to greater levels does not compare to the potential of Purim, a day known mostly for its physical joy and activities?

The answer lies in our own potential. On Yom Kippur, we attempt to compare ourselves to angels by cutting ourselves off from the physical. The reason why we fast, do not wear leather shoes and the other restrictions of Yom Kippur is in order to reach this level of spirituality. However, as humans, our true purpose is not to be exactly like angels. Unlike angels, we have physical traits and therefore we must use these traits in our service of Hashem. The fact that we are not on the high spiritual level of Malachim and instead wallow in our physical characteristics actually means that we have greater potential than Malachim to grow. Since Malachim are already purely spiritual, there is no way they can grow, however, we who are on a much lower level have the opportunity to grow and obtain higher levels of Kedushah. In fact, our “lower” level actually can propel us to higher places that even the Malachim can’t reach!

Purim is this day when we indulge ourselves in the physical and use to it propel us forward spiritually. All of the days mitzvos, Mishloach Manos, Matanos L’Evyonim, the seudah; they all promote achdus amongst Jews, the same way that angels have complete unity. This angelic unity is also what we try to imitate on Yom Kippur. The only difference is that on Purim we use these abilities which are special to us in order to achieve this level. Since our potential is greater, Purim becomes an even greater day than Yom Kippur!

The Shulchan Aruch says “חייב אינש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי“A person has an obligation to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai” (O.C. 635:2). This seems to indicate that the obligation of Purim is fulfilled by reaching a state of “non-understanding”; someone who cannot even remember the difference between one of our greatest heroes, Mordechai, and one of our greatest enemies, Haman, obviously is not in complete control of his faculties. Based on our knowledge of the Arizal that Purim is one of our greatest opportunities to grow, how does this make sense?

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz in his sefer, Sichos Mussar, explains that this halacha teaches us an important lesson in Avodas Hashem. In Shmuel I, we learn the story of Shaul’s battle with Amalek. While Bnei Yisrael were victorious in battle, it proved extremely costly for Shaul. Shaul was given very specific orders from Shmuel HaNavi (through a nevuah from Hashem) that he should kill every man, women, child and animal of Amalek. The story is told that Shaul did not kill Agag, the King of Amalek, or all the animals, right away. Because of this, Shaul’s kingdom was stripped away from him and given to Dovid. Why was Shaul’s punishment so severe? People do Aveiros all the time, why was Shaul’s so much more terrible than any other?

The answer lies in Shaul’s thought process. The gemarah in Yoma (22b) tells us that before Shaul went into battle, he started to debate back and forth the value of killing every animal and every single little kid. Was all this really necessary? The animals could be used as Korbanos to Hashem and the children surely hadn’t done any Aveiros! The answer is that it was absolutely necessary simply because that was what Hashem had commanded. He had surely thought through every detail and had no need for Shaul to go back over his plan to see if he could find something wrong with it. This showed a strong lack of faith in Hashem.

To use a parable, let’s say your friend is the greatest business investor in the world and he comes to you with a new proposition. He then asks you to file it for him and take care of everything that needs to be done. After he leaves, you look over the plan and change it into what you think is a much smarter, much safer plan. When your friend finds out what you did, how do you think he will react! “Why didn’t you trust me? I’m the greatest investor in the world, I know what I’m doing! What do you know compared to me!” Similarly with us and Hashem; he has thought through all these plans already, we have no place making our own adjustments. This is the mark of a true עבד, servant, someone who explicitly trusts his master to make the right decisions, no matter how crazy they might seem.

This, explains the Sichos Mussar, is how we understand this halacha. On this special day of Purim, we have to realize that we aren’t business partners with God in this world, we are his servants, and to be a servant is to realize that my master is in complete control. When we drink, we realize that we don’t have control over what happens in the world allowing us to put ourselves completely in Hashem’s hands. We must reach this state of “עד דלא ידע” “until we don’t know”, in order to reach Purim’s ultimate potential, true service of Hashem.

Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom!

Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Purim

Click here for a Dvar Torah on this week's Parsha, Ki Sisa

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