Friday, March 23, 2007


by Reb Jay

We eat bitter herbs to remember the bitterness of our ancestors’ slavery in Egypt (Either grated horseradish root or romaine lettuce is used). In maror lies an important concept. The taste of maror is bitter. Nonetheless it is a mitzvah to eat maror, and mitzvos are to be fulfilled joyfully. How can this be accomplished with maror? Furthermore, why during korech is the maror eaten with matzah in a sandwich? In our exiles we have undergone many bitter times, too numerous to count. We believe that it was all for a purpose, that there is rhyme and reason to all that we have undergone as a people. Only when the messiah comes, will it be clear to us why everything that has happened had to happen the way it did.

When we eat the maror we taste the bitterness, and remember the bitterness of our ancestors’ slavery in Egypt, and all the other exiles, including the one we are in now.

But we also eat it knowing that this is only a stage. After the maror, we eat the matzah and maror in a sandwich together (Hillel sandwich). We combine the suffering and the redemption, symbolizing that it is all towards one goal. And finally after the sandwich we eat the delicious meal with a feeling of joy. This symbolizes that when the redemption comes, we will understand all that led up to it, and enjoy our state. The meal alludes to yemos Hamoshiach when the world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem, and mankind shall live in peace.


by Reb Jay

The significance of matzah is when the Jews were leaving Egypt, they were forced to hurry. This did not allow the dough proper time for it to rise; hence they left with matzah.

Is it not rather arbitrary, however, that because the Jews were forced to leave in a hurry, and their dough was not given time to rise, therefore, for eight full days (Pesach is seven days in Israel) we are not allowed to eat or even possess bread?

Obviously there is a much deeper significance to matzah.
In Hebrew the plural form of matzah and mitzvah (commandment) are spelled the same. The sages in the Talmud teach us, “don’t read matzos (plural form of matzah), read mitzvos (plural form of mitzvah).” This means that within matzah lay the true essence of mitzvah.

Einstein proved that speed and time have a direct correlation, i.e., if one could somehow travel faster than the quickest known speed (the speed of light), time could be bypassed.

Traveling faster than the speed of light and bypassing time are impossible. The level below that, however, is not. The level below traveling beyond time would be to do things as quickly as possible, meaning at the first opportunity.

Although time will not be bypassed in this manner, by doing so one is as close as is physically possible to “being above” time.

We do not eat matzah simply because our dough did not have time to rise, but rather we eat matzah because it is sustenance made as quickly as possible. Our birth as a nation took place in a hurried state (the sages state we were born as a nation as we left Egypt). This teaches us that as a nation, we are as close as possible to “being above time”. As we stated earlier, our very existence as a people for nearly 2000 years without a homeland, proves we are unlike any other nation. The normal rules that are either a guarantor of a nation’s flourishing or disappearing do not apply to us.

This is also the reason why the sages state in the Talmud (Pesachim 4a), mitzvos (commandments) should be fulfilled at the earliest possible time i.e. as quickly as possible. (This does not mean mitzvos should be done as quickly as possible - rather they should be fulfilled at the earliest possible time; for example a bris—circumcision-- should be done first thing in the morning). Performing the mitzvos at their earliest time shows an eagerness and enthusiasm. The passage of time usually dulls one’s desires. Our unique relationship with Hashem and His Torah have stood the test of time, and our performance of mitzvos with zeal highlights this concept.

Therefore, precisely at the moment when we became a nation is when we were hurrying out of Egypt with our matzah. Furthermore, of modus operandi of doing mitzvos is to fulfill them at the earliest possible opportunity, thereby reflecting our relationship with time. (For a deeper understanding of this concept, see the Maharal’s classic work Gevuras Hashem).

Another approach to matzah is nullification of the self-i.e. the ego. The whole year we eat dough that has risen, which is full. For eight days we eat dough which has not risen. This is a message to us to tone down our ego in order to enable it to coexist with Hashem. According to the Maharal, this is one of the reasons matzah is called “poor bread”, because it represents simplicity.

Every Generation they try to destroy us

Why is it so important to mention this point? It seems to be a strong inclination amongst Jewish people; to not only relive good times, but also bad ones. Why is this so?

We remember the bad times to remind us that we are special and therefore have special responsibilities.

Let us think back: why did Hashem take us out of Egypt? To fulfill the purpose for which the world was created, i.e., the receiving of the Torah (which rectifies the world).

When we do not remember this and do not in act in accord with our exalted status, Hashem sends us reminders. These reminders take the form of other nations trying to destroy us. This is all done with the hope that any person, by use of minimal perception, will take note of the unnatural attention paid to the Jews by the non-Jewish world.

When we see this happening it is meant to remind us of our awesome responsibilities, and that if we ignore them, Hashem will remind us of them. We can never live as a regular nation. From the moment we accepted the Torah we are a nation set apart. Hopefully we will accept is as the special privilege that it is.


by Reb Jay

Carpas is used as an appetizer. An appetizer whets one’s appetite for the coming meal. Why do we dip? The sages give a cryptic answer: “We dip in order that the children should ask.” The Maharal explains that one of our goals on Pesach is to clarify why it was necessary for us to have undergone slavery. He answers that one of the reasons we had to undergo slavery was in order to enable us to experience freedom. If one has never experienced the opposite of freedom, which is slavery, then one cannot truly appreciate freedom. (This concept is true of all pleasures. They can only be truly appreciated when one has experienced the opposite, and expended the necessary effort to achieve them.)

So when the children ask: “Why do we dip the vegetable?”, we explain what an appetizer is. That just as one cannot really enjoy food, unless a hearty appetite has been developed, so too one cannot enjoy freedom until one has experienced slavery. This concept can be explained on an even deeper level - that one cannot appreciate answers, until one asks questions. In order for Judaism to be meaningful in our lives, we must question, and put the same passion into it that we put into our jobs, families and recreation.
(Based on an idea from Rabbi Uziel Milevsky zt’l)

Arba Kosos

by Reb Jay

In Shemos ch.6 v.6-7 it states “Therefore say to the children of Israel, “I am Hashem and I will take you out from under the toils of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their labors, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements. And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be to you Hashem.”

The Yerushalmi in Pesachim states we drink the four cups to commemorate the four expressions of redemption. I will take you out, I will deliver you, I will redeem you, and I will take you to Me.

The Jews in Egypt were tortured and enslaved, and were strangers in a strange land. These three levels correspond with the first three expressions of redemption. Being tortured corresponds to “I will take you out from under their toils.” This refers to the period of time after the first plague, when the Egyptians stopped torturing the Jews. “ I will deliver you from their labors” refers to the time period after the first couple of plagues, when the Egyptians stopped enslaving them. “I will redeem you” refers to the point in time after the ten plagues, when the Egyptians let us go.

What does the fourth expression, “I will take you to Me”, refer to? In this expression of redemption lies the crux of our redemption from Egypt.

If one were to say our celebration of Pesach is simply to commemorate our leaving Egypt, then the whole Seder is a farce. What is there to celebrate? How many times have we been enslaved since then? We are obviously commemorating something much greater than simply leaving Egypt.

The Seder is a celebration of the very fact that we still exist. What would one say if right now a group of Assyrians demanded a state from the United Nations? Or Mesopotamians? Or Babylonians? Yet fifty something years ago that is exactly what happened. 2000 years after the Jews were exiled from Israel, we are still around (this is not said as a statement that is pro-zionistic, but merely to point the resiliency of Klal Yisroel).

How can this be explained? How can a people be separate from its land for 2000 years, yet still not only exist, but have an identity? Obviously, the secret of our survival is greater than any land, even Israel.

That secret is the last of the four expressions of redemption: “I will take you to Me as a people.” What does “take you to Me” mean? That Hashem will give us the Torah. Our having been taken out of Egypt was only a means to an end; that end is the purpose of our existence.
The word meitzar in Hebrew means constriction. Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for Egypt, means two constrictions. When Hashem redeemed us from Egypt, He released us from the constriction of being a physical slave, and He released us from the constriction of being spiritual slaves.

A mere seven weeks after we were taken out of Egypt, Hashem gave us the Torah, this being the reason He took us out of Egypt.

During the seder the first three cups of wine are drunk with thanks to Hashem for physically liberating us from Egypt and in thanks for all He has provided us with, both physically and materially since then. The fourth cup symbolizes our gratitude towards Hashem for having found us fit to receive the Torah, which gives our lives meaning and purpose. That is why even in the most horrible of conditions, in Western Europe during the crusades, in Spain during the Inquisition, and in the concentration camps, we gather on the anniversary of Hashem taking us out of Egypt, and we retell the story. And by virtue of our being here to observe the Seder, our relevance and our connection to Hashem and the Torah is proven.

Vayikra by Reb Jay

Vayikra is the third section of the Torah. Most of this section deals with the laws of korbanos—sacrificial offerings.
Karbon—the singular form of the word karbanos— means to get close. When we offered sacrificial offerings we were getting close to Hashem.
In a person there is a physical side (guf) and a spiritual side (neshama). The connection between these two parts is made through eating and drinking. As Jews we are commanded to eat only kosher food. We receive sustenance from our eating, not merely physical sustenance, but energy that enables us to engage in spiritual acts using both our physical and mental capacities. Therefore we must be careful about what goes into our bodies.
Similarly when we offer a korban to Hashem, we are offering sustenance to Him. In fact our offerings are found to be before Hashem as a “rayach nichoach—a smell of satisfaction” (Vayikra 1:9). Obviously this does not mean that Hashem needs to eat, as He has no physical attributes whatsoever, but what it does mean is that just as food sustains us and enables our bodies and souls to connect, allegorically we are able to connect with Hashem through our giving Him sustenance (Nefesh Hachaim; Rav Tzadok HaKohen).
This is why in certain types of korbanos we are allowed to partake of the meat because our eating further strengthens our bond with Hashem by reason of our partaking in His “meal”

Vayikra by Reb Oizer

Parsha Potpourri
Parshas Vayikra – Vol. 2, Issue 19
Compiled by Oizer Alport

אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לד' (1:2)
In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, a person who sinned at least had the comfort of knowing that he could bring a sacrifice to complete the atonement process prescribed by the Torah. In the absence of this option, how can a person in our times fully repent and cleanse the effects of his transgression?
The Mabit offers us a tremendous consolation. He writes that in the times of the Beis HaMikdash, when Hashem’s presence could be tangibly perceived, the ramifications of a sin were correspondingly greater, thus necessitating the offering of a sacrifice to fully purify oneself from its spiritual damage. Since its destruction, we have been living in an era in which Hashem’s Providence is subtly hidden.
While this makes it more difficult to feel and recognize His constant presence, it also effected a change in the amount of destruction caused by sin. Because the transgression doesn’t cause as much damage as it once did, the bringing of a sacrifice is no longer required to effect complete atonement. Atonement may now be fully accomplished through the other steps of the repentance process, namely correcting one’s ways, confessing the sin, and accepting upon oneself never to do so again.

על כל קרבנך תקריב מלח (2:13)
The Gemora in Taanis (2a) refers to prayer as “the Divine Service of the heart.” The laws concerning the daily prayers are often derived from those which govern the offering of the sacrifices in the Beis HaMikdash. If so, where do we find in our prayers a parallel to the requirement that every sacrifice be accompanied by salt?
Rav Moshe Meir Weiss quotes a beautiful answer that he once heard from a Mr. Levinger. He posited that our heartfelt, salty tears are intended to correspond to the sacrifices, while noting that the Torah requires this “salt” to be brought together with every single offering!

ואם נפש אחת תחטא בשגגה מעם הארץ בעשתה אחת ממצות ד' אשר לא תעשינה ואשם (4:27)
Our verse introduces the laws governing the sin-offering which must be brought by a person who sins unintentionally. It is difficult to understand why the Torah requires a person to repent and receive atonement for an action which was completely accidental, with no intention to transgress whatsoever.
An insight into resolving our difficulty may be derived from a story involving the founder of the mussar movement, Rav Yisroel Salanter. On one of his travels, Rav Yisroel was in need of money. He requested a small loan from one of the local townsmen. Because the man didn’t recognize him, he was suspicious of the request and demanded collateral to avoid being swindled. Some time later, Rav Yisroel encountered that same man carrying a chicken, attempting to find somebody who could slaughter it for him. The man approached him and asked if he was could do so.
Seizing the opportunity, Rav Yisroel taught the man an invaluable lesson in priorities and values. He pointed out that with regard to the possibility of losing a small amount of money, the man suspected him of being a fraudulent con artist who wouldn’t repay his loan. Yet when it came to the risk of eating non-kosher meat if his animal wasn’t properly slaughtered, the man had no problem trusting him.
Based on this story, we can now appreciate how Rav Moshe Soloveitchik answers our original question by comparing it to a case of a person carrying glass utensils. If they are inexpensive, it is likely that he won’t be particularly careful, and periodically some of them may fall and break. On the other hand, if they are made of fine china and are extremely valuable, he will take extraordinary precautions to ensure their safe transport.
Similarly, if a person recognized the true value of mitzvos, he would take so much care to avoid transgressing them that accidents would be unthinkable. The Brisker Rav was renowned for what some perceived as a fanatical approach toward performing mitzvos, constantly worrying if he had properly fulfilled his obligations. He explained that just as a person who is transporting millions of dollars in cash would constantly check his pocket to make sure that the money is still there, his mitzvos were worth millions in his eyes and he “felt” them constantly to make sure that he didn’t lose them.
Although a person’s transgression may have been completely devoid of intent to sin, it was the lack of proper recognition of the importance of the mitzvah which allowed him to slip up. It is this mistaken understanding which the Torah requires him to repair and correct.

ואם נפש כי תחטא ועשתה אחת מכל מצות ד' אשר לא תעשינה ולא ידע ואשם ונשא עונו והביא איל תמים מן הצאן בערכך לאשם אל הכהן וכפר עליו הכהן על שגגתו אשר שגג והוא לא ידע ונסלח לו (5:17-18)
A number of commentators are troubled that the sacrifice prescribed by the Torah for somebody in doubt whether he transgressed, such as a person who ate one of two pieces of meat and subsequently learned that one of them wasn’t kosher, is significantly more expensive – 48 times more – than that required of a person who knows with certainty that he sinned. Wouldn’t logic seem to dictate that the opposite would be more appropriate?
The following interesting story will help shed light on this conundrum. The Mir yeshiva spent much of World War 2 in exile in Shanghai. Aware of the dangers faced by their families and friends, the daily prayers were intense. Those during the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe) were powerful beyond words. One year in the middle of the Rosh Hashana prayers, one of the students walked out, only to return minutes later wearing a different outfit.
At the conclusion of the prayer services, several of his friends inquired about his peculiar behavior. He explained that he had been trying his utmost to pray with the concentration appropriate for the Day of Judgment, but try as he might, he felt that his prayers weren’t coming out properly.
He remembered that the mystics write that wearing shatnez (a forbidden mixture of wool and linen) can prevent a person’s prayers from being accepted. He realized that the new suit he had received for Yom Tov had never been tested for shatnez. Suspecting it as the culprit, he returned to his room and donned his weekday suit and noticed a marked improvement in his prayers. After the holiday concluded, his new suit was checked and found to contain shatnez, just as he had suspected!
In light of this story, we can understand the answer to our question offered by the Chasam Sofer. He writes that if the smallest bit of dirt would fall onto a bride’s pure white gown, it would be easily detected and removed. If, on the other hand, it falls onto an already filthy garment, it would be difficult to locate because it would blend in with the numerous stains which preceded it.
Similarly, if a righteous person needs to find out if he has sinned, he will be able to clarify the matter by simply checking his pure neshama to see if it has been sullied, just as the student in Shanghai was on such a high level that he was able to detect the problem with his suit. If he finds a “stain” on his soul, he will realize that he has sinned and will bring the offering of a person who knows that he has sinned. If he finds no stain, he won’t have to bring any sacrifice. Either way, he will never be in doubt.
If a person is in doubt and is unable to recognize whether or not he sinned, as in the case of a person who finds out that he may have consumed a non-kosher piece of meat, this can only be the case if his originally pristine soul has been repeatedly stained through his prior transgressions. It is for arriving at this pitiful spiritual state through his previous sins that the Torah requires such an expensive sacrifice to effect his atonement!

ולא אותי קראת יעקב כי יגעת בי ישראל (הפטרה – ישעיה 43:22)
The Darkei Mussar (Parshas Balak) writes that of the thousands of parables developed by the Dubno Maggid, there were three which the Kotzker Rebbe declared were said with Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration). One of those three was used to explain our verse.
A businessman once returned home from his travels and hired one of the porters at the train station to carry his luggage to his home. Upon arriving at the man’s house, the porter put down the bags and approached the man to receive his payment. The traveler took one look at the boy and informed him that he had mistakenly brought the wrong suitcases.
The surprised porter questioned how the businessman could make this claim with such certainty when he hadn’t even seen the bags, which were still outside. The man explained that it was clear from the boy’s appearance that he had sweated and exerted tremendous effort to transport the luggage. As the bags which belonged to the businessman were filled with lightweight items which wouldn’t have required such exertion, it could only be that the porter mistakenly brought the wrong suitcases.
Similarly, Yeshaya related that Hashem told the Jewish people, “You haven’t called Me” in your performance of mitzvos. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh writes (Bamidbar 23:21) that the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvos should be enjoyable and invigorate a person. Yeshaya teaches elsewhere (40:31), וקוי ד' יחליפו כח – those who look to and trust in Hashem will be constantly strengthened and refreshed. Just as the businessman told the porter of his error, the Navi chastises the Jews that they must not be learning and doing mitzvos for Hashem’s sake. The proof of this claim is that instead of feeling renewed and energized, “you grew weary of Me!”

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Medrash teaches (Vayikra Rabba 7:3) that in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash, one who recites and studies the laws of the sacrifices will be considered in Hashem’s eyes as if he actually brought them. How does studying these concepts and merely saying the words effect atonement?
2) Many of the sacrifices described in our parsha are completely voluntary in nature. If these mitzvos are so important, why isn’t their performance obligatory, and if they aren’t, for what purpose did Hashem give them? (Birkas Peretz, Akeidas Yitzchok, HaDerash V’HaIyun, Torah L’Daas Vol. 8)
3) The Gemora in Nedorim (10a-b) derives from 1:2 that a person who wishes to sanctify an animal to be offered as a sacrifice may say עולה לד' – an elevation-offering to Hashem – instead of לד' עולה. The Gemora explains that if he says it the other way, we are afraid that he may die before saying the word עולה and he will have said Hashem’s name in vain. According to this logic, how is a person allowed to say a blessing prior to doing a mitzvah when he may die before he performs it and will have said Hashem’s name in vain? (M’rafsin Igri)
4) The Magen Avrohom rules (607:4) that a person may not rest his body on another object while reciting the viduy – confession – on Yom Kippur because the viduy must be said while standing and resting on another object is legally considered sitting. How was a person who brought a sacrifice permitted to lean on it (1:4) while confessing his sins? (Pardes Yosef, M’rafsin Igri)
5) The Torah requires (1:7) the Kohanim to kindle a fire on the copper altar. Because the altar was five cubits tall (8-10 feet), they were required to climb up onto it to do so. How were they able to walk on top of it without burning their bare feet? (Paneiach Raza, Tanchuma Terumah 11, Tosefos Chagigah 27a d.h. she’ein, Rabbeinu Bechaye Parshas Terumah)
6) The Gemora in Chagiga (27a) derives from a verse in Yechezkel that in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash Temple, the generous opening up of a person’s table to serve the poor and other guests serves in lieu of the altar. As a person’s table is comparable to the Altar and the food consumed to a sacrifice, the Rema rules (Orach Chaim 141) that just as every sacrifice required salt (2:13), so too the bread eaten at a meal must be dipped in salt. If a person doesn’t have any salt, can he use sugar for this purpose? (Yafeh L’Lev quoted in Kaf HaChaim Orach Chaim 167:37, Minhagei Chasam Sofer, Shu”t Torah Lishmah 500, Shu”t Rav Pe’alim Yoreh Deah 2:4, Ben Ish Chai Shana Rishona, Bishvilei HaParsha)

© 2007 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Purim by Reb Oizer

Parsha Potpourri
Megillas Esther – Vol. 2, Issue 16
Special Purim Edition in the
Spirit (or Spirits) of the Times
Compiled by Oizer Alport

המלך מהדו ועד כוש שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה (1:1)
The Medrash relates that Rav Akiva was once in the middle of teaching a class when he noticed his students beginning to doze off. He digressed from the subject he had been discussing and asked, “Why did Queen Esther deserve to rule over 127 countries? She merited this because she was descended from Sorah, who lived 127 perfect years.” Why did Rav Akiva interrupt his class specifically to interject this tangent at this time?
The Chiddushei HaRim explains that a person could view Esther’s kingdom as simply a collection of countries, and for each year of Sorah’s life she merited to rule over another one. In reality, each country consists of states, cities, neighborhoods, streets, and even houses. Similarly, a year can be subdivided into months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds.
Rav Akiva explained that Sorah didn’t live a “mostly” good life which allowed Esther to receive the same number of countries as the years of her life. If Sorah would have let up for a week or even a second, it would have resulted in a corresponding deficiency in Esther’s empire, causing her to be lacking a city or even just a house. It was only because Sorah’s life was equally good from the beginning until the end (Rashi Bereishis 23:1), every second of every day, for her entire life, that Esther’s kingdom was complete.
Rav Akiva’s students were obviously quite tired, and they assumed that if they would take a short nap and miss a little of the class, it wouldn’t have any substantial ramifications. Realizing this, Rav Akiva wanted to teach them that every second of our lives, every word that we say, and every action that we take, have very real and direct consequences.

לא הגידה אסתר את עמה ואת מולדתה כי מרדכי צוה עליה אשר לא תגיד (2:10)
It is well-known that Hashem’s name doesn’t appear a single time in the entire Megillah. This peculiarity is traditionally explained as hinting to the fact that the Megillah contains only “hidden miracles” but is lacking open miracles which more clearly demonstrate Hashem’s Providence. Rav Eizel Charif sharply suggested that nevertheless, one clear miracle remains. Mordechai told Esther not to reveal her religion or nationality, and a woman actually managed to keep a secret!

ויבז בעיניו לשלח יד במרדכי לבדו כי הגידו לו את עם מרדכי ויבקש המן
להשמיד את כל היהודים אשר בכל מלכות אחשורוש עם מרדכי (3:6)
Rav Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. 1, 76-77), quoting the Alter of Kelm, derives a fascinating insight into trusting our Sages from the Megillah. Historically, the events described in the Megillah span a period of nine years, beginning with the party held in the 3rd year of the reign of King Achashverosh (1:3) and concluding with the triumph of Mordechai and Esther over Haman in the 12th year of his reign (3:7).
The Medrash relates that Mordechai warned the Jews against intermingling and attending Achashverosh’s lavish and excessive party, but they answered that not to attend would endanger the lives of the entire Jewish nation, and they attended as they felt that saving lives overrode all other concerns. To the naked eye, there were no immediate negative consequences to their attendance, and they surely concluded that they had acted properly and Mordechai had erred in his zealotry.
Nine years later they had surely forgotten the entire affair when Haman was promoted to second-in-command and ordered that every passerby must bow down to him. In reality, it was permitted to do so, as the Gemora in Sanhedrin (61b) states that there was no actual idolatry involved but merely a question of improper appearance. As a result, the Jews en masse once again maintained that it is obligatory to do so in order to protect themselves and their coreligionists.
Mordechai, on the other hand, felt that it was appropriate to be stringent even where not strictly required to do so by the letter of the law, and he refused to bow down. The Medrash records that once again they begged Mordechai not to endanger their lives, but he refused to listen.
True to their worst fears, Haman learned of Mordechai’s intransigence and, filled with rage, declared war on Jews everywhere. From the perspective of the Jewish people, their reasoning was once again proven correct and “Rabbi” Mordechai’s misplaced piety was to blame for the decree. In reality, things work differently in Heaven.
The Gemora in Megillah (12a) states that the Jews of Shushan were deserving of annihilation because, nine years prior, they had refused to listen to Mordechai’s advice and had enjoyed themselves at the forbidden bash. While the Satan convinced them that Mordechai was to blame for their current dilemma, the truth was the exact opposite. It was their failure to respect and heed the Rabbi’s instructions which eventually brought about Haman’s diabolical decree.
When Mordechai approached them and ordered that everybody must fast for three consecutive days, they could have easily responded, “For too long you’ve been ignoring us. We kept telling you that your fanaticism was going to get us killed, and now you finally learned the hard way. You made this mess, and now it’s your job to go get us out of it!”
This was exactly the “logic” which the evil inclination attempted to impress upon them. Fortunately, in this time of national danger, they were inspired to repent and correct their ways. They chose to listen to Mordechai’s instructions and joined him in the fast which allowed Esther’s risky gamble to succeed.
As happy as they were at the time, the Jews never came to appreciate what Mordechai knew through Divine Inspiration. They never connected the seemingly disparate events to form the big picture that he grasped all along. So many times it seems so “clear” to us the rightness of our thinking and the error of our leading Rabbis’ logic. At such times we would be wise to remember this lesson of Purim and to recognize that perhaps the Rabbis are privy to pieces of the puzzle that we never even knew existed.

לעשות אותם ימי משתה ושמחה (9:22)
The Rema rules (Orach Chaim 695:2) that the majority of the festive Purim meal must be eaten before sundown while it is still Purim. A priest once challenged Rav Yonason Eibeshutz to explain why the custom of so many Jewish families is to start the meal just before sundown and to conduct the bulk of the meal during the night after the holiday has already ended.
Rav Yonason sharply responded with a question of his own. The most popular holiday in the priest’s religion falls on December 25. If the non-Jewish day begins at midnight, why is it so prevalent among his coreligionists to begin the festivities the night before?
Having turned the tables and with the priest now on the defensive, Rav Yonason proceeded to brilliantly answer his own question. The holiday they are celebrating on December 25 is really the commemoration of the birth of a Jew. As such, it’s only proper to celebrate it using the Jewish day and to begin at sundown on the evening before. Purim, on the other hand, commemorates the death of Haman, a non-Jew, and it is therefore fitting for our festive meal to be based on the non-Jewish day and continue into the night!

וכל מעשה תקפו וגבורתו ופרשת גדלת מרדכי אשר גדלו המלך
הלוא הם כתובים על ספר דברי הימים למלכי מדי ופרס (10:2)
Rav Yechezkel Abramsky questions the purpose of the Megillah in mentioning that the events detailed therein are also recorded in the historical annals of the Persians. Upon reading this fact, has even a single person ever attempted to track down this version in the recesses of some institutional library?
Rather, it is coming to teach us not to make the mistake of viewing Megillas Esther as nothing more than the historical recounting of an ancient event in our people’s history. If that were its sole purpose, we would be able to research and track down the mundane facts in some academic archives. Instead, the reason that Mordechai and Esther chose to recount the events and the Rabbis saw fit to canonize their Divinely-inspired version must be that it is full of inspiration and moral lessons which are relevant in every generation.
The Mishnah in Megillah (17a) rules that a person who reads the Megillah backwards doesn’t fulfill his obligation. The Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov (agreeing for once) suggest that this law can be symbolically understood as suggesting that one who reads the Megillah but views it “backwards” through a chronological lens, relating to the events described therein as nothing more than a historical narrative, has failed to internalize the lesson of Purim and doesn’t fulfill his Purim obligation!

Purim Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Megillah emphasizes (2:22) that Esther related the assassination plot of Bigsan and Seresh in the name of Mordechai, from whom she originally heard it. The Mishnah in Avos (6:6) derives from here that whoever states something in the name of the original source brings redemption to the world. Why doesn’t this Mishnah tell us who stated this lesson?
2) Esther told Mordechai (4:11) that there is a well-known law that anybody who attempts to enter and approach Achashverosh without being called in to see him will be put to death, yet we find later (6:4) that Haman was on his way to speak to the king about his plan to hang Mordechai on the gallows that he had just built when Achashverosh called him in to discuss a different subject. How was Haman planning to approach the king if he hadn’t been requested to do so?
3) Which two wicked people in Megillas Esther have names which rhyme?
4) If one of the obligations of Purim is to drink to the point that one is unable to distinguish which of Haman and Mordechai deserves to be blessed and cursed (Orach Chaim 695:2), why did the Rabbis establish that the central song of the day, Shoshanas Yaakov, is one which clearly states that Mordechai should be blessed and Haman should be cursed? (Pachad Yitzchok Purim 6)
5) If a father commands his post-Bar Mitzvah son not to get drunk on Purim, does the mitzvah of honoring his father obligate the son to obey his father’s request, or is this considered a command to violate a mitzvah which a child is required to disregard? (Halichos Shlomo Vol. 2 19:25)
6) Which mitzvos, if any, of Purim won’t be applicable in the Messianic era? (Shalmei Moed)
7) If a minyan of men can be arranged only once for the reading of the Megillah on Purim, is it better to do so at night or during the day? (V’Aleihu Lo Yibol pg. 242, Aruch HaShulchan 687:3)
8) If Purim falls on Motzei Shabbos, is a person permitted to practice reading the Megillah on Shabbos, or is this forbidden as an act of preparation for after Shabbos? (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso Chapter 28 Footnote 169)
9) How many cities can you name which read the Megillah on both 14 and 15 Adar because they are in doubt whether they had walls from the times of Yehoshua bin Nun?
10) On Shavuos and Shabbos Chol HaMoed Sukkos, Megillos Rus and Koheles are respectively read before the reading of the Torah. Why is Megillas Esther read on the morning of Purim only after the reading of the Torah? (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso Vol. 2 Chapter 58 Footnote 106)
11) Rashi writes (Devorim 25:19) that in order to completely blot out the memory of Amalek, a person must also destroy the possessions of the Amalekites so that their name shouldn’t be mentioned in conjunction with the item. How was Esther permitted to accept the house of Haman (Esther 8:1), who was descended from Amalek (Targum Sheini Esther 3:1), instead of insisting upon its destruction? (Rav Yerucham Perlow on Sefer HaMitzvos of Rav Saadyah Gaon Aseh 59, M’rafsin Igri Inyanim Vol. 2, Chavatzeles HaSharon Esther 8:1)

© 2006 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Teztaveh by Rabbi Ganzweig

ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלות נר תמיד
Now you shall command the Children of Yisroel that they shall take for you pure olive oil, pressed, for illumination, to kindle a lamp continually.
פרש"י בא"ד שנאמר כתית למאור ולא כתית למנחות
The Tiferes Shlomo expounded on the Possuk as follows kossis – pressed, lame’or – illuminated, When one is in a tight situation; from there will come the light, lo kossis – not pressed, laminochos, hinting to a stationary position. A prominent Rov in Yerushalaim repeated this from one who survived WW II and accredited his survival to the steady encouragement he received from this vort.
We can now value what one vort can accomplish!
ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל
In this week’s Parshah the name of Moshe Rabbeinu is not mentioned, in contrast to all the Sedros since Moshe Rabbeinu’s birth. the Baal Haturim Explains that since Moshe Rabbeinu said after the incident of the eigel (the calf) v’atah im tissa chatossom v’im ayin micheiny nah misifricha asher kossavta (and now if You would forgive their sin – but if not erase me now from Your book that You have written) and the curse of a Chochom (sage) takes effect even on a condition; and it took effect here. One may ask why is Moshe Rabeinu‘s name not mentioned in Parshas Titzaveh, but rather it should not be mentioned in Parshas Ki Sisa when Moshe Rabbeinu said micheiny nah misifricha asher kossavta or thereafter? Explains Rav Moshe Adler that earlier (in Possuk 10) Hashem said to Moshe Rabbeinu v’atah hanicha Lee (and now desist from me) to which Rashi quotes the Medrash – That here Hashem opened a door for Moshe by notifying him that it is up to him; if you will be mispallel (pray) for Klal Yisroel then they will not be destroyed . More so since Moshe Rabbeinu saw that there is (previously) a Parshah without his name he deduced that he can undertake on himself to say micheiny misifricha erase my name.
From this we see how Hashem always opens the door of tefillah for all those who want to beseech Hashem in all situations.

שמחת פורים
The Beis Aaron would say ki bisimcha satzayu (lit. for in gladness you shall depart) with happiness one can depart all hard situations.
The Baal Shem Tov related the following story There was once a great Tzaddik whose wish always came true. The Tzaddik wished and Hashem fulfilled it was therefore decreed that he always be drunk.
To this stated the Chidushei HaRim on Purim kol haposhet yodo nosnim lo - He who stretches out his hand is given (literally in charity; seforim say in tefillos too) a person can request all that his heart desires. the sages therefore obliged us to drink wine on Purim…
The Chidushei HaRim would conclude that the optimal is to do as the sages commanded us, and one will only gain by doing such, we therefore heed their instruction to fill the day of Purim (and night after too!) with festivities in thanksgiving to Hashem for our rescue from Hamon inc. We are lucky and proud to be the nation of Hashem. We will daven to Hashem as fit for this great and opportune day, fulfill the commandments of the day, mishteh visimcha (feasting and gladness).In this manner we are upholding the inspiration of this wondrous and joyous day.
לזכות מיכאל בן אסתר לרפו"ש
חיים מרדכי בן צביה איידל לרפו"ש
חי' מרים בת ברכה עלקא לרפו"ש
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