Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 11   No. 20

This issue is co-sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Chayim Zev ben Yisrael R'Simchah ben R'Asher
B'rachah Miriam bas Moshe Aharon
Gitel bas R'Bentziyon z.l.


l'iluy Nishmos
Frank & Frieda Kaplan
and Yosef Loescher z.l.

Parshas Tetzaveh

Doing It With Joy and Excitement

The phrase "asher korcho ba'derech" (Ki Seitzei 25:18) has many interpretations (see Rashi). Perhaps the most popular one is that based on the Medrash comparing Yisrael to a hot bath, and Amalek to the worthless person who jumped into it, scalding himself but cooling it down for others. This explanation then, translates the phrase as 'who cooled you down', physically, but in a metaphorical sense.

Others also translate it as 'who cooled you down', but spiritually and literally. Amalek's purpose in this world, they explain, is to cool Yisrael's enthusiasm in their service of G-d, and it is in that sense, that the Ba'alei Musar refer to the internal Amalek, who stands between us and our Creator, and whom we need to constantly fight.

Seen in this light, it is easy to understand why Amalek attacked Yisrael specifically after they had expressed doubts as to "whether G-d is in our midst or not" (see Rashi Beshalach 17:8). As long as Yisrael's Emunah is strong, there is no room for Amalek, for nothing can cool down their enthusiasm. It is when their Emunah begins to waver, and they harbor doubts about G-d's Omnipotence, that they lay themselves open to Amalek, the one who "does not fear G-d", the one whose Chutzpah is contagious.

It doesn't matter how strong a person is in his Avodas Hashem, the moment his conviction weakens, that warmth will begin to cool off.


Chazal explain that Moshe Rabeinu had difficulty in understanding the half-Shekel, until G-d showed him a half-Shekel of fire. It is not at first clear, the commentaries explain, what Moshe did not understand, nor why G-d showed him a half-Shekel of fire, and not of silver (which is what one is obligated to give).

The answer is that it was not the shape or size of the coin that baffled Moshe, but the fact that such a small amount could possibly atone for one's sins, for so the Torah writes there (30:16) "to atone for your souls".

So G-d showed him a half-Shekel of fire, to teach him that it was not what one gives that is important, but the way one gives it. In a metaphorical sense, fire has connotations of enthusiasm. The lesson G-d was teaching Moshe therefore was, that the antidote to the sin of the Eigel ha'Zahav was giving the half-Shekel, never mind the amount, but giving it with enthusiasm.

We read Parshas Shekalim before Parshas Zachor, because giving the half-Shekel enthusiastically is the antidote to the negative influence of Amalek.


The half-Shekel itself was used to purchase the Korbenos Tzibur for the entire year, because, starting from Rosh Chodesh Nisan, they had to be purchased from the new Shekalim. It is surely no coincidence that the New Year for the Korbanos coincides with the new year for Yamim-Tovim, as the Torah writes in Bo (12:2) "This month shall be for you the heads of the months. In other words, Parshas Shekalim and Parshas ha'Chodesh are both rooted in the month of Nisan.

Chazal have taught us that we should consider each day as if the Torah had been given on that day (see Rashi Va'eschanan 6:6). The Torah understood that with the passing of time, people lose interest in things which, when they were new, they found exciting. It is no different than a toy in the eyes of a child, who cannot get enough of it when it is new, but after a while, he becomes bored with it and discards it for another.

Unless there is some form of renewal, Torah stands to be treated in the same way. And it is against that sort of cooling down that the Torah is warning us 'Renew and bring the Korbanos from the Terumas ha'Lishkah'.

Perhaps it is to give us the impetus to get off to a fresh start that we make a Siyum upon completing a Masechta! Maybe that is what Chazal mean when they say that the Beis-Hamikdash was destroyed because they did not recite a B'rachah over Torah-study. They studied Torah, and they studied it a lot. But they did it without enthusiasm.

In any event, that is the lesson inherent in the half-Shekel of fire that G-d showed Moshe, that is the lesson of Parshas Amalek and that is the lesson of the month of Nisan. Because each time Nisan comes round, we begin afresh with the cycle of the Yamim-Tovim and with the new Korbanos, giving us the impetus to begin a new year with joy and enthusiasm.

It is hardly surprising then that the destiny of G-d's Name and Throne are so intrinsically tied up with that of Amalek. For as long as Amalek lives they will always be incomplete, and it is only when he has been destroyed, that they will once again become complete.


Parshah Pearls

Asking for Trouble

From the time that Moshe was born, in Parshas Sh'mos, up until the time he died, Moshe's name is mentioned in every Parshah in the Torah except this one. Why, asks the Rosh, does the Torah omit his name from Parshas Tetzaveh (which usually coincides with Moshe's birthday on the seventh of Adar)?

And he replies that this was the result of Moshe's own request. Following G-d's initial response to the sin of the Golden Calf, he asked to be erased from 'the book which He had written' (which according to some, refers to the Seifer Torah). Now the Gemara in B'rachos (56a) teaches us that the curse of a Chacham always materializes. Consequently, G-d decided to fulfill Moshe's request to the latter, by omitting his name from the Parshah that He had just written - the one preceding Ki Sisa, where Moshe made his request - the Parshah of Tetzaveh.


Lighting up for the Blind Man

"And they shall take to/for you pure olive-oil, beaten for light" (27:20).

"For you", the Gemara in Menachos (86b) explains, 'not for Me (G-d said). I don't need its light'.

The Rosh, quoting the Ramban, cites a Medrash, which compares this to a pikei'ach (someone who can see) who had been leading a blind man all day. Came evening and he asked the blind man to kindle a light for them to see.

'I don't understand', said the blind man. 'All day long you have been leading me. Why do you now ask me to kindle a lamp?' 'Indeed you don't understand', replied the man. 'The lamp is not for my benefit, but for yours. I want the light so that I can continue to lead you even at night time.

G-d is the Pikei'ach, and Yisrael, the blind man. During the day, G-d led Yisrael through the desert. When night arrived, He asked Yisrael to kindle lamps, not for His benefit, but for the benefit of Yisrael, so that He would continue to lead them.


The Right Size Wicks

"Aharon and his sons shall arrange it from evening until morning ... " (27:21).

The Menorah had to burn all night, Rashi explains. So they placed into the lamp-holders sufficient oil to burn through the entire night. The Chachamim estimated that each lamp would require half a Lug of oil to burn through the long winter nights, and that is how much they would place in each lamp holder each and every night of the year, to ensure that there was always sufficient oil in the Menorah to last throughout the night. If, Rashi adds, during the summer months, there was oil left over (which there inevitably was) then it did not matter.

The Rosh disagrees. He does not like the idea of throwing away holy oil for no good reason. So he cites the Riyva, who explains that to accommodate the fluctuating lengths of the nights, they would manufacture thicker wicks for the shorter nights, and thinner ones for the long summer ones.

In this way, the wicks would burn down to the end, on each night of the year. Not one drop of oil was wasted!


A Profusion of Blessings

"Take for Me one bull from the herd, and two rams. And Matzah loaves ... " (29:1/2). One ram on one side, says the Rosh, one ram on the other side, and a bull in the middle.

This corresponds to the Avos; the bull, to Avraham, and the rams, to Yitzchak and Ya'akov. Whereas the basket of Matzah loaves corresponds to Sarah, whom Avraham instructed to bake loaves while he ran to the herd.

Alternatively, the three animals corresponded to the three Sa'ah of flour that Avraham asked Sarah to bake. The Torah writes later (in Pasuk 23) "and a chalah of bread", because it is due to the loaves that are brought with the Korbanos, that our bread is blessed. For so Rav Huna bar Aba said - when a man brings Korbanos, he subsequently takes a Sa'ah to be ground. He then finds that he has one Sa'ah of fine flour, one Sa'ah of flour-dust and one Sa'ah of bran; where ordinarily, he would have ended up with just a little more than one Sa'ah in total.

And on the merit of the Nesachim, the wine is blessed. The Medrash tells the story of a Talmid-Chacham who left Yerushalayim. When the people in the town that he visited perceived his wisdom, they invited him to serve as their Rav for a wage of ten gold coins annually (a fine wage for those times). He declined however, since he had no need for parnasah. He owned a vine, he told them, which produced six hundred barrels of wine a year, which he sold for a good price, providing him with a better income by far than anything that they could offer him.

Similarly, on the merits of the Bikurim the fruit is blessed. And here too, the Medrash tells the story of Yonasan ben Elazar who was sitting under a fig-tree, upon which dew descended, extracting honey from the figs, which was flowing to the ground. And the Medrash describes how a goat came to lap up the honey, and how milk oozed from its udders, mixing with the honey that had dripped from the tree. Yonasan ben Elazar then called his Talmidim, and showed them the phenomenon of Olam ha'Ba in this world.

Once the Korbanos ceased, all the blessings ceased too, as the Navi wrote (Chagai 1:6) "And you will sow a lot but bring in only little". That is what happened when they stopped taking Chalah.

Once the Menachos ceased, he continues ... "and you will eat and not be satisfied", and once the Nesachim cease ... "you will drink and not become inebriated".

When the Bigdei Kehunah are no longer worn "You will wear clothes, but they will not keep you warm ", when Bikurim are no longer brought ... "the fig-trees will not blossom" (Chavakuk 3:17), once the Temidin ceased to function ... "the sheep will be cut off from the fold, and once the bulls cease to be brought on Succos ... "there are no cattle in the stables".

But in time to come, all the blessings will return, as the Navi Yechezkel writes "And you, mountains of Yisrael, give forth your branches, and bear your fruit for My people Yisrael, for they are coming soon".


The Mizbei'ach ha'Ketores

"And you shall build a Mizbei'ach to burn the Ketores" (30:1).

"Ketores" is the acronym for 'Kedushah, Taharah, Rachamim, Takanah'. That is why the Pasuk writes in Mishlei (27:9) "Oil and Ketores make the heart rejoice". And this refers to the Kohen Gadol entering the Kodesh Kodshim on Yom Kipur, where the Torah writes 've'chisoh anan ha'Ketores ... ", which has connotations of forgiveness (like the Pasuk in Tehilim [85:3] "ki siso al Chatosom selah"). For as soon as the Cloud of Ketores rose vertically from the pan and became mushroom-shaped, the Kohen Gadol knew that he would not die that year. That is why the Torah immediately adds "and he will not die".

Indeed, when the Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh Kodshim with the Ketores on Yom Kipur, he and the whole of Yisrael were full of trepidation, but when he came out alive, everyone was happy.

Also David Hamelech had a great desire to bring the Ketores, as he wrote in Tehilim (66:15) "I will bring You fat burned-offerings, Ketores and rams ... ".

The Ketores also dispels plagues; all of which teach us how beloved the Ketores is in the Eyes of G-d. The Nesi'im too, brought a spoonful of Ketores when they inaugurated the Mizbei'ach, and in the days of Mashi'ach, we will be atoned for by means of the Ketores, as is hinted in the Pasuk in Tehilim that we just quoted, which ends with the word "Selah", which in turn, implies the days of Mashi'ach (Rosh quoting the Ramban).


Not Just Aharon

"And Aharon shall burn on it (the Mizbei'ach ha'Zahav) the Ketores ... " (30:7).

The Mishnah in Yuma (26a) describes how they would make a special Payas (tossing up) to determine which Kohen would merit burning the Ketores, a clear proof that any Kohen (who had not done it before) was eligible to perform this Mitzvah, and not just the Kohen Gadol.

Indeed, this is clear from the very next Pasuk "And when Aharon kindles the lamps in the afternoon, you shall burn it", comparing the burning of the Ketores to the kindling of the lights, which, we are taught elsewhere (Terumah 27:21), may be performed by Aharon's sons as well as by Aharon himself. In that case, the same will apply to the burning of the Ketores. Alternatively, just as "Aharon" that is mentioned here in connection with the kindling of the lights is not exclusive (as we just saw from the Pasuk in Terumah), so is "Aharon" mentioned in connection with the burning of the Ketores not exclusive either (Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos).


Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch Mitzvah 423:
To Remember What Amalek Did to Us

We are commanded to remember what Amalek did to Yisrael, that he began to fight with them when they left Egypt, even though Yisrael had done nothing to him. For so the Pasuk writes in Balak (24:2) "Reishis Goyim Amalek", which Unklus translates as 'Amalek was the first to wage war with Yisrael'. Everyone else was afraid of Yisrael when they heard what the Great Hand of G-d had done to the Egyptians. Yet the evil-hearted and wicked-natured Amalek, remained undaunted, and attacked them. By doing so, he removed the great fear that gripped all the other nations. This is what Chazal mean when they give the Mashal of a boiling bath which nobody dared enter, until one person jumped in. He may well have burned himself, yet he cooled it down for those who came after him.

And this is what the Pasuk is referring to when it writes in Ki Seitzei (25:17) "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, after you left Egypt".

A reason for the Mitzvah is to bring to our notice the fact that whoever causes Yisrael distress is hated by Hakodosh Boruch Hu, and that consequently, his downfall and retribution will be commensurate with the evil that he perpetrates, and the extent of the harm that he does them.

Amalek perpetrated a terrible evil against Yisrael, by being the first to cause them harm, so G-d commanded us to destroy his memory from the earth and to annihilate him completely.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah: This commemoration applies both to remembering in our hearts what Amalek did, and to doing so verbally, as the Sifri learns from the double expression in the Torah "Remember what Amalek did ... " and "Do not forget".

Unlike the Mitzvah of remembering the Exodus from Egypt, which the Torah obligates us to do once each day and once each night, the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek is not given a fixed time. This is because whereas the former is one of the bases of our religion, the latter serves merely as a catalyst to keep Amalek's hatred alive in our hearts. Consequently, it will suffice to remember what he did once a year or even only once every two or three years. Since every community completes the Seifer Torah once a year, or at least, once every two or three years, all communities fulfill the Mitzvah automatically in the course of the regular Leining.

It is also possible however, that the universal Minhag to read Parshas 'Zachor' the week before Purim is min ha'Torah, and that they fixed it in fulfillment of the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek.

In reality, they ought to have fixed it on Purim itself, since, bearing in mind that Haman was a descendent of Amalek, it is conducive with the events of the day. However, they preferred to fix it before Purim, as a reminder that the Mitzvah to remember Amalek preceded the events that took place in the Megilah. Nevertheless, they placed it next to Purim because of their similarity.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men only, since the onus to wage war with Amalek and to avenge what Amalek did lies on them and not on the women. Bear in mind however, that not everyone agrees with the Seifer ha'Chinuch's opinion in this point (see Minchas Chinuch).

Anyone who transgresses and fails to remember in his heart and to read verbally what Amalek did to Yisrael, is guilty of negating this Mitzvas Asei, as well as the La'av of "Do not forget" that goes with it, as we shall see shortly.


Mitzvah 424:
To Blot Out Amalek's Descendents from the World

We are commanded to blot out the descendents of Amalek and to destroy his name from the world, men and women, old and young. On this the Torah writes "Blot out every trace of Amalek ("Zeicher Amalek", incorporating anything by which he may be remembered). In fact, one of the leaders of the generation, Yo'av ben Tzeruyah, erred in the reading of this word, and kept alive the females. And this happened because his Rebbe did not supervise him properly when, as a small child, Yo'av read 'Z'char Amaleik' (which means 'the males of Amalek') instead of "zeicher Amalek", as we have learned in Bava Basra (21b).

The reason for the Mitzvah is the same as the one that we presented in the previous Mitzvah.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah, which are few, are explained in the eighth Perek of Sotah.

This Mitzvah is a communal one, as Chazal have said in Sanhedrin (20b). The Gemara states there that Yisrael were commanded three Mitzvos upon entering Eretz Yisrael, to appoint a king, to build the Beis-Hamikdash and to destroy Amalek. The truth of the matter is however, that every man is obligated to kill them and to destroy them from the world (to the extent that he is able), wherever he can and at any time, should he come across one of Amalek's descendents.

Should he transgress and fail to kill an Amaleiki who falls into his hands and whom he is able to, he has negated this Mitzas Asei.


Mitzvah 425:
Not to Forget What Amalek Did to Us

That we take steps not to forget what Amalek did to us, that he was the first to cause us harm. That is why the Torah concludes this Parshah with the words "Do not forget!"

The Sifri explains "Remember" - 'verbally', "Do not forget", 'in the heart.' This means that one is not allowed to cast off the hatred or to remove it from one's heart in a way that causes one to forget it.


This issue is sponsored le'iluy Nishmas
R'Shlomoh b'Reb Ya'akov Prentzlau z.l.
whose third Yohrzeit will be on the
13th Adar,
by his children
Dr. Eli and Sheryl Prenzlau n.y. and family.


Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim

Esther's Three-Day Fast

The commentaries suggest a number of reasons that Esther ordered Mordechai to initiate a fast that lasted specifically for three days.

The Kad ha'Kemach bases it on the theory that G-d tends not to let Tzadikim suffer for more than three days, as we find with Rachav, who instructed the two spies (Kaleiv and Pinchas) to hide in the mountains for three days before returning to the Camp of Yisrael, and with Yonah, who lived inside the stomach of the whale for three days. And so the Navi Hoshei'a writes (6:2) in connection with the suffering prior to the coming of Mashi'ach.

The B'nei Yisaschar ascribes it to the fact that three days incorporate seventy-two hours, to evoke G-d's chesed (whose numerical value is seventy-two (as is the four-letter Name of Hashem 'Havayah', when the letters are spelt out in full).

The I'bn Ezra, however, maintains that they did not actually fast three full days, only the night of the decree plus the two following days (including the intervening night). They ate already on the third day. When Esther said "for three days", he explains, she meant until the third day.

Fair enough say I. If, when at Har Sinai, Hashem told Moshe that He would give the Torah on the third day, it turned out to be three days (according to Rebbi Yossi), then it stands to reason that when Esther said that they should fast for three days, it could equally well turn out to be up to the third day.

Perhaps according to the I'bn Ezra, the 'three-day' fast was merely intended to allow Esther time to instigate and carry out her plan. Clearly, she considered it vital for the people to be fasting whilst she was hosting the king and Haman. The night following the second party, she reckoned, the need to fast would already be obsolete.

Incidently, the I'bn Ezra's explanation clashes with the Medrash that dates the three-day fast as having taken place on the thirteenth, the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Nisan.


The question with which we began reminds me of another question that one fellow once asked his friend. 'Why', he asked him, 'does a stalk stand on one leg?'

To which his friend replied 'Because if it lifted it up it would fall over!'

Likewise, bearing in mind the Medrash that one cannot live for three days without eating and drinking, and that the fast therefore ended two hours before nightfall, Esther decreed a three-day fast because had she decreed a four-day one, everyone would have died, saving Haman a lot of trouble.

Incidently, the early ending of the fast is hinted in Esther's words "gam ani ve'Na'arosai otzum kein" (Also I and my girls will fast like that), since the numerical value of the word "kein" is seventy (two hours less than the seventy-two hours that comprise three days).


Mega-Pearls from the Megilah

Esther the Prophetess

" ...and fast for me (olai); do not eat and do not drink for three days" (Esther 4:15).

The word "alai" (for me) seems out of place, asks the B'nei Yisaschar. Surely it was for themselves that they were fasting, and not for Esther?

He therefore cites the Chida, who points to the same word in Parshas Toldos (27:13), where Rivkah said to Ya'akov "Olai ki'leloischo b'ni" (your curse is on me, my son), and which Unk'lus translates as "It was said to me in a prophecy that you will not be cursed (for your actions), my son".

Perhaps here as well, says the Chida, Esther meant to say the same thing. The people would want to know what right she had to instruct Yisrael to fast on Yom-tov, and to nullify the Mitzvos of eating Matztah and Maror, and of drinking the four cups of wine. So she preempted their question by informing them that, like Rivkah, this was an order from Heaven, and that she was speaking in her capacity as a prophetess.


Incidently, the Medrash records that Mordechai did in fact, query Esther's right to institute a fast-day on Seider night. She replied 'Zakein she'be'Yisrael; what is Pesach all about?' (Surely it is to remind us of our survival, whilst we are about to be annihilated!) - There and then, Mordechai conceded that she was right. And the Pasuk continues "And Mordechai passed/ transgressed, in accordance with all that Esther had commanded him".

It seems to me however, that one could explain "olai" quite simply. Esther was in fact, putting her life on the line. As she explained to Mordechai, it was strictly forbidden to appear before the king uninvited, and by all natural means, she stood to be killed for merely entering the king's palace. So what was the point ...? That is why she asked that the people should fast for and pray for Divine mercy - so that she should survive, and be granted the opportunity to save the people.


Fasting and Not Eating

The Chida also asks why Esther added 'Do not eat and do not drink' after having said 'Fast for me'. How, after all, does one fast if not by not eating and drinking?

And he answers that 'Fast for me' might well have been construed to mean not to eat anything that is generally permitted, and did not include food and drink of a Mitzvah which they were obligated to fulfill, such as Matzah and the four cups that one is obligated to eat at the Seider. So Esther needed to stress 'Do not eat and do not drink', to incorporate them in the fast. And a Navi has the authority to issue a decree negating a Mitzvah, as long as it is on a temporary basis, Like Eliyahu, who ordered the constructions of a Bamah on Har ha'Karmel, even though the Beis Hamikdash was standing (and Bamos are prohibited during the era of the Beis-Hamikdash).

That is why the Pasuk continues "And Mordechai transgressed ... ". Mordechai knew that Esther was an authentic prophetess, so he accepted her ruling to break Pesach just that once.


Moch and Rosh

The Medrash relates how Esther asked G-d why Yisrael were slated for destruction. To which He replied because they had become 'Moch' and 'Rosh'. When Esther heard that, says the Medrash, she proclaimed "Keili Keili lomoh azavtoni" (My G-d, my G-d, why did you forsake me [Tehilim 22:2])?

Needless to say, this Medrash is a Medrash P'li'ah (a Medrash that begs interpretation).

Rebbi Shimshon from Astropol explains it in the following way. Every angel, he says, contains letters from G-d's name, from which it draws its existence. Once those letters are removed, it remains lifeless. Yisrael too, are like an angel in this regard. They contain the letters of Hashem's Name 'Aleph', 'Lamed', 'Yud' (which, out of context, we pronounce 'Keili'). The guardian angel of Yisrael is Micha'el, who contains the same three letters. What is left if one removes these three letters from the one is 'rosh' and from the other is 'moch' (both of which mean 'poor').

When G-d answered Esther that Yisrael had become 'moch' and 'rosh', He meant that due to Yisrael's sins, the three Divine letters had been removed from both their name and the name of their guardian angel, leaving them 'poor and forlorn' (so to speak).

That was when Esther, realizing the seriousness of the situation, began to Daven, beginning, most appropriately, with the words "Keili Keili, lomoh azavtoni".


Mordechai Will not Bow Down

"And Mordechai would not bow down and would not prostrate himself (lo yichra ve'lo yishtachaveh)" 2:2.

The Seifer Rishon le'Tziy'on explains why the Pasuk is written in the future tense, even though it is really writing in the past.

Not only did Mordechai refuse to bow down to Haman, he says, but whenever Haman walked past, even if at the time, he was bending down or leaning, in a way that exempted him from having to bow down, he would defiantly stand up straight, so that Haman should be aware of his refusal to bow down to him.

Little wonder that Haman was furious!


Not Poor, (Nor Even Poorer), But Poorim

"That is why they called these days Purim, because of the Pur (the lot)" 9:26.

Surely, if they called the name after the lot, they ought to have called it 'Pur', not 'Purim'? And besides, why call it after the lot at all, as if that was the most significant aspect of the miracle?

The D'vash le'Fi explains that maybe it is due to the fact that Purim incorporates all the Yamim-Tovim (see following article), whose first letters spell the word Purim -

'Pey' stands for Pesach, and 'Vav' (the connecting letter) for Succos (since the Torah in Parshas Emor [23:43]), refers to Succos as an extension of Pesach, when it writes "because I settled the B'nei Yisrael in Succos when I took them from the land of Egypt".

The 'Reish' stands for Rosh Hashanah, the 'Yud' for Yom Kipur and the 'Mem' for Matan Torah.

It would be more than two hundred years until the Chanukah story would occur. So here we have all the Yamim-Tovim that were relevant at the time.


Practically speaking, what the D'vash le'Fi means (when he says that Purim incorporates all the Yamim-Tovim), he himself, citing the Medrash Eliyahu, explains like this: On Pesach they went from slavery to freedom - on Purim they went from death to life; On Shavu'os, they received the Torah - on Purim, they reaffirmed their allegiance to Torah (as Chazal interpret the Pasuk in Esther [9:27] "Kiymu ve'kiblu ha'Yehudim"); On Rosh Hashanah, the Books of the living and of the dead are open before Hashem - on Purim, He weighed up whether to forgive them for having eaten at the party of Achashveirosh and save them from Haman's decree, or not; Yom Kipur is a day of forgiveness - on Purim Hashem tipped the scales and forgave them; On Succos, Yisrael were given the Clouds of Glory - on Purim, "many people of the land converted, coming under the protective wing of the Shechinah'.

Now we have another good reason as to why Chazal instituted eating and drinking on Purim, just like any other Yom-Tov, only more, because it incorporates all five Yamim-Tovim.



Tasting the Shabbos Food!

When Purim falls on Sunday, we do not move Ta'anis Esther to Friday, but to Thursday.

The Levush explains that this is so as not to interfere with the Shabbos preparations.

Because one might be too weak to prepare for Shabbos?

Not at all. It is because the Shabbos preparations involve tasting the food, something that one is forbidden to do on a fast-day.

This ruling certainly teaches us the importance of tasting the Shabbos food on Erev Shabbos, as is hinted in the Musaf of Shabbos 'those who taste it (in advance) will merit life').


Men Only

It is customary to give one's commemorative half-Shekel on Minchah of Ta'anis Esther, just before the advent of Purim di'Perazim (the open cities). The reason that we give only half-a-Shekel, says the Alshich, is because it was only half of K'lal Yisrael who sinned by the Golden Calf, for which the half-Shekel comes to atone. The men sinned! The women did not. Others explain that it is to bring home to every Jew that he is incomplete. He is fact, only half a person. And who is the other half? The answer is not just somebody else, but anybody else. A Jew has to realize at all times, that he is incomplete, and that he needs the other person to help him attain completion. And who is the other half? Anybody! Anybody is eligible to provide the other half, seeing as anybody must given half a Shekel, just like he did. What an incentive to train oneself to love every Jew like himself.


No Hallel on Poorim

The Gemara in Erchin (10b) gives three reasons not to recite Hallel on Poorim - Because reading the Megilah is akin to Hallel.

Because once Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael, they were no longer permitted to recite Hallel over a miracle that occurred in Chutz la'Aretz.

Because Hallel begins with the words "Hallelu es Hashem, Hallelu avdei Hashem", implying that the servants of Hashem should praise Hashem, but not the servants of Par'oh. And unfortunately, we are servants of Par'oh once again.


And No Haftarah Either

Chazal did not institute the Haftarah on Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Purim in order to hold back the people, who are waiting to go to work (not working on Purim is no more than a Minhag).

On Tish'ah be'Av, on the other hand, they instituted the Haftarah "Osof Asifeim", because, besides the Minhag not to go to work, everyone remains in Shul until around midday anyway, so nobody is in a hurry to get to work.

They instituted the reading of the Haftarah at Minchah of Yom Kipur, because since everyone is in Shul anyway until nightfall, it disturbs no-one if one does. And they did likewise on a Ta'anis, because it is a Mitzvah read words of Musar and encouragement to induce the people to do Teshuvah. So we read "Dirshu Hashem ... ", which serves that purpose. (No'am Megadim).



The Mitzvah to drink wine on Purim (in spite of the lesson that we learn from No'ach and Lot) stems from the fact that all the major miracles that took place in the Purim story, came about through wine. Vashti lost the throne (and her head) through a wine-party, Esther replaced her through a wine-party, and the downfall of Haman occurred through a wine-party, too. Consequently, says the Avudraham, there is no better way of commemorating the miracle of Purim than through a wine-feast.

And the Mitzvah to drink 'ad de'lo yada' is based on a Piyut that they used to recite (apparently during the Se'udah), whose refrain alternated, 'Arur Haman' after one verse, and 'Baruch Mordechai' after the next. It needed some concentration to keep track of which one to say, no easy matter for someone who was drunk. Hence, Chazal said that one is obligated to drink so much that one has difficulty in keeping track of which verse is being said, and what one is supposed to answer 'Arur Haman' or Baruch Mordechai'.



Light ... And Joy

If there is a B'ris Milah on Purim, it is performed after Leining, before the reading of the Megillah.

The Darkei Moshe gives two reasons for this:

Firstly, so that when we read "The Jews had (and have) light, and happiness, and joy, and glory", the baby, who adopts the title 'Jew' after his B'ris Milah, will be included.

Secondly, because, based on the Chazal, according to whom 'Orah' means Torah, 'Simchah' - Yom-Tov (festivities), 'Sosson' - B'ris Milah, and 'Yekar' - Tefilin, B'ris Milah belongs exactly where they placed it, after Leining and before the festivities.

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