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The Festival of Lots

(Halichos Shlomo v.II p. 332 quoting Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt"l)

"Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur" (Esther 9:26). The name of the holiday should signify the central theme behind its establishment. The "Pur" or the lots seem to be just one side detail and has no significance in the actual miracle of the redemption of Klal Yisroel in the entire Purim story. The fact that Purim is called after this seemingly insignificant aspect seems to indicate something very significant about the entire story: the entire sequence of the rescue of Klal Yisroel was a sequence of hidden miracles. This incident of throwing the lots which fell out on exactly the right day was an indication that Heaven had agreed to Haman's decree. Haman had thrown several different lots according to the months and the days of the week and they all coincided one with the other. This was a very remarkable concurrence without apparent causal connection. Therefore Haman saw a proof that "the heavens" agreed to his scheme.

And he was right. The gemara in Megilla (12a) relates that that the entire nation was sentenced to annihilation because they had bowed down to the idol at the time of Nevudchadnezer, or because they had partaken of the festivities at Achashverus' lavish feast. Therefore the central joy that the Jews had was that the "lot" of Haman was turned into our "lot," and Heaven annulled the decree. This explanation also clarifies why the holiday is called Purim, in the plural. The main proof that Haman had was the fact that all the "purs" (lots) agreed with each other.

All the miracles of Purim were hidden. Hashem's name is not mentioned once in the Megilla. It all seems to be a string of unrelated coincidences that somehow wove together to become one continuous string of events. The gemara In Yoma (29a) states that Tehilim 22 is talking about Esther. This psalm begins, "A song for the morning star…" "Why is Esther compared to the morning star? Just like the morning star indicates the end of the night, so too does Esther indicate the end of all the miracles." The gemara's assertion that the morning star indicates the end of night seems erroneous. The morning star indicates the beginning of day. It seems that the gemara is hinting that by way of the miracle of having been rescued from certain annihilation, Klal Yisroel came to a full recognition that the Torah is the foundation of Creation and the fulfillment of the world. This is the meaning of the gemara in Megilla (16b), "'and the Jews had light' refers to the light of Torah." The Jewish people were uplifted to such an extent they came to tangibly recognize that Torah is the light of the world, and that the entire running of the universe is through our carrying out the Torah. It was with the light of His Divine countenance that He gave us the living Torah, the Torah of life. This is stated explicitly in the possuk (Yirmiya 33:25), "Thus says the Lord; If my covenant is not established, then day and night, and the ordinances of heaven and earth I have not appointed."

One Seudas Purim Rav Shlomo Zalman asked why didn't the Jews take revenge against their enemies and take spoils of war, just like the enemy's decree was against them: the possessions of the Jews shall be spoiled. He explained that really this decree could not have occurred at all. If the Jews would have been totally annihilated the Universe would have immediately come apart at the seams returning to the pre-Creation state of nothing. Then there would be no spoils of war. There would be nothing. Therefore there was no reason to take revenge and do as they wanted to do to us. There was no point in taking the spoils.

Once the Jewish people had attained this level of recognition there was no longer any need for open miracles. The world could now follow the laws of nature as was Hashem's will at the time of Creation. This is the meaning of the statement in the gemara above that Esther is the end of miracles. Thus ended the era of the darkness of emunah when open miracles were necessary. Now began the era of day, when the recognition of emuna was more perfect and the daily hidden miracles were sufficient to elicit praise and thanksgiving toward Hashem.

Simchas Purim

We find in Maseches Sanhedrin (94a) that Hashem wanted to make Chizkiyahu the Moshiach. But Midas Hadin criticized him for not singing on the miracle of being saved from Sancheriv. This is a very difficult statement for us to understand. One who studies the parsha in the gemara will see just the opposite. Chizkiya continually emphasized and publicized that everything that was happening depended entirely on the chessed and Divine Supervision of Hashem Yisborach. Instead of seeking reinforcements and strengthening the fortifications of the city to be able to withstand the massive and vast army of Sancheriv, he chose to squander his treasury to buy oil to light the Yeshivos and Batei Medrashim (ibid 95b). He ordered the soldiers to sit in the Beis Medrash and study Torah (ibid 94b). He enrooted in everyone's consciousness that the real battlefield was the Beis Midrash. Thus he declared that anyone not sitting and learning would be liable to death by the sword. Anyone not in the Beis Midrash was considered AWOL and faced the death penalty. He was so sure that all this would guarantee him victory that he said, "I can go to sleep on my bed and Hakadosh Baruch Hu will wage the war for me (Eicha Rabba 4:15). So what did Midas Hadin find lacking that he wasn't worthy of being the Moshiach?

Chikiyahu didn't sing praise to Hashem over the victory because his bitachon was so strong it was quite simple to him that Hashem's might had no boundaries and He could rescue whether the enemy was many or few. This was as natural as the rest of daily Nature which is the handiwork of Hashem's Creation. What did he have to sing about? It was all perfectly natural.

For this he was criticized. In spite of his tremendous bitachon, he should have seen the terrible danger facing him which required a special intervention on the part of Divine Supervision. This miracle had within it the power to arouse the Jewish Nation to a new closeness to the Divine.

This is why we make such a fuss about the miracle of Purim. We need to accent our gratitude for the great rescue and salvation even though it was entirely hidden in natural circumstances. This Simchas Purim and praise and joy is a basic principle in Divine communion at all times.

Wishing everyone a Freilachen Purim!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rosh Yeshiva
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood).

If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff please contact him: or 732-325-1257

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