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Weekly Chizuk


The Festival of Lots

Halichos Shlomo v.II p. 332, 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 perfected 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 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!

Parshas Ki Sissa

"The Rich Shall Not Give More"
He Should Leave Room For Others

Adapted from "Lev Sholom" vol. II, pg. 336, a collection of Drashos by Rav Sholom Shwadron, zt"l.

The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel… (Shemos 30:15)

There is a famous pshat on this possuk: the rich should not donate to a cause to such an extent that there is no room left for others to participate. In addition, the poor should not give less claiming that he doesn't have; let the rich take care of it. A mitzvah should be divided equally among everyone. This way everyone is involved and not just a few individuals. Everyone should donate what he can for a mitzvah.

If, chas vechalila, the rich man grabs the whole mitzvah for himself, leaving no room for someone else to participate, then Heaven will rip the mitvah away from him, as we see from the following story of Rav Yonason Eybeschutz, zt"l.

When Rav Yonason married, his father-in-law, a well-known philanthropist, gave him a dowry of 3000 ducats (gold coins) in order that he continue his studies undisturbed. Thus Rav Yonason together with his chavrusa sat devoted to Torah day and night in purity and holiness.

However, as is well known, when holiness proliferates, the forces of tumah are in torment, and immediately come to wage war against the kedusha. And so it happened. Rav Yonason's purity and holiness spread affecting all around him. So, the forces of tumah decided to build a church right next door to Rav Yonason's Beis Midrash.

This decision understandably infuriated the students of the Beis Midrash. Seeing Rav Yonason's aggravation, his chavrusa just couldn't hold himself back. He became consumed in zealotry and decided to get up and do something about it! In the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness, he climbed up to the roof of the church and ripped out the giant cross that had been placed there.

However, the goyim were well aware that sooner or later the Jews would get angry and someone would get up and do something. Therefore they hid lookouts on the roof of the church. When Rav Yonason's chavrusa went up to the roof and broke the cross, he mysteriously disappeared.

Understandably the entire Jewish community started hunting, but no trace was to be found. There was no clue to where he had disappeared.

Thus the search continued, until one day the church guard came to one of the members of the Jewish city council and told him what had happened, how they had caught this Jew as he went onto the roof to break the cross. He related that he had already been tried by the church tribunal and had been sentenced to be burned at the stake.

The guard added that he was being kept in a secret place in the church and that he knew where he was. Therefore he made the following proposal. He agreed to help him escape for the paltry sum of 3000 ducats, not one penny less!

When the town council heard the outrageous sum they were taken aback, but they agreed they had to do everything possible to rescue a Jew from the goyim. Especially being that it involved a talmid chochom who had been sentenced to be burned at the stake. The town council immediately went around gathering donations to free him.

When word reached Rav Yonason he became very worried that the church would move his chavrusa or even execute him before the city collected such a large amount of money. Therefore he went home and took the entire dowry his father-in-law had given him, exactly 3000 ducats, and went straight to the guard and handed him the money. The guard kept his word and whisked his chavrusa out of the church to safety.

All this had taken place with the greatest secrecy; no one had any inkling what had happened. The city council continued to collect donations. When they came to Rav Yonason to give him the money they had managed to collect thus far, he told them that it wasn't necessary any longer. He himself had given over the money. The prisoner had been released and freed. There was no longer any need for the collected funds.

Upon hearing this, the gabbaim tried to give Rav Yonason the money anyway. They claimed that he should at least take what they had collected, even though it was but a percentage of the total sum. "We, the members of the Jewish community, also want to have our portion in this great mitzvah of Pidyon Shavuyim!"

Rav Yonason, however, answered that he had already given what he had given and he didn't want to take money from anyone else.

The gabbaim left the house dejected; they and the rest of the city had not been able to participate in this great mitzvah: the redemption of such a great talmid chochom. But the Rav had poskined and what else could they do?

After a while Rav Yonason began to think what would happen when his wife found out that he had given away their entire dowry. Certainly she would be very angry. He would not be able to pacify her; as is well known from the gemora that you can't calm someone down when they are angry.

What should he do? He decided to go away for a few days to give her enough time to find out that the money was gone and then calm down. Then, when he returned, he could appease her and explain the importance of the mitzvah of pidyon shavuyim and the reasons for his hurrying to pay the entire sum straight away not waiting for the city to collect it.

In the meanwhile the priests discovered the escape and that the Jew who had been sentenced to death was gone. They quickly figured out who the culprit was who had arranged his escape and in their wrath they decided to do to the guard what they had wanted to do to the Jew.

The guard, in the meanwhile, realized that the noose was quickly tightening around his neck; he decided that he had better hurry and make his getaway as quickly as possible. But being a veteran guard in the church for so many years he had, in the passing of time, managed to steal a considerable amount of money and gems from the church treasury. He didn't know what he was going to do with such an amount of money. Such a weight would definitely slow down his getaway.

With a heavy heart he went and collected his wealth, the money and precious stones, and the 3000 ducats he had just received, and put them into a barrel. He went to Rav Yonason's house and asked his wife, "Where is the rabbi?"

His wife answered that he would not be back for a few days. With no choice, and fearing for every second, the guard went and told her everything that had happened and that he had to quickly run for his life. "I am not prepared under any circumstances that the priests who want to kill me should get this money. No! No! I will not leave them anything!"

With this he started showering down praises on the head of Rav Yonason. "I found such a courageous Jew, who was ready to give from his own private money 3000 ducats in order to save his friend! I am sure that he is an honest and straight fellow. Therefore, first of all, I am returning as a present the 3000 ducats that your husband gave me. Besides this, I am entrusting him to watch over all my other possessions in this barrel. If I return safely, certainly he will return it all to its rightful owner. But if I do not return, I prefer that all my money and valuables remain with a person of his caliber. He most certainly will know how to use it for good things."

Thus such a large fortune found its way into the house of Rav Yonason. The church guard went on his way, and fled very far away. However, it didn't take long for the news to reach the church elders and the priests sent a patrol to find him. They pursued him and finally captured him and immediately drowned him in the river.

Obviously, Rav Yonason's wife now knew the entire story. She understood that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had paid them for the good and noble deed her great husband had performed. Not only had their money been returned to them, but they had been rewarded with a fortune tens of times greater than previously.

Of course she was overjoyed and eagerly awaited to hear the footsteps of her husband returning in order that she could give him the tremendously good news.

In the meantime, Rav Yonason, totally unaware of what had transpired, was on his way home. As he approached his house he racked his brain what to tell his wife. How could he reveal to her what had happened with the 3000 ducats? As he approached the front door, lost in his thoughts, his wife ran out to greet him, beaming with joy. "Don't worry, I know everything. And HaKadosh Baruch Hu has already paid you back more than double!" She stood there and related to him what had occurred during his absence. She was certain that he would also be ecstatic on the Heavenly blessing they had received.

But it didn't happen. As soon as Rav Yonason heard her story he broke out and started crying uncontrollably. He wailing, he howled. His wife stood there dumbfounded. "Why are you crying? The Ribono Shel Olam has paid you such a great reward for the mitzvah!"

Rav Yonason answered her, "That's why I'm crying. I see that Heaven hurried to pay us back for the mitzvah. That means they are throwing the mitzvah back at me in the face! If Heaven would have been pleased with this mitzvah, they would have left the reward for the next world. Chazal tell us that there is no reward for mitzos in this world. Only a mitzvah that is unwanted is paid back here. It's as if they are telling the person, 'Here, take it and get out of here!'"

Rav Yonason stood there in uncontainable grief. He couldn't calm himself down. Finally he decided to fast for three straight days. Afterwards he would ask Heaven in a dream why they didn't want his mitzvah.

So it happened, and Heaven answered him, "Yes, you were justified in crying. We have no interest in your mitzvah! You didn't allow the gabbaim and the rest of town to get involved. You didn't give them the opportunity to participate in this mitzvah! You wanted the whole mitzvah for yourself. Please, take it!"

The lesson of this story is frightening. One must contemplate how much one must be careful and understand that mitzvos are not his private property. One can't be greedy and keep mitzvos for himself. He must give opportunity for whoever can to join in. Only then will his reward be complete and accepted.

Good Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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