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Purim - Acceptance of the Torah

"The Jews ordained, and took upon themselves, and upon their seed, and upon all who joined themselves to them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year" (Ester 9:27).

The Gemara explains that the Jews, at the time of Mordechai and Ester, took upon themselves not only the holiday of Purim, but there was a total reacceptance of the Torah. When the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, it was forced upon us. Consequently, one might argue that our acceptance of it is not binding. However, in the era of King Achashveirosh, the Jews were so impressed with the miracle of their salvation, that they accepted the Torah anew - this time from their own free will.

In light of this Chazal, we should realize that Purim, like Shavuos - and perhaps even more so - is a holiday which commemorates the receiving of the Torah.

But accepting the Torah is not merely an abstract concept. It is a commitment which is binding and constantly obligates us to act a certain way, according to the precepts of the Torah, whether or not we want to at the moment. It may be difficult or uncomfortable sometimes, but complying with Hashem's will is ultimately what will bring us true happiness in this world and in the World-to-Come.

The Kapishnitzer Rebbe, ztvk"l, lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, near the yeshiva I attended; the Rabbi Jacob Josef School. RJJ had no dormitory so one of my schoolmates slept in the Rebbe's basement. The Rebbe was an extremely friendly person and he would sometimes converse with this young yeshiva bachur. He once told me a fascinating story which he had heard from the Rebbe himself.

Right before every wedding ceremony, under the chuppah (canopy), there is a Jewish custom known as "badekens" (lit. covering) during which the groom covers the bride's face with her veil. I don't know the source and reason for this custom, but the Rebbe explained it in a novel way.

The Gemara says that it is forbidden for a man to marry a woman without having seen her at least once. In Ultra-Orthodox, especially Chassidic families, it is common for the parents of the couple to agree upon the marriage of their children without the pair having met each other at all. Consequently, said the Rebbe, it was possible for a groom to come to his wedding without ever having seen his bride. When he places the ring upon her finger, under the chuppah, her face is covered with a veil and he will still not see her. Therefore the Rabbis instituted that right before they wed, the chosson badeks the kallah, and places her veil over her face, giving him the opportunity to see her for a moment before marrying her.

"I was a very young boy when I got married," said the Rebbe, "and I was extremely shy. At my wedding, the greatest Rabbis, Rebbes, Tzaddikim and Torah scholars attended, in honor of my venerable father ztvk"l. When I covered my bride's face, I was ashamed to look at her in front of all of these people; and so I put down the veil while averting her eyes.

"As my father and future father-in-law led me to the chuppah, I could think of only one thing: Gevald! You are about to commit a sin. The Sages forbade a man from marrying a woman before seeing her, and you are about to do exactly that. But what could I possibly do now? Could I dare go back and take a look at the bride? If I was ashamed to do it under normal circumstances, how much more embarrassing would it be to pull off a stunt like that in front of everyone! What would they think of me then? But with every step closer to the chuppah the feeling of guilt grew stronger. And, on the other hand, the potential embarrassment, if I would go back and correct my mistake, got greater and greater.

"Finally," concluded the Rebbe, "just before we reached the chuppah, I got a hold of myself and overpowered my Yetzer Hara. I freed myself from the grips of my father and future father-in-law, and, before anyone could ask me where I was going, I ran back to the kallah, lifted her veil and looked at her face for a moment.

"I was red as a beet, as I returned to complete the march to the chuppah, but I felt relieved, with genuine peace of mind, knowing that I was no longer going to do a Rabbinic sin but, rather, a great Torah mitzvah."

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel