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Purim - Taking a Step Towards Hashem

"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 what does one have to do to actually receive the Torah and get closer to Hashem? One might imagine that it requires some major endeavor - one which may be too big or difficult for him at the present time. Therefore, he will push off this transformation until "later"; hoping that "then" he will be in a better and stronger frame of mind and will be able to make the move. But the Diaspora Band sings that an old, wise and experienced man once taught them an all-important life's lesson. He said, "Usually, 'later' never comes!"

Actually, though, the entire premise is a misconception which the Yetzer Hara fools us to believe. The first step towards Truth need not be a big one at all; only a sincere one. When Moshe Rabbeinu noticed the strange phenomenon of a bush burning without being consumed, he realized that there was a great spiritual vision before him. The Torah says, "And Moshe said, 'I will turn aside now and look at this great sight -- why will the bush not be burned?'" (Shemos 3:3). Immediately after, it says, "And Hashem saw that he turned aside to see; and G-d called out to him from amid the bush and said, 'Moshe, Moshe,' and he replied, 'Here I am!'" (Ibid. 4).

In the Midrash we find a difference of opinion between Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Shim'on ben Lakish. The former says that Moshe took five steps toward the bush while the latter says that he merely turned his face around to see the vision. My Rebby, shlita, pointed out to us that according to both of them, Moshe did very little at the time and yet he was immediately greeted and encouraged by Hashem. This comes to teach us that one merely has to look in the right direction or, perhaps, take a few steps towards it, at most, and he will immediately be received by Hashem with open arms. Then, it is up to him to continue along this path until he reaches his full salvation.

My son-in law, Ya'akov, told me a fantastic story which occurred to him. He and his friends go door to door, in the communities surrounding the town of Carmiel, where he lives, offering non-religious residents the opportunity to learn Torah in their own home, once or twice a week. Some people say that they are not interested, or don't have the time, but many express interest in learning about their roots. Some are even enthusiastic about the chance to finally achieve what was denied them in their youth. One person had a remarkable story to tell them.

This particular man was almost shocked to see two young men standing in his doorstep offering to come and learn Torah with him in his own residence. With great emotion and disbelief, he told them the following.

"Today was the yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing away) of my grandfather, many years ago, and my uncle, just recently. The family decided to make an azkarah (memorial ceremony) for both of them at the same time in the home of a relative who lives in Tel Aviv. I attended, of course, and heard a very interesting Rabbi speak to us about the importance of learning even a little bit of Torah every day. After the ceremony, I congratulated the Rabbi on his inspiring address and I said that I would, perhaps, want to begin learning Torah on a regular basis, especially by someone as interesting as he. He replied that he teaches daily classes in the local synagogue, and that I am more than welcome to attend. I thanked him very much but responded that Tel Aviv is too far from Carmiel for me to come consistently. All the while driving home I was full of regret that I could not attend his classes, but I faced the reality that I would be fooling myself if I undertook something which is doomed to failure from the start. Yet I felt this tremendous yearning and desire to begin learning Torah, and I wondered if, perhaps, there was something closer to home that I could join.

"Behold the wonders of Hashem," he exclaimed. "Only a few hours later, you wonderful young men knocked on my door and offered to learn Torah with me in the comfort of my own home! Who could not believe that this is a clear revelation of Hashem and His Divine Providence?"

There is so much a Jew can get from Purim. All he has to do is pay attention and take some small but sincere steps in the right direction and he will be amazed at the reception and encouragement he will get from Hashem. Then, if he continues in this path, he will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel