DIVREI SHALOM V'EMES - WORDS OF PEACE AND TRUTH
Rabbi Menachem Mark
Formerly Rosh HaYeshiva and a charter Avreich of the Kollel, Rabbi
Mark currently resides with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y. where he is a
Rebbi in Yeshiva Ateret Torah.
One of the themes most discussed in relation to Purim is that of achdus, unity, amongst Bnei Yisrael. At the outset of the Megilla when Haman approached King Achashveirosh with a request to destroy the Jewish people, he described them as "Am echad m'phuraz u'm'phorad bein ha'amim"(1), "A nation dispersed and divided among the nations". Simply put, he meant that since they are so dispersed they won't be able to put up a fight and we can easily destroy them. However, Chazal (the Sages) explain that every word Haman said was malicious and accusing. Accordingly, his words are interpreted as an allusion to the spiritual state of Bnei Yisrael. This nation is in a state of disunity. There is argument and strife in their midst. Hashem will only defend them if they are unified. Therefore, we have nothing to fear if we attack them.
Later, when Mordechai convinced Esther to approach the king to plead the plight of the Bnei Yisrael, she said to Mordechai "Lech k'nos es kol hayehudim"(2), "Gather all the Jews", and proclaim a fast for three days. At the end of this time, Esther approached the king with an invitation to her feast, and from that point on, the turn of events began to favour the Jews. The commentators understand that it was this gathering of the Jews together that was instrumental in bringing about their salvation. This theme of achdus is forever remembered by the mitzvos of feasting and sharing both our food and our gifts with one another.
It seems strange then, that in great contrast to this theme, and to all other mitzvos, the mitzva of reading the Megilla was delegated to different days in the month of Adar. The Mishna and Gemara of Megilla begin with this very halacha - the Megilla is read on the 11th, 12th, etc., depending on whether one lives in a village or a city. Surely, of all mitzvos, the reading of the Megilla should reinforce the lesson of national unity rather than divide our people by the various days of its performance.
In fact, paradoxically, we do find a great lesson here concerning the unity of Bnei Yisrael. The Megilla is described as "Divrei shalom v'emes"(3), "Words of peace and truth". The Meshech Chochma(4) explains this expression in the following light. The only time there is division amongst Bnei Yisrael, even when following different halachic rulings, is when one group feels that the conduct and opinion of the other group is false. Only then is there disunity. However, when one group recognises the legitimacy and truth of the ways in which another group conducts itself, even when that conduct runs counter to its own practices, there is achdus.
In the case of the Megilla, those who read on the eleventh agree that for another group it is equally correct to read on the twelfth. This is a situation of "peace and truth" - peace when we recognise that each of us is living by the truth.
Thus the various days of the reading of the Megilla are no longer a challenge to the concept of achdus, but rather a crucial lesson in properly understanding it. True achdus can only be achieved with the tolerance and open-mindedness to acknowledge the emes, truth, of the other group. These are the words of peace and truth and a great lesson to us from the Megilla.
1 Esther, 3:8 2 Ibid, 4:16 3 Ibid, 9:30 4 Ibid. His thoughts are based on the Ritva in Yevamos 13b. The Gemara there interprets the passuk "lo tisgodedu" (Devarim 14:1) to mean "lo sa'asu agudos agudos", you shall not form separate factions. If different groups observe mitzvos differently or issue different halachic decisions, it gives the impression that there are two Torahs. Yet when it comes to reading the Megilla on different days, we do not seemed concerned with this prohibition.
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