Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Purim 5637 First Ma'amar

Why do we celebrate Purim with a party?  Unlike other holidays on which we partake of festive meals, the Purim party is the main vehicle for commemorating our salvation.  It is integral to the holiday.  Why?

To understand this we must understand the sequence of events that lead up to the salvation.  The Purim story begins with a party – Achashveirush's party.  At this party, Achashveirush displayed and used the golden vessels of the Beis HaMikdash.  Achashveirush was not using these vessels because he had no others.  He was making a statement.  Besides the sacrilege, he was saying that there would be no redemption.  The vessels were his and would remain in Shushan.  This was the same Achashveirush who, upon assuming power, cancelled the building of the second Beis HaMikdash.  It was to this party that the Jews of Shushan were invited.  And they went.

Mordechai and Esther understood that this sin caused the decree of destruction that was upon the Jews years later.  If they were to survive this decree, the Jews would need to acknowledge the sin and repent.  Esther told Mordechai, "לך כנוס את כל היהודים הנמצאים בשושן וצומו .../Go and gather all the Jews who are found in Shushan and they should fast …" (Esther 4:16)  This pasuk parallels the pasuk at the beginning of the Megillah, "... עשה המלך לכל העם הנמצאים בשושן ... משתה .../… The king made a party for all the people … who were found in Shushan …" (Esther 1:5) to teach us that the pasuk is referring to the Jews of Shushan.  Esther is making the connection between this fasting and Achashveirosh's party that the Jews attended years earlier.

Incredibly, the seeds of the salvation were planted at this very party at which they sinned.  It was at this party that Achashveirosh deposed Vashti leading the way for Esther to take her place.  How did this happen?  The Sfas Emes explains that the Jews fasted and repented completely out of love of God.  Chazal[1] teach us that when we repent out of love for God, even the sins we committed willfully and knowingly are converted into good deeds.  God, of course, knew that we would repent from love and therefore sowed the seeds of our ultimate salvation in this party that began as a sin.

This idea is alluded to at the end of the pasuk above, "ובכן אבוא אל המלך אשר לא כדת .../… Thus I will go to the king even though it is unlawful …" (Esther 4:16)  Esther is telling Mordechai that she is willing to go to Achashveirosh to intercede on behalf of the Jews even though she would be risking her life by doing so.  

This pasuk can be understood more deeply, though.  It is known that wherever "king" is mentioned alone in the Megillah, it is referring to the King – God.  Esther is telling Mordechai to get the Jews to repent from love.  The sin of the party will then be converted to a good deed.  She (and the entire nation) will then be able to come close to God.  So, the act of the sin itself enabled them to come close to God – "שלא כדת/in an unlawful manner" – because their repentance converted it to a good deed.

We celebrate Purim specifically with a party, then, to commemorate our salvation which came about through the conversion of the sin of attending the original party in Shushan into a good deed when we repented from love of God.

A freilechen Purim!

[1] Yoma 86b

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