Friday, March 14, 2014
Purim 5634 Third Ma'amar
Chazal established four mitzvos on Purim. They are the reading of the Megillah, the Purim meal, Mishloach Manos/Sending gifts of food, and Matanos LaEvyonim/Giving money to the poor. The first two are self-explanatory. We read the Megilla to recount the story of Purim and our salvation. We have a festive meal because parties were the venue of most of the Purim story. Our redemption and the progress toward redemption occurred either during or as a result of a party.
However, the last two mitzvos need explanation. Why did Chazal establish giving gifts to friends and money to the poor specifically on Purim? What is the connection between these mitzvos and Purim?
In order to answer this we need to understand the Purim story on a deeper level. The Purim story is not simply a wicked plot to destroy us and the miracle of our deliverance. The wicked Haman descended from Amalek, the nemesis of the Jewish people throughout history. The Purim story was essentially a plot by Amalek destroy the nation of Israel. Instead we destroyed Haman, the scion of Amalek together with his cohorts and followers.
What power does Amalek have over the nation of Israel? The Sfas Emes explains elsewhere that Amalek’s power derives from our disunity. When we were in the desert after the Exodus, Amalek attacked the stragglers. Chazal teach that we were not unified at that time.
Our power to defeat Amalek derives from our unity as we find in the Megilla, ... נקהלו ועמוד על נפשם .../… they assembled and defended themselves …” Chazal as well teach us that Ya’akov was saved from Eisav because he assembled together with his children.
When there is unity among the nation of Israel, God’s reputation, represented by His name becomes sanctified and spreads in the world. This is why God said that His name will not be complete until Amalek is destroyed. Amalek will only be destroyed when we are unified. Our unification also represents the completeness of God’s Name. It follows that God’s Name will only be complete when Amalek is destroyed.
When Esther told Mordechai, “לך כנוס את כל היהודים .../Go and gather together all the Jews …” her purpose was not only for them to cry out to God. It was also to unite them.
Chazal ask why Mordechai is referred to as איש יהודי/a man of the tribe of Yehuda (or a Jewish man). Mordechai came from the tribe of Binyamin. They explain that יהודי/Judean alludes to יחידי/alone or only. Mordechai unified the entire nation. He was called יהודי/Judean or Jew because he identified with all the יהודים/Jews.
Therein lies our power. When we are united we have the power to destroy Amalek. When we are not united, we are liable to be attacked from without. May we merit working towards harmony!