Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Essence of Purim
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Asher Ishaayahu Ben Rivka

The “Pur” Behind Purim

All of the books of the Prophets and the entire body of the Sacred Writings are to be annulled in the Messianic Age - with the exception of the Book of Ester. It, like the Five Books of Moses and the laws of the Oral Tradition, will never be annulled.


Rabbi Chaim Yerucham Smotrich

Adar, 5761
1. The Book of Ester will Never be Annulled
2. The Uniqueness of Purim

The Book of Ester will Never be Annulled
The Jerusalem Talmud records an interesting discrepancy regarding the Bible’s ultimate fate: "Rabbi Yochanan says that all the books of the Prophets together with the entire body of the Sacred Writings in the Bible will one day be annulled, while the Five Books of Moses will not...; Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish claims that in addition [to the Five Books of Moses,] the Book of Ester and the laws of the Oral Tradition will never be annulled" (Tractate Megillah 1:5).

Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon), in his comprehensive codex of Jewish law, "Mishneh Torah," sides with, and expands upon, the opinion of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish:
"All of the books of the Prophets and the entire body of the Sacred Writings in the Bible are destined to be annulled in the Messianic Age, with the exception of the Book of Ester. It, like the Five Books of Moses and the laws of the Oral Tradition, will never be annulled...and though all memory of past misfortune be erased...the festival of Purim will endure…" (Hilkhot Megillah 2:18).
Rambam, then, does two things:
a. He pinpoints the period of imminent nullification: the Messianic Age.
b. He explains that though with the advent of the Messiah all past misfortune will be forgotten, the Festival of Purim - a festival that on the face of it appears to have been born of misfortune - will not be annulled.

But why?
There is nothing wrong with recalling calamity. To the contrary, by remembering misfortune we recognize the fact that the hardship is behind us - that we were spared and continue to exist. Through remembrance, we come face to face with God’s Providence. And though Divine Providence is constantly at work in the universe, it becomes that much more perceivable when, after feigning absence, it makes a grand "reentry." Absolute darkness calls greater attention to the light. Hence, even with the passing of time, we must be careful not to forget the suffering of the past.

Yet, it is only natural that with the arrival of the complete and final redemption we ought to discard such recollections. Dwelling upon such all-too-real and painful experiences can only sadden one’s heart and prevent one from feeling the wholehearted joy of complete salvation. This being the case, why not forget what happened to us on Purim? What makes this particular festival so unique?

The Uniqueness of Purim
The Book of Ester tells us: "Therefore they called these days Purim, from the word ‘Pur’" (Ester 9:26). Pur, or lot, is the singular form of Purim - and this is exactly the point. On Purim, the Pur of the individual - i.e., the wicked Haman - became the Purim of the masses - Israel. "Pur equals fate" - by means of the Pur, Haman permits, as it were, the hand of God to intervene and to decide the course of history. In this manner, it becomes evident that rather than playing according to Haman’s game, God is in fact acting on behalf of the glory of Israel. Haman’s fiendish schemes were transformed by God into success for the Jews; the hardship itself turned out to be the passageway to salvation.

Let us, then, proceed to explain what happened in the story of Purim: Haman prepared a gallows fifty cubits high with the intention of hanging Mordecai thereupon. The Jews were no doubt petrified when they saw this scaffold in Haman’s private courtyard. To them, the gallows embodied suffering. Yet, in the end, the tree was not used for hanging Mordecai, but for hanging Haman himself. It was fear alone, and not actual suffering, that gripped the Jews. In retrospect, the "suffering" of the Jews turned out to be a genuine salvation from Haman.

The same principle holds true regarding the Haman’s deadly decree. "Something written in the king’s name and sealed with king’s ring cannot be retracted" (Ibid. 8:8). Only a decree to annihilate the Jews, and the fact that it was sealed with the king’s ring, could make it necessary for Achashverosh to allow the Jews to gather, fight for their lives, and merit deliverance. If the initial order to annihilate the Jews had been retracted, we would today be left with no Purim festival at all. Only when viewed upon the background of this woeful scheme does Purim become "a day of good fortune for Israel," and Haman’s decree, a death-sentence for himself and his people. The misfortune and suffering of the Jews is revealed as nothing more than a figment of the imagination. Indeed, it evolves into salvation itself. This is Purim: the Pur of Haman is transformed into the Purim of the Jews.

This sort of misfortune must be remembered even in the hour of ultimate salvation, for it contains not even a hint of pain. It does, though, convey an important lesson, particularly for the Messianic Age, concerning which it is written, "And from it, salvation will arise."
All of the difficulties are in fact the source of rectification toward the complete redemption!
May God grant us the wisdom to understand His ways, and the privilege to witness His return to Zion.

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