The Incredibly Relatable Message Of Purim

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 02/27/18

A couple of fundamental questions regarding Purim:

1) The era of Purim was one of our lowest spiritual points in history (see Sanhedrin 105a). We had sinned so greatly and become so lax in our Torah observance that Hashem Himself signed our doom with His proverbial "signet ring”. This signified that under ordinary circumstances, no matter how greatly we would improve or even repent, we were no longer redeemable.

Which merit, in particular, was responsible for changing everything and single-handedly caused Hashem to save us?

2) When Haman was convincing king Achashverosh to destroy the Jews, on a deeper level, he was actually making the case to Hashem Himself as to why he should be justified in destroying them *. Strangely, his opening argument was that the Jews were a “scattered and dispersed people”, and he only mentioned afterward that “they do not observe the king’s laws" (which referred both to the laws of Achashverosh, as well as the laws of Hashem). What is even more puzzling is that the Sages explain that, indeed, the fact that we were “dispersed” was his winning argument that caused even Hashem to seal our fate for destruction (Manos HaLevi by R’ Shlomo Alkavitz).

Why did Haman choose to mention that we were "a dispersed people" before making the stronger and more relevant argument that we no longer obeyed the king’s laws? Additionally, why was this his winning argument?

3) Before Esther agreed to enter Achashverosh’s inner chambers to plead for her nations’ lives, she requested that everyone come together in unity to fast and pray for their salvation for three entire days (4:16). It would seem that prayer and fasting were critical components of what caused the miracle of Purim. If so, why is it that the Sages decreed that we should send presents to one another along with other interpersonal mitzvos, a reminder that unity and camaraderie were the merits which saved us, without making any enactments to remind us of the fasting and prayer that we performed?

4) Giving a half-shekel coin has a strong correlation to Purim. On the Shabbos that precedes Adar, the month of Purim, we read Parshas Shkalim, which recounts that each Jew donated a half-shekel coin to the building of the Mishkan. Similarly, even after the Jews entered Eretz Yisroel, they continued to annually donate a half-shekel to the Bais HaMikdash specifically before Purim. In fact, we continue to donate 3 half-shekel coins to charity directly before Purim, until this very day. The Gemara explains that we have always performed a mitzvah with a half-shekel specifically before Purim, and continue to do so, because Hashem gave us the traditions of donating half-shekel coins in order to counteract Haman’s evil decree and that it was an instrumental merit in saving our people on Purim (see Megillah 13b and Maharsha there). Why? What is the connection and significance between this particular mitzvah of donating a half-shekel to the holiday of Purim?

5) Lastly, there is a famous custom to dress up in costume on Purim. What connection does this custom have with the events of Purim?

Unity - Our Strongest Force

We can answer all of the above questions with one powerful and fundamental concept: The strongest force that we have to earn blessing and compassion from our Creator, our Father in Heaven, is absolute unity and camaraderie amongst us. Often, we tend to roll our eyes when we hear someone stress its importance. However, it is important to take to heart that this was the single strongest and most important force that saved us on Purim and that this is what we’re still celebrating until this very day! Even Haman understood the power of unity amongst Jews and the unparalleled displeasure it causes Hashem when we have strife between us. This is why he specifically chose the fact that we were a "dispersed” nation as his first and winning argument to warrant our destruction. He knew that our other sins were severe, but he also understood that so long as the Jew still gets along harmoniously with his neighbor, and loves his brother despite their differences, then he can never harm us. Disunity and conflict amongst us was his only hope to destroy us, and indeed, the valid point that he made which granted him permission to facilitate our destruction.

Esther understood this as well. This is why her instructions were not simply for every Jew to repent in solitude, but rather, for all Jews to come TOGETHER to fast and pray for their success in UNITY (M’nos Halevi 4:16). She understood that if each Jew remained alone within their homes in fervent prayer and repentance, and even if they gathered amongst their own like-minded friends, it would be futile. She was teaching us that the only way for the Jewish nation to continue to survive for the remainder of history is for ALL jews, from ALL backgrounds, social standings, level of observance, etc, to UNITE together … and she was RIGHT. The underlying merit of our salvation, despite all our sins which clearly justified our destruction, was solely the fact that we banded together in unprecedented unity and camaraderie. To signify this, the Sages decreed that the underlying mitzvah of Purim is to send gifts to each other along with other interpersonal mitzvos, rather than everyone fasting and praying (though it is definitely an incredibly powerful day for prayer as well). This is because UNITY, more than anything else, was the merit which earned our salvation.

This is also why Hashem specifically instructed us to give a half-shekel coin to serve as the merit which would save us on Purim. For, why specifically HALF a shekel? Why not a full one? The Sages explain that the purpose of this commandment was to remind us that no jew is complete without involving himself with other Jews. A Jew in solitude is lacking; he is the proverbial HALF a shekel. Only once he joins with another can he become a full entity. This reminder was supposed to counteract Haman’s valid accusation of how separated we had become and was a reminder to Hashem and to ourselves that our brief disunity was an exception to the rule. We have been in the past, and can continue to be, incredibly united.

This is also why we dress up on Purim. While during the year we may, on occasion, be judgmental and may disassociate ourselves with or look down on certain types of people, on Purim we try to rectify that wrong mentality. Therefore, we dress up to show that whether my neighbor looks like a clown, crook, parrot, etc. we are all Jews and can and do love each other despite all of our external differences.

May we all merit to embrace this crucial attitude all year long.

A Freilichin Purim


* - The Sages explain that every time “The King” is written in the Megillah, on a deeper level, it refers to Hashem Himself.