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Purim '96

Purim -- the Day of Joy, Faith and Prayer

Purim was an awakening. The people, in recognition of the miracle, willingly accepted -- in love -- the Torah's decrees. The Talmud states that the binding commitment to observe Torah Law was actuated for the first time at Purim.

The spirit of Purim celebrations is catching. Not only do inner feelings influence action, but the reverse as well -- outer movements can inspire internal feelings too. The dancing and celebrating of Purim can arouse a spirit of rejoicing that can elevate our regular service to a higher plane. (Rav Yoel Schwartz)

"Serve Hashem with Simchah (Rejoicing)" [Psalm 100]

Since we are always supposed to serve with rejoicing, why is there a specific happiness on Purim? Just as the Jews at that time brought about a special influx of happiness then -- when they recognized the miracle -- we, too, in recalling the events of that time, can reach a special level of joy.

The Maharal writes that there is a connection between joy and faith. One who is downtrodden shows lack of faith. The faithful person is forever happy. Sefer Chasidim noted that prayer is merely the rejoicing of the soul with its creator. It follows, as Rav Nachman of Breslov wrote, that all three -- joy, prayer and faith -- are each dependent on one another.

If so, due to the great rejoicing of Purim, logic dictates that there must be a special power of prayer on Purim. This prayer would be the expression of great faith, demonstrated by our external signs of joy.

Defeat of Amalek

Purim is associated with the ultimate downfall of the villianous Amalek. The Shabbos before Purim is called Shabbos Zachor, because of the special maftir (the final Torah reading). In it, we recall the command to obliterate Amalek. What is the relationship between the destruction of the wicked and rejoicing on Purim?

Can we be truly happy as our enemies plot our downfall? The rejoicing of Purim came about with the victory over the force of evil -- the vanquishing of Haman and his men who sought, unjustly, to annihilate us.

G-d, too, suffers with his people, as it is written (Psalm 91, v. 15): "I am with him in his pain." The Maggid told the Bais Yoseif (the author of the Shulchan Aruch -- Code of Jewish Law), "If you knew how much pain the Divine Presence has -- you would never be able to taste sweet food." (Maggid Meisharim)

At the same time, our actions can bring Him joy, as is says, "G-d will rejoice with His deeds (that is, humanity)." (Psalms 104:31) See Rebbenu Bachaye on Parshas Yisro: "From here you will understand ... that Israel can extend the supernal strength above..." (See also Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Hagadah Shel Pesach).

"G-d's name is not complete, nor His majesty complete, until the seed of Amalek be destroyed." (Medrash) The existence of evil stands opposed to G-d's sovereignty. Therefore we pray, "Blessed be the name of the honor of His Kingdom for ever and ever." (Liturgy, the Shema) and "May His name be blessed for ever and to all eternity," (Liturgy, the Kaddish). [See Pachad Yitzchok, Shavuos; Insights, v. 8 # 16, and v. 5 # 12-13].

It follows that our Purim festivities are not exactly the same as the celebration that occured at the time of the miracle. Then, there was a realization that an evil plot had been thwarted. Now, however, our enemies wish again to destroy us... But Purim represents hope and prayer, which are associated with joy. Remember what we quoted at the beginning -- sometimes an internal feeling generates external activity, sometimes the reverse? At Purim, our momentous joy generates internal feelings of faith and prayer.



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