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Purim is such a great holiday. Children and adults love to celebrate Purim with the exciting mitzvot (commandments) and customs of the day. Dressing up, eating hamentashen for dessert at the Purim meal (do you like prune, poppy seed, raspberry or apricot?), twirling the grogger at Haman's name in the Megila, and giving shalach manot - food gifts to friends. These are the reasons why we all look forward to Purim.
Did you ever stop to think what the Purim mitzvot and customs have in common? Let's take off the masks, open up the shalach manot, look inside the Megila - peel the layers off of everything - and see the common denominator intrinsic to all of them.
When someone is dressed up in a costume or mask, his identity is concealed. Rich or poor, smart or average, pretty or homely, we no longer perceive the physical, econo-mic, or intellectual differences that often separate us. Yes, one costume is expensive, another more original, and there are hundreds of Queen Esthers. But that these are just externals. They aren't the person inside the costume. On a very basic level, when we dress up on Purim our superficial differences are momentarily.
The Megila, recounting the triumph of right over might, good over evil, and the Jews' faith in G-d over the vile schemes of Haman, is also a lesson in Jewish equality and unity. For, it was only once the Jews united that they were saved from Haman's plan of annihilation. Men, women, and children, scholars and shoe cobblers, peasants and the Queen, all fasted and prayed as one for three days to avert the evil decree. And because they united, because each one felt equally responsible and able to effect a change, their prayers and penitence were accepted.
Now, on to those hamentashen. Some say they are meant to remind us of Haman's hat or his ears. But they are also symbolic of that which is hidden within. G-d's hand, so to speak, was hidden during the whole Purim episode - the incidents which led up to Esther being crowned queen, Mordechai overhearing the palace guards' plot to kill Ahasuerus, etc., seemed quite natural. But they were - like everything in life - Divine Providence, G-d's way of putting together an intricate puzzle.
Just as the filling is concealed in the hamentashen and the Divine was hidden during the Purim epoch, the Divine within each one of us is often hidden. The Divine within each of us is our soul - the actual part of G-d that gives us life. And though it is intangible, though its existence is often concealed, the soul is the great equa-lizer of all of us. For, though one Jew might do more mitzvot than another, or have a more comprehensive Jewish education, or be kinder or gentler, the essence of our souls and their source are the same - an actual part of G-d.
Lastly, we have the shalach manot. They range from a sandwich bag with raisins, cookies and a drink to a three-foot-high wicker basket filled with aged-wine and elegant treats. There are numerous differences in packaging, price and products, but all shalach manot have one thing in common: they foster unity. Unity not just because we feel good when we give and when we receive. But unity also because we customarily give the shalach manot through a messenger - we involve another person in the mitzva. When giving the shalach manot we connect not only with the person to whom we are giving, but to a third person as well. And the messenger can be anyone - young or old, friend or stranger, male or female.
Purim is a special time to participate in these mitzvot. For, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained, the Redemption is imminent and each act of kindness, every good deed, any additional mitzva, helps us better prepare ourselves for that era which is unfolding before our very eyes.
In last week's Torah portion G-d commanded the building of a copper altar upon which would be offered various sacrifices. At the end of this week's portion, Tetzave, the Torah commands us to build another altar, this one of gold.
These two altars differ from all the other vessels that were in the Sanctuary and the Holy Temple, in that they could never be rendered impure. Other vessels and implements could become contaminated and impure, but not these two altars.
The purity inherent in the altars can also be interpreted on a deeper, personal level. It refers to the soul of every Jew.
The mitzva to build the Sanctuary of G-d, in addition to being a general commandment for the Jewish nation, also contains within it the commandment to build a personal "sanctuary" in one's heart. A Jew can make himself a "holy place" in which the light of G-dliness dwells and is revealed.
In the spiritual Sanctuary within each one of us there are also vessels and implements with which to worship G-d. These "vessels" are the brain, the heart, the mouth, the hands, the feet, etc. A Jew is required to utilize his brain for learning Torah, his heart to be filled with love and fear of G-d, his mouth for speaking words of Torah and prayer, his hands for performing mitzvot, his feet for running to perform good deeds, and so on. This is how a Jew transforms himself into a Sanctuary for G-d.
Unfortunately, we find that these "vessels" sometimes become impure when used in a manner not in accordance with Judaism. There is one vessel, however, that can never be defiled-the altar. The altar is the basis and foundation of the entire Sanctuary. The altar expresses the absolute attachment to G-d, and the longing to annihilate the sense of self in the consuming love for G-d. In this place there is no room for impurity. The altar, thus, symbolizes the essence of the soul, the "pintele Yid" within every Jew, that can never lose its purity. This essence is above being affected by the person's thoughts or behavior. It is an inner point which always remains connected to G-d, which the Jew can never sever even if he should so desire.
The particular covering of the altar, be it gold or copper, is not important. These outer layers, the gold and the copper, symbolize the paths that temptation can take in an attempt to test our devotion to G-d: poverty (copper) and wealth (gold). A person can be tempted to veer off the true path by the enticement of riches or by the hardships of poverty. But this can only affect a person's exterior. The internal part of a Jew, the essence of his soul, always remains bound to G-d. The Torah promises that through true repentance, the inner purity of the Jew's soul will in the end, triumph over all the other variables and temptations. And that the "Sanctuary" and all its "vessels" will eventually become cleansed and purified.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Life is One Small Circle
by Tzvi Binn
Miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are obvious and G-d's intervention is undeniably present. Others are more subtle, seemingly natural. The story of Purim is a miracle enclothed in nature. G-d's name is not even mentioned in the Scroll of Esther that recounts the miraculous rescue from annihilation of the Jewish people from the hands of the wicked Haman. The story of Yoav and Doron is of the more subtle sort.
Yoav, a young IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldier was stationed in the city of Chevron. Suddenly, he was shot by an Arab sniper and left for dead. As it was four o'clock in the morning, and no imminent attack was expected; no one was awake to hear the shot and rush to his aid. It appeared as though Yoav was doomed to bleed to death before anybody would ever find him. His short life would come to a tragic silent end.
One other soldier however, did happen to hear something. Though not totally sure, he suspected it might be a rifle shot so he went to investigate. He spotted Yoav, who was lying on the ground, bleeding to death. He immediately began to stabilize Yoav's wound and arrange for emergency transport to a medical facility. It took time for help to get to the scene, so he needed to apply manual pressure and any other trick he could think of to keep Yoav alive in the interim - he was literally holding Yoav's life in his hands.
Eventually, Yoav arrived ata proper medical facility where he was treated by surgeons. Yoav's parents were notified and rushed to the hospital. The doctors told them that had it not been for the immediate and appropriate actions of the other soldier, their son Yoav would definitely not have survived. It was indeed a miracle that the other soldier heard what no one else heard, and managed to locate Yoav as quickly as he did. They went to thank him, but he had already left the hospital.
After Yoav was home recuperating, and everyone was settled, they called the army to find out the name of the other soldier so they could thank him personally. Unfortunately, the other soldier's name had not been recorded in the incident report, so they now had no way of ever contacting him.
Yoav's parents owned a makolet (grocery store) in Kiryat Malachi, so they put up a poster in their store, describing the miracle that occurred and asking if anyone knew the identity of Yoav's savior. They figured that Israel is a small country and someone might know someone who knows something.
Months passed with no response. Finally after a year, a woman entered the store and saw the sign. She was positive that her son Doron had mentioned such an account. She took out her cellphone and called Doron on the spot. Sure enough, he remembered the incident quite well - it was he who had saved Yoav's life.
Soon all the families gathered together for a joyful, tearful 'reunion'. Doron's mother pulled Yoav's mother aside and told her, "There is a specific reason why I came to your store today. You don't remember me, but twenty years ago, I was standing in your makolet feeling lost and forlorn. You and your wonderful husband noticed how sad I looked ans asked me what was the matter. I explained that I was pregnant and was overwhelmed. There were so many unbearable difficulties, finacially, socially and emotionally. I had decided that the only way out was to have an abortion.
"You both stopped everything, and calmly and lovingly sat with me. You listened to me. Then you offered so much encouragement and support. Because of you, everything began to look different and I chose to keep my baby. I no longer live around here, but I happened to be passing through and I figured it would be nice to visit your store again to thank you once again for all that you did for me. The name of that precious baby was Doron."
"My beloved Doron, who would not have been born were it not for you, grew up to save your son Yoav's life."
Rabbi Tzvi Binn is the public relations director for Efrat-CRIB. www.friendsofefrat.org
Your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center has planned special programs for the upcoming Purim holiday - the evening of March 13 - the evening of March 14. Call the Chabad Center near you to find out what's happening!
Chabad Lubavitch of Portland, Oregon, is planning a Hawaiian Purim Luau. The MJCC auditorium will turn into America's official tourist spot complete with a sandy beach volleyball court, "Aloha" kipahs for the men, sandy candy, Megila reading and more..
The 24th Annual South Florida Chassidic Pre-Purim Festival is set for Sunday, March 12, at 6:00 p.m. The festival, which traditionally is South Florida's largest Purim event, will take place at the Broward CHAI Center in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Entertainment includes a Purim masquerade with great prizes for both children and adults, live music, Purim arts & crafts, Mordechai on the Shushan horse with other Purim characters, and more.
If you'll be in the United States' capital on Purim make sure to contact American Friends of Lubavitch to find out where on Capitol Hill they'll be reading the whole Megila!
The Kharkov, Ukraine Circus Hall will be the venue once again for a massive Megila reading with over 4,000 people expected to attend. The Kharkov circus clowns will help make sure that all guests are in a happy, Purim spirit.
The Jewish Heritage Center in Vienna, Austria is hosting "The Biggest Bash in Town" for Jewish students complete with a funky Klezmer band, lots of great food and fun.
In Athens, Greece, be part of "Purim on the Roof." Celebrate in the warm atmosphere of the shtetl, with traditional foods and drinks, live music, and lots of spirit!
Be part of Absolute Purim in Johannesburg, South Africa, immediately following the Fast of Esther and Megila reading.
7 Adar, 5712 
...Our Sages say that the miracle of Purim, which rescinded the Heavenly decree for the Jews from death to life, physically and spiritually, was brought about by the fact that Mordechai gathered 22,000 Jewish children whom he taught the Torah and with whom he prayed for G-d's mercy.
Mordechai imbued them with the spirit of self-sacrifice, so that they declared unanimously, "In life or in death we will not part from Mordechai."
Mordechai was one of the heads of the Sanhedrin, the greatest Jew of his time, in scholarship, piety and all possible attributes of greatness. Nevertheless, he set everything aside in order to strengthen the foundations of education, actually going in person to teach the holy Torah, with piety and mesiras nefesh [self-sacrifice], to small children.
The profound message for us is this:
No matter what one's station in life is, or how important one's activities seem to be, one must, first and foremost, dedicate at least some part of his time and efforts to the most important of all causes - saving our younger generation by implanting in them devotion to all that has been holy to us ever since our ancestors received the Torah at Mount Sinai, devotion to the point of self-sacrifice.
Only in this way can we make sure that the younger generation will remain with us, and, as a matter of course, ensure the existence of our people. Moreover, herein lies our strength against all Hamans and our security under G-d's protection....
7 Adar II, 5741 
...One of the most inspiring lessons of Purim is the extraordinary courage of Mordechai the Jew, who "would not kneel or bow down," despite the physical vulnerability of our people being "spread and scattered among the nations" - a tiny minority against an overwhelming majority.
Yet, it is this uncompromising stance that brought triumph over all adversaries, so that "for the Jews there was light, joy, gladness and honor," and the awesome respect of their detractors.
The teachings of our Torah, like the Torah itself, are of course eternal, including the lessons of Purim; particularly since we are still "spread and scattered among the nations," including our brethren in the Holy Land, for they, too, are surrounded and besieged by numerically overwhelming hostile nations.
But Purim teaches us that the strength of our Jewish people, as of every Jew individually, is in our G-d-given capacity of "not kneeling or bowing down" to any force that is contrary to our Jewish essence, which is rooted in the Torah and mitzvos.
Indeed, yielding to any influence that is alien to our Jewish spirit and way of life, far from winning good will and respect, must necessarily bring forth contempt, be it overtly or covertly. For what is one to think of a cringing Jew who is willing to compromise his true Jewish identity and noble traditions going back to the time when the world was steeped in barbarism?
Needless to say, the true Jewish spirit, as exemplified by Mordechai and Esther, must not remain in the abstract, but must be translated into concrete behavior in everyday life, in keeping with the basic principle of our Torah that "action is the essential thing."
Certainly this is to be expected of young people, who are generally blessed with a greater sense of urgency and doing. Especially young couples who start out on their own, establish a home on the foundations of Torah and mitzvos, raise a family in the true Torah tradition, and build "an everlasting edifice" in the fullest sense.
And here, of course, a great deal de-pends on the akeres habayis [mainstay of the home], in whose hands G-d has entrusted major responsibilities for the char-acter and actual conduct of the home, such as kashrus, Shabbos observance, Family Purity, raising the children, and so forth.
This in no way diminishes the husband's full share of responsibility in this Divinely-blessed partnership, and they must consistently encourage each other to upgrade all things of goodness and holiness, Torah and mitzvos; but there is no getting away from the fact that it is the young wife and mother who bears the noble calling of akeres habayis.
...It should be noted, in conclusion, that there is no greater emphasis on the historic role of the Jewish woman in Jewish life than in the events that brought about the miracle of Purim, as related in the Megila, which is named not after Mordechai, nor Mordechai and Esther jointly, but solely after Esther!...
Why do we wear costumes on Purim?
Our sages asked where the Torah alludes to Esther. In the verse "And I will surely hide-haster astir-my face" (Deut. 31), the words haster astir are similar to Esther. From this we learn that it is proper to "hide one's face" on Esther's day-Purim. This custom is also related to the time when Jacob wore a disguise similar to Esau when he received his father, Isaac's blessing. We are the descendants of Jacob and Haman was a descendent of Amalek and Esau.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Monday evening through Tuesday evening we celebrate Purim, commemorating the time when the Jews were delivered from Haman's terrible decree. Once Haman's plot to destroy the Jews became known, Mordechai sent a messenger to Queen Esther, asking her to go to the king on behalf of her people.
Esther hesitated; anyone who approached the king without being summoned and did not meet with his favor, forfeited his life. When Esther relayed this message to Mordechai, the Megila tells us he responded:
"Think not of yourself... For if you hold your peace at this time, then the deliverance will come to the Jews from another place... And who knows whether you came to the kingdom for just such a time as this."
Esther understood Mordechai's message. Mordechai knew, through Divine inspiration, that the Jewish people would be delivered. Their deliverance was certain; it would come from somewhere. The only question was who would help actualize this Divinely inspired promise?
Esther capitulated and asked Mordechai to tell the Jews to fast and pray for three days so she should be successful in her mission of finding favor in the king's eyes and finally saving the Jewish people. That is what happened and the Jews were ultimately delivered.
Every generation has its Mordechai. The Mordechai of our generation stated, "The time of your Redemption has arrived." The Rebbe said that to prepare ourselves for the Redemption we should learn about Moshiach and the Redemption. Now, as then, the Rebbe's message was that the deliverance is coming, the Redemption will take place, it's happening.
The only questions are, "Who will help actualize this Divinely inspired promise? Who will be prepared and help others prepare?"
The responsibility lies with each of us. We must do everything possible to spread the Rebbe's message of the imminence of the Redemption and the importance of learning about it. Then we will surely merit the total fulfillment of one of the last verses of the Megila that, "there was light and joy, gladness and honor," so may it be with us.
And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for ornament (Ex. 28:2)
The commandment to make special priestly clothes comes directly after the mitzva to prepare pure olive oil for the menora. Oil symbolizes the intellect, which should be kept pure and unsullied. The priestly garments symbolize the physical body, the "garment" of the soul, which should be utilized "for glory and ornament." The Torah teaches that purity of thought and of the body must go together.
I will dwell among the Children of Israel, and I will be to them G-d (Ex. 29:45)
An older chasid once posed a question to Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz, while he was still a young boy: "I'll give you this gold coin if you can tell me where G-d can be found," he said. The youngster responded by saying, "I'll give you two gold coins if you can tell me where He is not found!"
Olive oil, pounded, for the lighting (Ex. 27:20)
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad, once said: "He who wants to reach the 'lighting,' the enlightenment to be found in the Torah, should work on himself by 'pounding' away at his ego and nullifying his sense of self. How? By always bearing in mind that the Torah he learns is none other than the wisdom and the will of G-d. That is the meaning of our supplication, 'Open my heart to Your Torah.'"
And they shall take to you (Ex. 27:20)
The menora was kindled by Aaron, the high priest, whereas the collecting of the oil was the responsibility of Moses. The menora is a metaphor for the Jewish people and its seven branches allude to the seven distinct categories within the Jewish nation. The lighting of the menora is the apportioning of energies to each of the categories to assist in their G-dly service. The gathering together of these different factions into one entity, however is far more difficult. That had to be accomplished by the leader of the generation.
(Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim)
And his sound shall be heard when he comes to the Holies (Ex. 28:35)
The Torah continually stresses the importance of humility for the simple and all the more so for the wise. However, when it comes to safeguarding the spiritual welfare of the Jewish people and reinforcing the observance of Torah, "His sound shall be heard when he approaches the Holies" - one must speak with forcefulness and resolve.
A poor villager once came to Koznitz on Purim to hear the reading of the Scroll of Esther (Megila) in the synagogue. The scroll was read by Reb Yisrael, the Maggid of Koznitz. The simple villager listened to the story of the Megila with the greatest attention.
When the reading was over the Maggid came over to the villager and asked "Aren't you from the village that is part of my region? Why didn't you bring me mishloach manot?" (One of the special mitzvot of Purm is to give gifts of food (known as "Mishloach Manot" to at least two people.)
The villager did not know what to say. His home did not even have enough bread for his half-dozen children. How might he have found money to buy mishloach manot for the Maggid?
Reb Yisrael softened his chastisement by inviting the villager along home to join in at the Purim feast.
With the help of the refreshments that he ate and drank in the home of the Maggid, together with the joy he felt at being privileged to be there, the villager became daring. He went to the house of a wealthy wine merchant, knocked on the door and told the householder: "A happy Purim to you, sir! Would you be so good as to give me a bottle of wine on credit? Without a doubt I will pay you, but just in case I don't - isn't it Purim today?"
The merchant agreed and the villager went off to a nearby fruit shop, where he repeated his request, this time for apples.
With wine and apples in hand, he returned to the Maggid.
"Rebbe, I've brought you mishloach manot!" he said.
"Well done," said the Maggid. "And remember to bring mishloach manot every Purim!"
On his way home reality hit the villager.
"My family is famished," he said to himself. "I'll have to do something about it!"
He went to the vodka vendor, where he once more employed his tested formula. He used it once more for a hot loaf of bread and yet again for a few fat herrings.
With these luxuries under his arm he ran all the way home. "It's Purim today!" he shouted as he entered his home. He lay out the royal spread on their rickety table, and said: "Eat, drink, and be merry, because it's Purim today!"
The family ate their fill, and then sprang up from their places and danced around the kitchen.
A thud on the door dampened their spirits.
"Don't open it," whispered the villager to his wife. "It's probably one of those peasants who has come to disturb our Purim joy."
The knocking persisted.
"Don't worry," said the villager's wife. "I think it's only old Ivan who comes around to sell potatoes."
Opening the door, she was shocked to see the state of old Ivan. He was bleeding on all sides. They brought him in and gently washed and dressed his wounds. Then, they offered him bread and vodka.
"You saved my life," he muttered. He went on to tell them how his only son had beaten him and thrown him out of his own house. Had they not come to his help, he would surely have died of his wounds outside.
After he had rested a while he said, "Since my only son is a cruel murderer, and you had pity on me, I will show you something. It's the money I've saved, and was going to give my son before I die. Now it's yours - a gift from me!"
The villager followed the limping peasant into the forest. The peasant showed the villager a tree, under which, he said, the money was hidden. A few days later the peasant died. The villager went out to the spot he was shown, dug near the tree - and was suddenly a rich man.
And every Purim after that he would call on the Maggid, and give him mishloach manot with an open hand and a glad heart.
In the time of Mordechai and Esther the deliverance of our people was brought about by Jewish unity. May our efforts to spread love and unity among our people at present enable us to "join one redemption to another" (Talmud Megila 6b) - and proceed from the redemption of Purim to the ultimate Redemption, speedily in our days.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Purim 5722 - 1962)