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Purim is the holiday of opposites. Historically it's the day Haman's plans were overturned. In fact, that's the term used in the Megila of Esther - "overturned."
This concept of "out of order" pervades many, if not all, aspects of Purim. In the story, Esther needs to appear before the king and win his favor. Instead of putting on make-up (a mask), she fasts for three days. (Not likely to make her look her best!) Yet the king is immediately moved to grant her request.
And part of our Purim celebration is dressing up - masking. Even the staid and serious rabbi often gets into the spirit. One of the mitzvot (commandments) of the day is a "Purim feast," celebrating until we don't know the difference between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman."
We can find other examples of reversals, opposites associated with Purim. For instance, the Megila is the only book in which G-d's Name does not appear.
Clearly, then, there's an underlying theme to Purim - an "inside-outside," if you will. But why? Why is Purim not only a holiday where the inside is outside, and the outside inside, but the only holiday where we find this pattern of ideas and mitzvot?
The answer comes from first understanding why we have parties - the different reasons for celebrations. And then we can see how Purim uniquely expresses the spiritually highest reason for celebration.
We party for one of two reasons: as a diversion, a way of letting go, to take our minds off our troubles. The source for the party or celebration is external. There's something outside of us that offers an attraction, that excites us, that "takes us out of ourselves."
There's a danger, though, if the only reason for a celebration or party is to "take us out of ourselves," sometimes such partying can lead to inappropriate behavior. Once the emotional or intellectual restraints are removed, the physical restraints might also be "let loose."
But we also celebrate, have a party, for a different reason: when we reach a stage of transition, when we've accomplished something, when there's a deep internal joy - say, from an intensifying or realization of a relationship - then that joy "breaks out" and in our fullness we celebrate - we share the joy with others.
Most Jewish holidays and life-cycle celebrations are of the second kind. Either the Jewish people as a whole or individuals transition into a new stage (receiving the Torah), accomplish something significant (raising a child to the age of mitzvot), or intensify the relationship with G-d (finish studying a section of Torah).
Purim is unique among Jewish holidays in that while it has a spiritual source, and thus is celebrated through mitzvot (charity, hearing the Megila) which recognize that level of significance, it expresses its source at the most physical. On Purim, we don't eat and drink because... (pick the reason for a holiday). On Purim we eat and drink because eating and drinking is the whole point!
And that's because Purim celebrates a purely physical rescue. Purim, though it involves spiritual elements such as faith, self-sacrifice and Torah study, was a war to save the physical lives of the Jewish people.
And so we have a "Purim party" - a feast, a physical celebration Ad Lo Yada - until we don't know - within the spiritual (which therefore keeps the party within bounds). It's part of the paradox of Purim that what appears to be an external - a purely physical - reason to party, is actually the most spiritual.
We find that G-d used three different expressions in commanding Moses to transmit the Torah's 613 commandments to the Jewish people: "say" (emor), "speak" (daber), and "command" (tzav). This week's Torah portion is called Tzav, as it opens with the words "Command Aaron and his sons." Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains "tzav" as implying "urging on, for the immediate moment and for future generations."
Of the three expressions - "say," "speak" and "command" - the last ("tzav") is most closely associated with the basic concept of mitzvot (literally "commandments"), as both are derived from the verb meaning "to command." Moreover, as will be explained, it is with regard to these particular mitzvot that "urging" and encouragement are most necessary.
According to Chasidic philosophy, the word "mitzva" is related to "tzavta," meaning joining or uniting. The mitzva forges an eternal connection between G-d, the Commander, and the Jew, who is commanded to fulfill the Creator's will.
Connecting to G-d is only possible through mitzvot; a created being is simply not capable of creating a connection with the Infinite on his own. In fact, the only relative "value" man has comes from the fact that G-d has chosen and commanded him to fulfill His mitzvot. In other words, in giving us the commandments, G-d has provided us with the only means of true "access."
This connection is most strongly emphasized in the mitzvot conveyed through the expression of "tzav," as when a person obeys them it is obvious that he is fulfilling a command or obligation. By contrast, the commandments transmitted through "say" or "speak" do not stress the aspect of compulsion as strongly. Moreover, the G-dly commandment itself ("tzav") creates the connection ("tzavta"), as if the person has already fulfilled it!
Of course, a Jew always has free will whether or not he will comply with a command. Nonetheless, because the mitzvot transmitted through "tzav" penetrate all the way to the innermost levels of the soul (as opposed to the mitzvot conveyed through "say" and "speak," which affect only the outermost aspects of the soul), if, for whatever reason a Jew doesn't comply (G-d forbid), it contradicts the connection he already has with the Commander.
The "tzav" commandments thus require more "urging" and encouragement. For once the essence of the soul is uncovered, the Jew will discover how in reality, his very being is fundamentally connected to G-d, and his own inner desire is only to fulfill G-d's will.
Adapted from Volume 7 of Likutei Sichot
by Sheina Perman
I am from California and I now live in Chile. I grew up with earthquakes and the Spanish language. But not this much earthquake and not this much Spanish!
My husband Levi and I, together with our adorable son Yaisef Nachman, moved as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Santiago, Chile, in August of 2009. We joined my in-laws, Rabbi Menashe and Rebbetzin Chaya Fraida Perman, and my sister-in-law Sarah and her husband Ishai Liebersohn.
Generally, the adjustment was pretty smooth, and as our first Purim drew near, my thoughts were on the children's program we were planning that would take place on Purim Day - Sunday, February 28, 2010.
The Friday night before, we finished our Shabbat meal at 11:30 p.m., stacked the dishes on the counter, and went to sleep, very tired.
At 3:44 a.m., I woke Levi up because I felt an earthquake. Being from California, I knew exactly what was happening.
In Chile (unlike California), the earthquakes are usually no big deal (we'd already had a few small ones since our arrival six months earlier). So I said to Levi, "Let's get Yaisef," and he said, "Nah." But the tremors were growing stronger and almost violent and not stopping, so he quickly changed his mind and we ran to Yaisef's room.
We stood in the doorway for a second. The shaking was HARD and LONG and SCARY. Now it was really violent. Imagine a giant has grabbed you and your whole house and is shaking you and the house and everything in it as hard as he can. You're being thrown all around the room, things are crashing and falling and glass is shattering.
Levi picked up Yaisef and decided we should move to the doorway of our apartment because that doorway is stronger.
On the way the electricity went out. Total black-out. The house was rolling and moving, and the horrific noises weren't stopping.
We got to the doorway and the earthquake was not stopping or slowing. If anything it was getting stronger. I asked Levi, "What should we do?"
Visions of Haiti were fresh in my mind, since that terrible earthquake had taken place only six weeks before and there were photos of the tragedies wherever you looked.
Levi answered, "Grab the mezuza!" He had meant I should hold on to it to feel safer, but I misunderstood and yanked it right off the doorway
Levi decided we should go downstairs, so we ran for our lives down three flights of stairs amidst major rolling and total pitch black darkness.
By the time we got outside, the shaking had stopped and I felt a little safer. At least here, if the building would collapse, we wouldn't be buried.
The three of us walked to my in-laws' house four blocks away, barefoot and in our night clothes. I didn't realize until later that I was still clutching the mezuza.
The streets were strangely silent.
At my in-laws' home, chandeliers had fallen and there was glass on the floor. One of the daughters had lit a fancy candle for Shabbat, one that burns "forever," so we had a tiny bit of light.
Levi swept up so Yaisef could run around a little, and we sat and talked out our trauma until it was light outside.
My father-in-law came back from checking on the Libersohns at about 6 a.m. Then we went to sleep for a little while, too.
We woke up a few hours later to go to shul, after all, it was Shabbat! Levi wore my father-in-law's clothing and I wore my mother-in-law's clothes.
Right after Shabbat, which ended at about 9:00 p.m., I spoke with my family in the U.S. to reassure them that we were okay. We went home briefly. We were in a rush because it was Purim and we had to be at the Megila-reading by 9:30 p.m.! We got some clothes, Levi's glasses and some diapers.
The kitchen was covered in glass. Of all the things that we had shipped to Chile when we moved from the U.S. (and waited three months for), thank G-d only the things on the counter and the serving dishes were broken. However, Most of our furniture was damaged.
Every closet was open with all the contents on the floor. The bookcase had fallen over and was lying flat on the floor. I wasn't sure where the computer screen was, but the computer had jumped off the desk.
At the Megila reading that night, we heard that the earthquake was three minutes long and measured 8.8 on the Richter scale.
The next morning was Sunday and Purim morning. Not one of the five women my mother-in-law had hired to help her cook the Purim meal for the community came. Most of them lived in the hardest-hit parts of town and not in fortified buildings, but in shacks. In addition, instead of the 150 people my mother-in-law was expecting, approximately double that number now decided to come, because they were traumatized by the earthquake and wanted some spiritual solace, and the comfort of talking it over with others.
Thank G-d, many people in the community came over to the Chabad House kitchen and helped my mother-in-law get all the cooking done. Thanks to her strength and positive attitude, and her vast experience in cooking for crowds, the food was plentiful and delicious as always!
Now we have our own Purim miracle. We thank G-d for our lives and for His kindness.
This article, which originally appeared in the N'shei Chabad Newsletter, was reconstructed by Rishe Deitsch from the emails she received from her niece, Sheina Perman. Reprinted with permission.
The fun and festive holiday for young and old alike, Purim, starts this coming Saturday evening March 19 after nightfall. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center to find out about how and where you can celebrate Purim and fulfill all of the special mitzvot (commandments) of the day, including hearing the Scroll of Esther read on Saturday evening and Sunday, eating a festive meal, giving charity to the poor and gifts of food (mishloach manot) to friends and family.
Children's Torah Scroll
If you know a child under the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva, surprise them with their very own letter in a Torah scroll being written exclusively with the participation of children! Visit www.kidstorah.org for more info.
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 mitzvoth [commandments].
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 mitzvoth, raise a family in the true Torah tradition, and build "an everlasting edifice" in the fullest sense.
And here, of course, a great deal depends on the akeres habayis [the pillar of the home], in whose hands G-d has entrusted major responsibilities for the character and actual conduct of the home, such as kashruth, 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 mitzvoth; 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 Megillah, which is named not after Mordechai, nor Mordechai and Esther jointly, but solely after Esther!...
ACHINOAM means "my brother is pleasant." King Saul and King David both had wives named Achinoam.
ADIN is from the Hebrew meaning "beautiful, pleasant, gentle." In the Bible (Ezra 2:15), Adin was one of the people who returned to Israel with Zerubabel from the Babylonian exile.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Saturday night and Sunday we celebrate Purim, commemorating the Jewish people's deliverance from Haman's decree of annihilation. As soon as 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 now, the deliverance will come to the Jews from elsewhere.... And who knows whether you came to the kingdom for just such a time as this."
Esther understood Mordechai's message. As the leader of the Jewish people of that generation, 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 accepted the mission and asked Mordechai to tell the Jews to fast and pray for three days so she would be successful. That is what happened and ultimately the Jews were delivered.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe 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 question is, "Who will help actualize this Divinely inspired promise?"
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.
A perpetual fire (Lev. 6:6)
There were two types of fire in the Sanctuary and Holy Temple: one that burned on the outer altar, and one that burned in the menora inside. The priest whose job it was to light the menora did so with a flame taken from the outer altar. This teaches an important lesson: The outer altar is symbolic of our Divine service with other people; the kindling of the menora alludes to Torah study, as it states in Proverbs, "The Torah is light." Thus in order to merit the Torah's light it isn't enough to concern oneself with one's own spiritual progress; the concern should be extended to others as well.
This is the law of the burnt-offering...which the L-rd commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that He commanded the Children of Israel to offer their sacrifices (Leviticus 7:37-8)
From this verse Maimonides concludes that the proper time for bringing sacrifices is during the day and not at night. Nonetheless, he continues, it is permissible to burn any portions of the animal that were not consumed during the daytime throughout the night. Similarly, the Jew's mission in life is to "sacrifice" his animal soul, his desire for physical pleasures, and transform it into holiness. Optimally, this type of service is to be done "in the daytime" when the Jew's connection to G-d is fully revealed, sustaining him body and soul. Nonetheless, if our sins have caused us to enter a state of spiritual "night," our service of G-d must continue, for this in itself will dispel the darkness and transform it into light.
(Sefer HaSichot, Bechukotai, 5749)
This is the law...and of the sacrifice of the peace offerings (Lev. 7:37)
The Rebbe of Lublin said: It is far better to have an imperfect peace than a perfect controversy. It is preferable to live in peace with one's neighbor, even if the peace is superficial and not with a full heart, than to engage in controversy, however well intended. Why is the chapter "Where were the places of sacrifice in the Holy Temple" included in our daily liturgy? One of the most important things we pray for is peace, and this is the only chapter in the Mishna where there is no controversy between the Sages.
The Purim festivities in the court of Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin were truly something to behold. Every year, hundreds would travel from near and far to attend the festive meal and to bask in the presence of their Rebbe.
In the center of it all sat the Rebbe, delivering words of Torah, gladdening the hearts of all present. From time to time the chasidim would burst into impassioned song, piercing the heavens with their voices.
One could feel the excitement in the air for a full month before Purim. Young and old were involved in getting ready for Purim; the bolder among the chasidim would attend the festive meal in disguise.
This year, however, the mood in Ruzhin was more somber than usual. The joy of the approaching holiday was intermingled with fear and dread, for dark clouds had begun to gather on the horizon of Russian Jewry.
The enemies of the Jews had been successful in persuading the czar to issue several anti-Semitic decrees, threatening their lives. The atmosphere in the Rebbe's court, however, was entirely different. No anxious whispering was heard; the Rebbe had instructed his chasidim to prepare for Purim with more enthusiasm than usual. Their joy would annul the evil decree, he said.
Amidst this bustle of preparation it was rumored that Reb Chaikel, a husky butcher known for his strength, planned to attend the festive meal disguised as Czar Nicholas himself, the object of their dread.
Purim day arrived. The enormous study hall was filled to the brim. The Rebbe's face shone with a holy light, as he and his chasidim left the mundane world with all its worries behind, thoroughly immersed in the joy of Purim.
All of a sudden, however, a hush fell over the massive assemblage. The door to the great hall opened, and in walked "Czar Nicholas." Attired in regal finery and bedecked with scores of military medals, the "Czar" was obviously drunk. Everyone began to laugh, with the exception of the Rebbe.
The Rebbe's face was serious as he fixed his eyes upon the "Czar." The "Czar" proceeded to make his way through the rows of tables directly to the Rebbe, haughtily pushing aside anyone who blocked his path. Everyone was amazed when the Rebbe stood up and invited him to sit at the head of his table. The "Czar" accepted the invitation and sat down, arrogantly glaring at the crowd as befits a Russian Czar.
The Rebbe motioned for the singing to cease. All conversation stopped as the Rebbe and the "Czar" became the focus of attention.
"O merciful leader," began the Rebbe as he addressed the strange guest. "Do you not know that the Jewish people already suffered greatly? Now we hear that even greater evil is being plotted against us, and that even harsher decrees are being planned. I implore you," the Rebbe continued, "please search the depths of your heart and annul these terrible decrees!"
A murmur swept through the crowd. This was the first time that the Rebbe was participating in the Purim levity! Yet the Rebbe's face remained oddly serious. Not even the hint of a smile broke his lips. He watched the "Czar" closely, waiting for his reaction with bated breath.
The "Czar" was silent for a moment, as if considering his words. "Two of the decrees I will invalidate, but the third I refuse to annul."
A look of pure sorrow passed over the Rebbe's face. "I beg you," he insisted, "please reconsider. The decree will cause untold difficulties for your Jewish citizens. I implore you!" the Rebbe cried.
It appeared that Reb Chaikel was playing his role for all its worth, obviously pleased that the Rebbe was going along with the game. "Absolutely not!" he declared. "The decree will not be revoked!" The Rebbe continued to implore the "Czar," but all his words and tears were for naught. The "Czar" would not be budged.
Suddenly, the Rebbe arose from his seat, his face pale and his eyes aflame. "Get out of here, you wicked villain!" he cried, pointing his finger at the "Czar." "Be gone, and let me never see your face again!"
It took only a few seconds to realize that the Rebbe was not jesting. The "Czar," confused and disoriented, stood up and left the hall as quickly as possible. Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin remained quiet, absorbed in his thoughts.
Everyone waited for him to speak. At long last, the Rebbe uttered a sigh. "If only the fool would have agreed to annul the third decree, it would have really been annulled. But the forces of evil were victorious..." he lamented.
Reb Chaikel was led to his house, where he immediately fell into a drunken stupor. The next morning he had no recollection. When told of what had transpired, he could not believe that he refused the Rebbe's request.
A few days after Purim it was learned that the first two decrees against the Jews had been retracted, but the third had indeed been signed into law. The chasidim then understood that far more than Purim entertainment had been at stake that year.
On Purim in the Megila we read: "Then the king said to her [Esther], 'What is your wish. it shall be given to you even up to half the kingdom.' " (Esther 5:3) On this the Targum Yonatan explains that Ahasuerus meant: "Even if you ask for half my kingdom I will give it to you but not if you ask to build the Holy Temple which stands on the boundary of half my kingdom, that I will not give you..."