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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Israel Rubin
We are proud and privileged to present this composition in preparation of Purim, promoting the performance of the Purim procedures.
You are probably perplexed and perturbed that this prolific Purim periodical blows Purim out of proportion. Don't other projects or programs have more priority than the precious printing of Purim Propaganda?
I propose that this is precisely Purim's Problem. Purim needs more PR.
Purim is of paramount importance, proving the promise of Jewish perseverance despite pressure and persecution. Unfortunately, peripheral pranks, pretzels, parodies and parades predominate. Yet paradoxically, Purim is on par with the holiest day - Yom Kippur!
Purim pertains to every person and profile, from preppie to provost; from the poorest, perspiring presser to the prim and proper president of the most prestigious corporation.
In preaching the Purim principles, we must particularly emphasize the practical, for proverbially, practice makes perfect. Jewish law promulgates five primary Purim precepts:
- Prescribed on parchment, the Megilla is proclaimed on Purim day and the preceding night. Providence pervades as the preamble progresses through the pre-Purim prosperous parties, the profaning of pure priestly vessels, the princely perfumes, Mordechai's premonition of peril, and the evil pursuits perpetrated by Persia's prejudiced premier, Haman. Mordechai prevails and is promoted - dressed in royal purple paraphernalia.
- We purvey to our friends by proxy a pair of provisions: Hamantashen (poppy or prune), Perrier, pears, apricots or other edibles. It is apropos to reciprocate; how much is your prerogative, and the more the merrier.
- It is imperative to provide to the poor on Poorim. If you can't proffer your hand to the poor personally, you can participate by putting proceeds into a pushka/charity box.
- Purim protocol calls for partaking in a party and pouring a L'Chaim.
- Appropriate prayers express appreciation to G-d and pretty Esther's praises.
May the Purim inspiration purimeate our whole year!
Rabbi Rubin is director of Chabad of the Capital District in Albany, New York
This week's Torah portion, Tetzave, describes the special garments worn by the high priest during his service in the Holy Temple, and enumerates eight separate items of clothing.
The Torah makes two provisos: First, the high priest may not perform his service unless he is wearing all eight garments, and second, he is not allowed to even enter the Sanctuary unless he is wearing three of them - the breastplate, ephod, and robe.
The high priest is the emissary and representative of the Jewish people, and as such, his function is to connect them to G-d.
The relationship between the Jew and G-d exists on two levels simultaneously: One is the result of the Jew's service through Torah and mitzvot (commandments), the other stems from the Jew's innate connection with G-d by virtue of his essence. Both levels are reflected in the Torah's instructions concerning the high priest's garments.
Set into the breastplate were twelve precious stones, each inscribed with the name of a different tribe, which the high priest was required to wear "upon his heart." The breastplate therefore symbolizes the highest level of connection between the Jew and G-d, as these names were actually inscribed on the holy object itself.
The next level of the Jew's bond with G-d is expressed in the ephod, which also contained stones inscribed with the names of the tribes, but with a difference: The stones of the ephod were not worn "opposite the heart" but rather, "upon the shoulder - pieces," in the back of the garment.
The ephod therefore symbolizes those Jews who wage a constant war against their Evil Inclination, a type of service of G-d that falls into the category of "back."
The third level is expressed in the high priest's robe, the hem of which was adorned with "pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarn."
Our Sages commented that even the simplest Jew is as full of mitzvot as a pomegranate; the ephod therefore symbolizes this level.
The high priest must wear all three garments - representing all three levels of Jews - if he is to be allowed into the Sanctuary, the place where the Divine Presence rests. For it is when all Jews stand together in unity that the deepest bond with G-d is forged - "a remembrance before the L-rd continually."
This contains a lesson for us to apply in our lives:
Every single Jew is an essential part of the Jewish people and is therefore a "remembrance before the L-rd continually."
For the true essence of the Jew is not his external appearance but his G-dly soul, "a veritable part of G-d," and all Jews are children of the same Father.
From Likutei Sichot Vol. XXI of the Rebbe.
A Costume and a Car
by Geula Newman
Last year, after considering different ideas, our eight-year-old daughter Sara decided that she wanted to dress up as a pushka (tzedaka box) for Purim. She would be standing inside of it (a painted cardboard box), with room for her head and hands to protrude. It was to say "Tzedaka" (charity) on it; her face would say "Matanot La'Evyonim - Gifts to the Poor," referring to the additional charity that we are enjoined to give on Purim. She was going to hold a small basket withm miniature "mishloach manot" (food gifts) to distribute to children during our Purim event at Chabad of Beverlywood. Since her hands would be busy, Sara would have a real pushka attached.
Being the most practical eight year old I ever met, Sara went to work figuring out all of the details. She made hamentashen dough as soon as she got home from school on Thursday and shaped cute and tiny hamentashen with a single chocolate lentil as the filling. She had her sister help her fill little bags with exactly one hamentash and a single candy, fulfilling the requirement of giving two different kinds of foods.
Purim occurred last year on Saturday night through Sunday. As soon as Shabbat was over, Sara lamented the fact that we had no Velcro in the house. "That is what I need to stick the pushka to me! Mommy, don't you realize, it's such an important mitzva!"
I pointed out to Sara that the mitzva of tzedaka on Purim is really for the daytime. I reassured her that we had plenty of velcro in the pre-school and that before our 10:00 a.m. Purim Party we would definitely make it a point to pick it up. We finished getting ready and rushed off to hear the Megila. After returning home but before going to sleep, Sara made sure to remind my husband and me about the Velcro. "I really need it," she made sure to say, "that's how the money and the pushka will stay on..."
The Purim air had the Newman children up and ready early Sunday morning. The Megila reading was over at 9 and the party was starting at 10. I reassured my very focused daughter. So, while her siblings had a jolly time testing out the different games being delivered to the Chabad House for the party, Sara hopped into my car to join me in the Velcro pick-up. I ran into the supply room and emerged triumphantly with two rolls of Velcro.
"Mommy, these are the same side! Please look again!" The clock was ticking, we still had to pick up 500 pitas on our way back... but I couldn't let her down! With a prayer on my lips, I ran into one of the classrooms to continue my Velcro search. One cabinet after another... no Velcro. My praying became more intense as I finally spotted a ziplock bag with a few strips of the precious stuff she needed. Thankfully, I was able to convince Sara that we had enough pennies at home and we really don't have time to stop at a bank to pick up more. "Mommy, I need at least 200 pennies," she announced. I counted pennies with Sara until she was satisfied with her full cup, Velcroed of course to her costume alongside the pushka.
The day continued in a joyous flurry, with over 400 Jews celebrating at our Chabad House in fun Purim spirit. Out of the 400 people, at least 200 of them came across an interesting Purim Tzedaka dressed girl and did not pass her until they had taken a coin from her cup and put it in the pushka. She went from stranger to friend, young person to old, smiling and pointing out to them what they needed to do to fulfill one of the four mitzvot of the day - "Gifts to the Poor".
After the party, our family drove around the neighborhood delivering Mishloach Manot. For my husband, delivering Mishloach Manot is not just about delivering. It's about stopping at each place for a Purim dance, an inspiring word, a "l'chaim," (hence my job of designated driver), a push to connect more to another person and to bring Moshiach by taking on another mitzva.
Then it happened. Sara ran to join her father. I saw it - the coast was clear for her to cross, and then suddenly it was not. Sitting in the driver's seat, my entire body froze as I watched in horror when it was already too late to scream - my daughter running and the SUV speeding inches away until it hit her! The right front corner banged directly into her torso. With that speed, that size car, and her weight, she should have been thrown yards away onto the concrete or onto another car. But in front of my eyes, Sara ran to me, shaking and frightened, crying, "I want to go home."
I held her, asking "Where does it hurt?" thinking she must have at least broken a few ribs... yet there was nothing that hurt her.
The young man driving came out of his car, white as a sheet, looking more scared than Sara. "Is she... okay?" He also couldn't believe she was fine and alive! I guess I was too flustered and focused on Sara to answer. Meanwhile, my husband had come out to see what was going on. Rafael the driver was Jewish. He was eager to do anything at this point, having just had the shock of his life and at the same time witnessed an open miracle. So right there on the street he put on tefilin, something he had not done since his Bar Mitzva. We gave him Mishloach Manot and promised to join us for Shabbat dinner.
In Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, tzedaka is described as a shield of protection, the coins being the scales themselves. That is all I can think of when I picture that most scariest sight - an invisible shield of 200 pennies in between Sara and that SUV.
Thank you G-d for performing such great wonders on a day of hidden miracles. Thank you Rebbe, for inspiring your young Chasidim like Sara to take their job seriously and to never give up. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be your emissaries and to experience your constant guidance and protection. And please, let us experience the ultimate miracles with the coming of Moshiach now!
Purim Guess Who?
It's exciting and interactive for children to guess the rhyming Purim riddles, then open the flap to reveal the answers. Purim Guess Who is cleverly designed so the very young will learn as they go about the Megila, the special holiday foods and customs, the heroic figures in the Purim story, and more! Bright colorful illustrations of a family celebration bring the holiday to life. This sturdy, hard bound book is perfect for children ages 3 and up. A new release from HaChai Publishing, written by Ariella Stern and illustrated by Patti Argoff.
The Garden of Paradox
The Garden of Paradox is a primer on the philosophy of Kabala, presented as a series of three conversations, revealing the mysteries of Creator, Creation and Consciousness. Rabbi DovBer Pinson tackles the larger questions of life including: Who is G-d? Who am I? Why do I exist? What is my purpose in this life? Accessing the deepest secrets of Torah and Kabala, the book helps us find reason for the world we live in, and the lives we have been given. From Iyyun Publishing.
Erev Purim, 5737 
Blessing and Greeting:
I received your letter of Feb. 22, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good, and you should have good news to report in all the matters about which you wrote, especially that you and your husband are bringing up your children to a life of Torah, Chuppah [marriage] and Good Deeds and having true Yiddish Nachas [joy] from each and all of them in good health and pleasant circumstances.
The Zechus [merit] of your observance of our sacred traditions - which I was gratified to note in your letter - will surely stand you and yours in good stead in all above, including your continued advancement in all matters of Torah and Mitzvos [commandments]. For, although this is a "must" for its own sake, in compliance with G-d's Will, this is also the "channel and vessel" to receive additional Divine blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.
The above is a particularly timely message now that we are about to celebrate Purim, the highlight of which is the reading of the Megillah [Scroll of Esther], evening and morning. It is noteworthy and significant that although - as the Megillah tells us - both Mordechai and Esther were instrumental in bringing about the Miracle of Purim and saving our people, the Megillah is not named after both of them jointly, nor after Esther and Mordechai in this order, but solely after Esther - "Megillas Esther."
Here is a pointedly emphatic message for every Jewish woman about her unique role in Jewish life. To be sure, no one can compare to the stature of Queen Esther, but it does emphasize the extraordinary potential of every loyal Jewish daughter to shape the future of her family, with far-reaching consequences for the environment and even for the entire Jewish people.
If this seems farfetched and mystical, the following episode will illustrate what even a comparatively small effort can accomplish.
You may have heard that many of our senior Lubavitch students volunteer their summer vacation to travel to distant places in order to reach out to fellow Jews in need of encouragement to strengthen their identity with, and commitment to, our people and the Torah way.
In the course of this program it so happened that one of the students visited a small, Jewishly isolated town where he found only a few Jewish families, and, as he later reported, he was disappointed to have accomplished nothing there. But several months later, our Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, which sponsors this program received a letter from one the families in that town.
The writer, a woman, related that one summer day she happened to stand by her front window when she saw a bearded young man, wearing a dark hat, his Tzitzis [ritual fringes] showing, approaching her door. She confessed that when she admitted the young man and learned of the purpose of his visit, she was not responsive, for she and her family were not prepared at that moment to change their lifestyle. Yet for a long time after that encounter, the appearance of the young man haunted her. He reminded her of her grandfather and had refreshed her memories of the beautiful Jewish life she had seen in her grandparents' home, though the material circumstances were incomparably more modest than she had come to know in her married life.
Finally - the letter went on - she decided to make the change. She made her home kosher, and the family began to observe Shabbos and Yom Tov [holidays], and she is raising the children in the Torah way. Since then her home was filled with such contentment and serenity that she decided to write to the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch and express her profound gratitude.
Now, if all that was the result of a brief encounter with that young man, though unknown to him of his lasting impact, how much more can be achieved by an American Jewish family, whose influence is not limited to a few minutes' conversation, but serves as a shining example of the kind of daily life and conduct that should be the privilege and blessing of every Jewish family.
Needless to say, if in maintaining the proper Jewish standards there may be some difficulties to overcome (many of which may even be more imaginary than real), surely such difficulties should be of no significance in comparison to the infinite benefits. Moreover, the effort required is a personal one, while the benefit is also for the many.
With prayerful wishes for a joyous and inspiring Purim and
Daniel was exiled at age 15 from the Holy Land to Babylonia together with Chananya, Mishael and Azarya. He interpreted a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. He also deciphered the meaning of the "handwriting on the wall" for General Belshatzer. He was thrown into a den of lions as a punishment by King Darius but miraculously remained alive. Daniel was a member of the "Men of the Great Assembly." According to the Talmud (Megila 15a), Daniel - known also as Hasach - acted as a messenger between Mordechai and Esther. Elsewhere in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98b) Daniel is referred to as Ish Chamudos and the Sages stated that he had the qualities of Moshiach.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Purim will soon be here. Bake (or buy) hamentashen, pick up a grogger, decide what costume to wear, invite some friends over for the Purim meal.
But wait a minute. What if Moshiach, who could come at any moment, comes before Purim? Will all of our plans and arrangements be for naught? We can eat the hamentashen, but what about the groggers, costumes and food?
Interestingly enough, the Talmud says that "All festivals will one day cease, but the days of Purim will never cease." Our sages have also said that of all the writings of the Prophets, only the Scroll of Esther will endure.
What is so special about Purim and everything connected to it that even when Moshiach comes it will continue?
The solemn day of Yom Kippur is referred to in our holy books as Yom Kippurim, which means the day that is like Purim. Our sages have explained that what we accomplish on Yom Kippur through fasting and prayer only approaches, is only likened to that which we can accomplish through feasting and rejoicing on Purim. For, to attain holiness through feasting and rejoicing, to transform the physical into spiritual, is much more difficult than holiness attained through afflicting oneself.
The days of the month of Adar are days of rejoicing. We are taught that joy and happiness break all boundaries. What we can accomplish through happiness and rejoicing far surpasses what can be accomplished in any other manner.
From the holiday of Purim, and the fact that it will continue once Moshiach comes, we learn the value of simcha-joy. May the simcha of this Purim and each day leading up to it break the final boundaries of this exile so that we can celebrate Purim all together this year in Jerusalem.
Command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you pure olive oil, pounded, for the lighting, to cause a light to burn always (Ex. 27:20)
The First and Second Holy Temples illuminated the world with their light for a specific and limited period of time. The Third Holy Temple, however, which will be rebuilt when Moshiach comes, will be in fulfillment of the latter half of the verse, "to cause a light to burn always." Its light will never be extinguished.
(Rabbi Yitzchak Karo)
And you shall command the Children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil (Ex. 27:20)
The Jewish people are likened to the olive, at it states in Jeremiah (11:16): "An evergreen olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form, did the L-rd call your name." In the same way that all other liquids can be mixed together, whereas oil always floats to the top, so too is it impossible for the Jewish people to fully assimilate among the nations of the world. And when Jews carry out G-d's will, they merit to stand above the entire world.
And that the breastplate not be loosened from the Efod (Ex. 28:28)
The breastplate was worn on the chest of the High Priest over his heart. The numerical equivalent of "Efod" is 85, the same as the word "peh," meaning mouth. In commanding that the breastplate, symbolic of the heart, not be loosened from the efod, symbolizing the mouth, the Torah is giving us a hint that a person's heart and mouth should always be in sync with each other.
(Degel Machane Efraim)
There was once a city in Tunisia with a large Jewish population. One year, a few months before Purim, the price of fish suddenly skyrocketed. The problem wasn't a scarcity of fish; the rivers swarmed with them. Rather, the trouble was that the government-appointed head of the fishing industry had arbitrarily decided to hike the prices.
His reasoning was simple: Knowing how important it was for Jews to eat fish on the Sabbath and holidays, he figured that they would pay any price for the commodity. And indeed he was right. Most of the Jews sighed as they dug a little deeper into their pockets. But for the poor, it was a delicacy that was completely beyond reach.
When the month of Adar (whose celestial sign is fish) arrived, the poor Jews went to their Rabbi to complain. It wasn't fair that they would be unable to buy fish for Purim. The elderly Rabbi was a venerated Kabbalist, who was also the mohel of the community.
The poor Jews' grievance touched the old man's heart, and he promised to help them. That night, the candle in the Rabbi's study shone till dawn. He was very busy consulting his holy books.
Early the next morning the Rabbi summoned his attendant. Handing him a small slip of folded parchment he said, "I have an important mission for you, but it must be kept secret. Go to the river now, before any of the fishermen arrive. When you are sure that no one is watching, throw this parchment into the water." The attendant did as he was told.
That day began as usual on the waterfront as the fishermen cast their rods and spread their nets. But as morning turned into afternoon their faces fell. Not one fisherman had had even a nibble. Their nets were completely empty.
At first the fishermen assumed that for some reason, the fish were avoiding the coastline. But when the fishing boats returned from the deeper waters and reported that they too had had no luck, they realized that something was amiss. "Oh well," they consoled each other, "it was just a bad day for fishing."
But the next day the same thing happened, and the day after that. It was very strange how all the fish seemed to have simply disappeared.
Of all the people in the city the governor, who loved to eat fish, was particularly affected by the shortage. In the very beginning he instructed his servants to prepare dishes of smoked and dried fish, but eventually his supply was depleted. "Why are there no fresh fish?!" he demanded one day. "There simply aren't any," the servants explained. The governor decided to go down to the river to see for himself.
At the governor's command the fishing boats set sail, and nets were spread up and down the length of the river. But no one caught even one specimen. The whole day's efforts were wasted.
At that point the governor gathered all the fishermen together and asked them for an explanation. "Esteemed governor," a short little fisherman piped up, "I'm not certain that the two are related, but on the same morning the fish disappeared, I noticed a Jew throwing something into the water. He was very careful to make sure that no one was looking. From that day on we haven't seen even one fish."
The finger of suspicion was clearly pointed at the Jews. The governor announced that if the fish didn't return within one week, a heavy tax would be imposed on the Jewish community.
The Jews were distraught at the libelous accusation, and their leaders declared a day of fasting and prayer. The entire community assembled in the synagogue and implored G-d to have mercy on their innocent souls.
Suddenly, the elderly Rabbi stood up to speak. "My brothers," he said, "the governor is right. We are the reason that there are no fish. But an evil decree has not befallen us; on the contrary, it is G-d Who is fighting our battle. When the price of fish was unfairly raised beyond the ability of the poor, I prayed to G-d to make the fish disappear."
The people were shocked. No one could believe that such a thing had happened. But the elderly Rabbi encouraged them to keep on praying. "Don't worry," he reassured them. "I will go now to meet with the governor."
The Rabbi went to the royal residence and was granted an audience. He explained to the governor why the fish had vanished. "If our esteemed governor will promise that the price of fish will go down, I will make sure that they return to our waters."
The governor was astounded by the story, and amazed at the power of the holy Rabbi. On the spot he promised to appoint someone else as head of the fishing industry. The Rabbi smiled, and invited the governor to go with him to the riverbank. At the Rabbi's command the fishermen spread their nets. They were quickly filled with fish of all varieties, shapes and colors.
That Purim, "there was light and joy to the Jews, and gladness and honor." And of course, lots of fish on their tables.
In the days prior to Moshiach, who will soon redeem the world, including the blemished quality of daat (knowledge), and the verse of Isaiah (11:9), "The world will be filled with the knowedlge of the L-rd, as the waters cover the sea," will be fulfilled, the Jew has his own opportunity to make amends for the initial misdeed of the first man. This correction can best be carried out when all Jews fully observe the commadment of Purim [to "drink" until one does not "know" the difference between "blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman:] to celebrate this joyous and important holiday by drinking in a proper and holy manner.
(The Aryeh Kaplan Reader)