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Purim is no joking matter

Friday, 11 March, 2016 - 2:13 pm

Purim is a serious holiday. Not just a day to act silly and drink. It is a time to experience a powerful commitment to Hashem. The sages of the Talmud state that at the time of Purim the Jewish people displayed a commitment to G-d and His Torah that was greater than they had at Sinai. To the extent, that the Talmud describes Purim as the final step in the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah, which had been left incomplete at Sinai for various reasons.

What was the great dedication that was on display during the Purim story that renders it greater than Sinai? Commitment of Mesirut Nefesh – self-sacrifice. The entire Jewish nation was threatened with annihilation by Haman and his minions. For almost a year the threat of a “final solution” hung over their heads. A simple declaration by any Jew “that he was no longer a part of this people” would have saved him from this threat. Yet, not a single Jew even entertained the thought disassociating himself from his people and G-d, for the sake of saving his life. This powerful commitment to G-d that was evoked during the Purim story was deeper than the one that was on display at Sinai when we said Na’aseh V’nishma (we will do and then listen).

Since this commitment was so powerful that it transcended reason, our celebration of the holiday is in a manner that transcends reason. Ad d’lo yadah is more than just a carnival at the JCC (though that is a fine way to get into the Purim spirit this Sunday) or a blood alcohol level mandated on Purim (designated driver is an absolute must). Ad d’lo yadah means, “until one does not know” – meaning that one’s experience of commitment to Hashem on this day is beyond Yadah – intellect or reason.

So Purim is about commitment. We, who are blessed to live in a time when we are not persecuted for our Jewishness, must strive to see to it that our Jewishness takes on the same sense of urgency during good times as it did during the tough times. When we live in this heightened state of G-d consciousness, the allures of a society of plenty will not distract us from our dedication just as the threats of persecution did not during the difficult times.

Happy Adar and Purim prep! The more serious we take Purim, the more fun it is when we celebrate!

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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