Food For the Soul
This year, Purim begins Thursday night, February 25 and continues through Friday, February 26 (extending through Sunday in Jerusalem). The festival commemorates the Divinely orchestrated salvation of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.” It is celebrated with Megillah readings, gifts of food, charity, feasting, and merriment.
Writes Rabbi Menachem Posner: “Purim 2021 marks a full year on the Jewish calendar since the covid lockdowns began in the West, and life as we know it was upended. This holiday, typically marked by communal celebrations and big get-togethers, seems particularly challenging to celebrate alone or with a small group of family members. But if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that when there’s a will, there’s a way. And since G‑d certainly wills it, it’s up to us to find that way.” For a complete guide to Purim observance, including how to celebrate from your home, visit Chabad.org
Question: “Why do we get drunk on Purim?”
According to Rabbi Tzvi Freeman “two and a half thousand years ago, the Jews in Shushan were delirious with joy. We’re not talking just happiness, but an explosive, spontaneous mass celebration that nobody had ever experienced since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. So they wanted that for all generations, Jews should experience the same ecstatic celebration that they felt then.”
However, Purim is not about drinking, he adds. “Purim is about being drunk with sincere happiness. Traditionally, Jews have celebrated Purim by drinking a little extra wine at their Purim feast. Drinking, according to the sages of the Talmud, can heighten the joy and excitement of Purim. So they declared it actually is a mitzvah—as long as you are confident that your behavior will remain at the high standard expected by the Torah.” If you have to drive, or you know that drinking can otherwise get you in trouble, then stick to grape juice.
Purim on Friday
Purim on Friday is a fairly unusual occurrence, and requires some planning in order to fulfill all the mitzvot in their proper time, and still be ready for Shabbat on time. The Megillah is read Thursday night and Friday morning, and mishloach manot (food gifts) and matanot laevyonim (charity) are both given during the daylight hours of Friday.
The real question is when to hold the festive Purim meal. Ideally we do not eat a full meal in close proximity to Shabbat, to ensure that we approach the Shabbat table with a hearty appetite. The best solution is to have the Purim meal on Friday morning, before midday. If this is not an option, try to schedule the meal as early in the afternoon as possible.
Malkie Janowski for Chabad.org
Mind Over Matter
Be like oil!
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that oil holds the secret formula for how to successfully live a proud Jewish life in an environment which may be far from Jewishly conducive. On the one hand, oil spreads quickly and easily, seeping through and permeating the substances with which it comes in contact. On the other hand, when mixed with other liquids, oil stubbornly rises to the surface and refuses to be absorbed by anything else. [As Jews], we should never mix to the point of allowing our own Jewish persona to be swallowed or diluted. We often feel a strong pressure, whether real or imagined, to conform to the norms around us. The fact is, however, that others respect us more when we respect ourselves. If we are cavalier in our commitment to our own principles, then our non-Jewish associates might worry whether we might not betray them next.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Elevating the physical
The festive eating, drinking and merriment on Purim speaks to the physical reality of G‑d’s creation. The use of material substances in context of man’s service of-and relationship with-G‑d, imbues these substances with spirituality. It sublimates them to their Divinely intended purpose. Purim manifests the intrinsic oneness of the universe which is rooted in the Oneness of its Creator. This, indeed, is the ultimate purpose of creation: to manifest its Divine origin by converting this world into a fitting abode for G‑dliness. The achievement of this goal is the ultimate bliss of the Messianic era. Our efforts towards that end will hasten this goal and bliss, to happen very speedily in our days.
Adapted from an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Purim in Nazi hell
Tired, starved, and downtrodden, we Jewish prisoners plodded into the barracks where we spent a few miserable hours on hard bunks before another day of backbreaking labor. We were too exhausted to think, but when our minds wandered back to times long gone, we could not help but wonder if it had all been a dream. Would we ever live again as we once had, before our parents and children had been murdered, and we were dropped into an unending hellish existence where death seemed to be a welcome (and inevitable) reprieve?
It was Purim eve, but what was there for us to celebrate in the German concentration camp of Gross-Rosen? Suddenly, one of us leaped down from his small space on the bunk and began an impassioned speech that will forever remain in my memory: “My fellow Jews,” he called out, “dear brothers in suffering! Today is our Purim, when we remember the miracles G‑d did for our ancestors. He who dwells in Heaven saved our nation from being decimated. The enemy fell into the pit that he himself had dug. Today we once again have a double-edged sword pressed against our necks. Our enemies are trying to destroy us, but do not allow terror into your hearts! The Haman of our day, Hitler and his lackeys, will not be able to overcome G‑d’s chosen nation. The eternity of Israel will not lie. The bells of freedom are already ringing in the distance. We will yet live to see justice meted out against our enemies, just like our ancestors in Shushan of old. Be strong, brothers, the Jewish nation lives on!”
Beads of sweat appeared on his face. His lips trembled, his eyes glinted, but he said no more. Then another prisoner jumped down from his bunk and took his place next to the orator. Sweetly, with a voice laden with nostalgia and hope, he sang the words of the blessing said after the Megillah reading, in which we thank G‑d “Who fights our battles and pays comeuppance to our mortal enemies.”
As the rest of us absorbed the last echoes of the tune, the two men lithely climbed back into their spots on the tiered bunking and silence reigned once again. In our minds, we were blissfully transported back to the happy Purims of years past, but we knew the joy would not last.
The following morning, the block commander stormed into the barrack: “Cursed Jews!” he shouted. “Last night someone here spoke disparagingly of our Führer. Tell me who it was! If I do not know who it was, you will all be punished before the day is done!” His words were met with defiant silence. His face appeared angrier, and his voice became louder. “Dirty Jews!” he called out shrilly. “I am giving you 10 minutes to identify last night’s speakers. Make no mistake about it, your lives are on the line.” Ten minutes passed, and no one uttered a word.“Run, swine, run!” the commander barked, and we Jews began to run as fast as we could, while the guards rained down a shower of rifle butts and whips upon our heads and backs.
“Quick, quick,” they shouted as rivers of blood spurted from our heads and our arms. Our backs sagged and our feet ached. But we had only one fear: that last night’s brave performers, who had gifted us with hope and courage, would give themselves up in order to save us from further suffering. One even tried to run out of line to identify himself, but his neighbors didn’t allow it. “No, no,” they hissed with clenched teeth, “Stay strong. We are all responsible for one another.”
I have no way of recalling how long this went on, because every moment felt like eternity. We ran with our last strength, panting, with no air to breathe. Our tongues hung out, and tears mingled with sweat on our cheeks. But no one even considered ratting on the heroes of the previous night. Yes, even the prisoners of Gross-Rosen merited their own Purim miracle—two miracles, actually: That no one dropped dead from the diabolic run we were forced to endure, and that we all had the courage to keep the identity of those two men secret.
The late Pinchas Menachem Feivlovitz was a Holocaust survivor who fought (and was wounded) in Israel’s war of independence. An adherent of the Gur Chassidic group, he devoted much of his energy to chronicling and telling the atrocities of the Holocaust. Together with his wife and fellow survivor Cipora, he raised a family in Israel. At the time of his passing in 2007, he left behind dozens of descendants, devoted to Torah and Jewish life. This vignette was recorded by Feivlovitz in his (Hebrew) book, Odeni Zocher (I Still Recall).