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Should we be happy on Purim this year? Print E-mail
Friday, 22 March 2024

We learn about how to celebrate Purim in Megillat Esther 9:22-23:

...As the days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their enemies, and the month that was reversed for them from grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day- to make these days of feasting and joy, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor. The Jews accordingly assumed as an obligation that which they had begun to practice and which Mordecai prescribed for them.

According to the Malbim, there were two transformations: From sorrow to gladness and from mourning to festivity. In honor of the gladness we have a seuda/party, in honor of Yom Tov, since Mordechai couldn't institute a new Yom Tov (holiday), Matanot L'Evyonim (gifts to the poor) was instituted as an opportunity to do a mitzvah.

This year is difficult because we almost feel like we are back in the Purim story with so much anti-Semitism going on in the world, the aftermath of October 7, 134 hostages who have not yet been released and hundreds of soldiers that have been killed in battle.

Yet on the other hand, our story is very different. We have our own State and we have our own army. We will get through this war. The war is not a reason for us to cancel out our holidays. It is bad enough that our enemies ruined Simchat Torah for us. If we let them destroy our holidays then we are letting them win.

We must continue to celebrate by having a festive meal. This may be a good time to invite people who otherwise may not have a seuda to go to. As well, we must make sure that the poor are taken care of.

This Purim, and every day, we must take more responsibility to make sure that that we are looking out for the soldiers in the field, soldiers recovering in the hospitals, miluim (military) families, the evacuated residents of the north and south, the relatives of the hostages and the elderly and infirm.

Instead of sitting at home and lamenting the situation, we must go out and help others. This is what Purim is all about.

As we say in the Acheinu prayer for those who are in captivity:

May God have mercy on them and remove them from distress to relief, from darkness to light, from subjugation to redemption, now, speedily and soon.

May we merit to see the month of Adar turn from sorrow to gladness and from mourning to festivity.

Bringing Unity to Israel- One Package at a Time Print E-mail
Friday, 10 March 2023

The Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot (sending portions) is mentioned in Megillat Esther 9:19: Therefore, the Jewish villagers, who live in open towns, make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar a day of joy and feasting and a festive day, and of sending portions to one another” as well as in verse 22: as the days that the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month that was reversed from grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day-to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”

The Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 695:4 explains what the mitzvah entails: One must send to his friend two portions of meat or food. Two portions to one person is the obligation.

The Maharal explains why we give Mishloach Manot on Purim in Or Chadash, Esther 9:22: In this way they overcome Haman and his seed who are the opposite of the unity of God. And that is why on Purim in particular we send portions to one another and gifts to the poor since these mitzvot emphasize that Israel is the most united people of all nations.

Giving Mishloach Manot helps increase peace and friendship and reminds us that we are one united group as opposed to what Haman told Achashverosh in Esther 3:8 “There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom...”

One of the highlights of Purim is dropping off Mishloach Manot for friends and coming home to receive packages that were left on our doorsteps. In recent years, many synagogues have organized communal Mishloach Manot programs which raise money for the synagogue but leave some members with only one package and can take some of the fun out of the day. If you live in one of those communities, it is important to still drop off packages for those who may otherwise not receive any outside of the communal project.

If we really want Purim to be a happy day, we must reach out to people who don’t receive any packages at all such as the elderly who are in nursing homes and the soldiers who are defending our borders.

If you are ambitious and you are willing to go out of your comfort zone, you can help create unity by giving a package to someone who would never expect one from you- a neighbour that your rarely speak to, someone whose religious observance or political beliefs differ from yours or even someone that you don’t particularly get along with.

If we want Israel and the Jewish people to be united in the way that they were when they celebrated the victory over Haman then we each really need to take the first step.

This Purim, instead of only celebrating with your friends, put a smile on the face of someone who would never have expected you to stop by and let’s bring unity back to Israel, one package at a time.

The origins of Mishloach Manot Print E-mail
Friday, 22 March 2019

In Megillat Ester 9:19 we read about when Purim is celebrated: “Therefore Jewish villagers who live in unwalled towns celebrate the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as an occasion of gladness, feasting and festival and for sending Mishloach Manot (delicacies) to one another.” The next few verses mention Mordechai’s proclamation of Purim as an annual holiday on the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar and Mishloach Manot are mentioned again in verse 22: “as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and the month which had been turned about for them from one of sorrow to gladness, and from mourning to festival; to observe them as days of feasting and gladness and sending Mishloach Manot to one another and Matanot L’Evyonim (gifts to the poor).

Professor Michael Holzer of the University of Haifa explains that Mishloach Manot show mutual respect in the Jewish community while Matanot L’Evyonim show social responsibility to the weak population.

Megillat Ester is not the only time in the Tanach where gifts of food were distributed. In the book of Nechemia, when the Jewish people returned to the Land of Israel to build the Second Temple, during their celebration of Rosh HaShana, when the Torah was read to the nation, the people began to cry. Nechemia told the people (Nechemia 8:10) “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet beverages and send Manot (portions) to those who have nothing prepared, for today is sacred to God. Do not be sad, the enjoyment of God is your strength.”

We see from here that sending Manot cheers people up.

What are these rich foods and sweet beverages?

Dr. Michael Kochman, describes rich foods as foods of good quality as in Yitzchak’s blessing to Yaakov (Breisheet 27:28) “May God give you of the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth and abundant grain and wine.” Sweet beverages would be liquid products such as honey and grape juice.

According to Professor Avraham Shalom Yehuda, sending Mishloach Manot on the holidays may be derived from the Persian custom to send Mishloach Manot on their new year.

Mishloach Manot is a mitzvah of Purim which is still a highlight of the holiday for both the giver and the receiver.

May we merit to give and receive packages for many more Purim celebrations.

Was Vashti Pretty Print E-mail
Friday, 14 March 2014

If Vashti was pretty then why didn’t she want to appear before King Achashverosh?


The Talmud in Masechet Megilla 15a states:

The Rabbis taught: There have been four women of surpassing beauty in the world- Sarah, Rachav, Avigail and Ester. According to the one who says that Ester was sallow, Vashti should be inserted in place of Ester.


We know that Sarah was beautiful as both King Pharaoh and King Avimelech wanted to marry her.


Rachav was a harlot whose “bed and breakfast” was on the top of the list for most men who visited Jericho.


King David was attracted to Avigail even when her husband was still alive and he rushed to marry her soon after her husband died.


Ester was beautiful but some say that since her name was also Hadassah (myrtle) that she had a green complexion like a myrtle.


If Vashti would take Ester’s place then that would have to mean that she was very pretty.


If Vashti was so pretty then why didn’t she want to appear before the king?


In Megillat Ester, Chaper 1, sentence 11 King Achasverosh asked “to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the royal crown, to show the people and the princes her beauty for she was of comely appearance.”


The fact that it says that she should come wearing the royal crown implies that she should only wear the royal crown (otherwise she would be undressed).


The Gemara explains that it wasn’t Vashti’s modesty that kept her from appearing before the king. Rabbi Yose ben Hanina said: This teaches us that tzaraat (a skin disease similar to leprosy) broke out on her.


In the Braita it is taught that the angel Gabriel came and fixed a tail on her.


The Gemara implies that Vashti was beautiful and that the only reason that she didn’t come out was because she was suffering from some imperfections. Without these imperfections she would not have had a problem appearing before the king.


We learn from here that beauty is only skin deep!

Was Ester a Vegetarian or a Vegan? Print E-mail
Friday, 22 February 2013
A few sentences after we are introduced to Ester in the Megila (Ester 2:8-10) we read:


So it came to pass when the King’s bidding and decree were published and when many young girls were being brought together to Shushan the Capital under the charge of Hegai that Ester was taken into the palace, under the charge of Hegai, guardian of the women. The girl pleased him and she obtained his kindness; he hurriedly prepared her cosmetics and her allowance of delicacies to present her, along with the seven special maids from the palace and he transferred her and her maidens to the best quarters in the harem. Ester had not told of her people or her kindred, for Mordechai had instructed her not to tell.


The Gemara in Masechet Megila 13a discusses what special things Hegai did for Ester.


Rav said that he fed her Jewish (Kosher) food.


The problem with Rav’s answer is that nobody knew that she was Jewish so why would they get her Kosher food?


Ben Yehoyada answers that since Ester grew up in Mordechai’s home they assumed that she would want the food that she was accustomed to eating.


Another explanation could be that since they knew that Kosher food was healthier, they honored her request and brought it to her.


The Gemara continues:


Shmuel said that he fed her “kadlei dichazirei” fatty hog bacon (a delicacy at the time).


Tosafot say that although she was served the bacon, she did not eat it.


Aruch says that they gave her the tops of the lettuce (chazirei being like the chazeret (horsereadish) that we eat on Pesach).


The Gemara continues:


Rabbi Yochanan says: He fed her “zeronim” seeds (such as peas, beans, legumes) as Daniel, Chananiah, Mishael and Azarya ate in the book of Daniel.


Today, if someone declares that they are a vegetarian or a vegan and ask for legumes and vegetables they are respected for their beliefs even if others don’t necessarily agree with them.


In some circles when a person declares that they keep Kosher it has become more respected since it is now politically correct for people to be diverse. In other circles people who keep Kosher may be looked down upon while those who are vegetarian may be respected.


Living in Israel in the year 5773, 2013 we do not have to hide that we are Jewish the way that Ester did. Rather we can be proud to keep Kosher and we have a wide range of Kosher restaurants including vegetarian and vegan to choose from.


Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim from Yerushalayim!

Sharona Margolin Halickman

What Was Her Real Name? Print E-mail
Saturday, 27 February 2010

In Chapter 2 sentence 7 of Megillat Ester, we read that Mordechai “brought up Hadassa, that is Ester”.


The Gemara in Megillah 13a notes: The verse calls her Hadassa and the verse calls her Ester. Which was actually her name?


It was taught in a Braita: Rabbi Meir said that her name was actually Ester. And why was she called Hadassa (Myrtle)? After the designation of the righteous who are called myrtles.


The Braita also presents an opposite approach: Rabbi Yehuda says: Her name was actually Hadassa. And why was she called Ester (hidden)? Because she used to conceal the facts about her origins, by not revealing that she was Jewish.


A third approach brought by the Braita: Rabbi Nechemya says: Her name was actually Hadassa. And why was she called Ester? Because the nations of the world used to call her Ester, naming her after the moon, as if to say that she is as beautiful as the moon.


A fourth approach in the Braita: Ben Azzai says: Ester was neither tall nor short but of average height like a Hadas (myrtle). Therefore, though her true name was Ester, she was called Hadassa.


The last explanation in the Braita: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Karcha says: Though her true name is Ester, Ester was of greenish complexion, like a Hadas (Myrtle). However she was endowed with a touch of grace by God which made her appear beautiful to the nations and to Achashverosh.


It seems that Hadassa was her Hebrew name and Ester was her Persian name and that each name had a lot of significance.


When a baby is born many parents put a tremendous amount of thought into the significance of the child’s names and the impact that it will have on their lives.

Three Days of Purim? Print E-mail
Tuesday, 18 March 2008

This week in Jerusalem we will be celebrating three days of Purim (Mishulash) from Thursday evening to Sunday evening while most other cities in the world will only be celebrating Thursday evening and Friday.

How did we earn all of these extra days of celebration?

Usually, Jerusalem (a walled city since the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun) as well as Shushan (the walled city where the Purim story took place) celebrate on Shushan Purim, the fifteenth of Adar rather than the fourteenth since it took the residents of Shushan an extra day to finish the battle.

This year, Shushan Purim comes out on Shabbat. The Rabbi’s forbade the carrying of the Megillah (Scroll of Ester) on Shabbat, therefore the Megillah is read on Thursday night and Friday morning (regular Purim) along with the rest of the world. The reason why we do not postpone the Megillah reading until after Shabbat is because it says in the Megillah 9:27 “The Jews confirmed and undertook upon themselves and their posterity  and upon all who might join them, to observe these two days , without fail, in the manner prescribed and at the proper time each year”.

Aside from the Megillah reading, Matanot Lavyonim, gifts to the poor will also be given of the 14th of Adar (Friday) since the poor are used to receiving their gifts on the same day as the Megillah is read and this way they can already enjoy their gifts.

On Shabbat itself (Shushan Purim) in Jerusalem, we add the Al HaNisim Prayer. The Torah reading includes the Purim reading about Amalek.

On Sunday, we distribute Mishloach Manot in Jerusalem as well as celebrate with the festive meal. Although we have a festive meal each Shabbat, we do not want to mix two happy occasions (and miss out on more good food) so we have two festive meals, one on Shabbat and one on Sunday.

So while the rest of the world is trying to cram all of the festivities into one day, here in Jerusalem we will be celebrating at a more relaxed pace and we will finally get a Sunday off from work!