Archive for Purim

Do you want to hear a real Purim tail?

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi’s, Yissachar Frand, Yossi bilus, Asher Hurzberg, Artscrol Siddur

As of right now, we are at the threshold of the holiday of Purim, yet it seems impossible to escape all the hype of the Presidential elections which will take place this coming November.  While we ponder who to vote for, whether it be Clinton, Trump, or anyone else who won the designated party nomination, one cannot help but to wonder the first and foremost question that we should be asking ourselves: Who will be good for the Jews?
Purim is wonderful!  Purim is fun!
I personally have a problem with the catch phrase for the month: MESHEH NICHNAS ADAR MARBIM B’SIMCHA – when the month of Adar is upon us there will be a great increase in the joy of all of us Jews. Well that wasn’t exactly the case for this Jew, for I just commemorated on the 5th of Adar the twelfth anniversary of my father’s, z”l, passing. Where was the joy? It was a difficult time in my life. I was no happy camper, I remembering feeling numb while seeing the rest of the world celebrating Purim. If it was time for my father to depart this wonderful world, why couldn’t G-d escort him out during a negative month? It didn’t make sense.
Oddly enough my father passed away on the Hebrew same date of his mother’s passing. How spooky is that!!
There are a number of fascinating questions pertaining to the above topics mentioned on the Megilat Esther – the story of Purim.
There are two points that stand out as we look into the Megilla. The first is Queen Vashti:
Achashverosh, the king of Persia, threw a big party and when he was in a drunken state of mind, he commanded his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear before those assembled to show off her beauty. Vashti refused to come. According to the Talmud [Megilla 12], her refusal to come was not based on any sudden sense of modesty on her part, rather the Angel Gavriel came and put a tail on her.
Out of all things to make a person undesirable, why did G-d’s messenger, the angel Gavriel, choose a tail?  If one wants to make a person ugly there is an entire smorgasbord of gruesome appearances to consider.  We come from a “creature feature” Hollywood horror films society that views what Gavriel the Angel chose to be amateurish. Ask us, we’re the professionals, especially after 45 years of alien villains on the different Star Treks. Furthermore, in today’s day and age, where “different” is “cool” many would find tail actually attractive and refreshing. It would be a great conversation piece. “Hey, you know what grew out of my backside? A tail!” Ooh ahh.
The second point that relates to us is the number 127, pertaining to the countries that Achashverosh, and later Esther, ruled. Interestingly we never hear about this number again in the Megila. For the most part it’s insignificant. Why is this number even presented?
Now for another point, unrelated to the Megila, yet related to our discussion. Our prayers are very deep in meaning. However, unfortunately many people simply do not have access to innermost meaning rooted inside of them. One particular prayer which will help shed some light on our questios is BARUCH SHE’AMAR. With the recitation of this prayer talking is omitted till the end of the AMIDA. BARUCH SHE’AMAR elevates our prayers; it is the first step of 4 of the spiritual ladder of getting close to G-d.  We will explore how it plays a crucial role in our understanding of these subject matters.
Often, when the Talmud relates a story of Aggadic nature, such as this, the Gemara is not to be taken literally. The Gemara is teaching a message with this story. The Chofetz Chaim suggests that the Gemara means something else. We do not need to assume that Vashti literally grew a tail.
The Talmud teaches [Sanhedrin 96] that Nevuchadnetzar, King of Babylonia, was not born into royalty. How did he become King then? The Gemara relates that Chizkiyahu, King of Judea, became very sick and he was miraculously saved. The Almighty wanted to publicize the fact that the King of Judea was miraculously healed so he made a second miracle – namely, the day that King Chizkiyahu was cured lasted 18 hours! That got people’s attention! The whole world realized that it was a miraculous day. The King of Babylonia at that time was a person named Biladan. Biladan said, “I need to send congratulatory remarks to the King of Judea. He is so righteous that the Almighty changed nature for him, I must send him a letter of congratulations and admiration.” He ordered his scribe (who at the time was Nevuchadnetzar) to draft the letter for him. However, that day, for whatever reason, Nevuchadnetzar was not there. So, the other scribes went ahead and drafted a letter without the input of the chief scribe, Nevuchadnetzar. The letter’s salutation was as follows: “Peace unto you King Chizkiyahu; peace unto Jerusalem; and peace unto the Almighty G-d.” Nevuchadnetzar returned from wherever he was and asked to review a copy of the letter. When he saw the salutation he objected. The honor of the Almighty G-d should have been placed first, not third in the letter! However the other scribes told him that the original had already been sent off. Nevuchadnetzar ran after the messengers to try to stop them so as not to send the letter with such a “blasphemous” salutation. The Talmud says that he ran four steps in the direction of the courier. He wanted to stop him and reverse the salutation by rewriting it according to proper protocol: “Peace to the Almighty G-d; peace to the city of Jerusalem; and peace to King Chizkiyahu.”

The Talmud in Sanhedrin teaches that after he ran those four steps (according to an alternate version in the Yalkut he ran only 3 steps) to stop the letter, Gavriel came and stopped him in his tracks so that he would not be able to run any further. The Talmud comments that had Gavriel not come and limited the merit, Nevuchadnetzar was gaining for himself by showing G-d this honor, “There would not have been left a remnant of the enemies of the Jewish people” (The Gemara often uses euphemistic ways to express bad things, in this case saying that as opposed to saying the Jewish people would have been totally wiped out). The Gemara asks, “What did Nevuchadnetzar get as reward for his walking the four steps?” The Gemara answers that he saw himself and 3 generations after him become royalty. The 4 generations were Nevuchadnetzar, Evil Merodach, Balshatzar, and Vashti. Vashti was a great-granddaughter of Nevuchadnetzar.
The Chofetz Chaim explains that there is actually no dispute between the version that says Nevuchadnetzar ran 4 steps and the version that says he ran 3 steps. He actually ran 3 full steps. In the middle of the fourth step Gavriel came and stopped him before he had a chance to complete the fourth step. It was cut off in the middle.
That is why the Gemara testifies that if he would have taken four whole steps the Jewish people would have been wiped out! The Chofetz Chaim interprets: Since he did not take a complete fourth step, the reign of his fourth descendant [Vashti] was terminated prematurely. Had Vashti remained on the throne, Esther would never have been in a position to save the Jewish people and they would have been wiped out in the time of Haman.
The Chofetz Chaim states further that this is what it means that Gavriel (the same Angel who stopped Nevuchadnetzar from taking that fourth step) came and placed a tail upon Vashti. The term “zanav” (tail) alludes to the fact that it was the tail end of the dynasty of Nevuchadnetzar.
The lesson of this story is that this is how the Almighty runs his world. The incident with Gavriel happened in the time of Chizkiyahu King of Judea – many years before the era of Haman and Achashverosh. Because of what took place then, Klal Yisrael was saved many years later in the time of Purim.
Events happen or do not happen for many seemingly many random reasons, but behind the supposed motivations of people, the Almighty is manipulating history to carry out His Will. Behind the curtains, the Master of the Universe is pulling the strings.
There is a true story, which appears in the historical archives of the Knesset, which Rabbi Frand heard from Rabbi David Ordman. The story goes, Rav Shlomo Lorenz (a former Knesset member of Agudat Yisrael) once met Harry S. Truman, President of the United States. President Truman told Rabbi Lorenz, “You should know that when I agreed to recognize the State of Israel, it went against the advice of my advisors and it was against every political instinct that I have. But I will tell you why I did it…” (The conventional wisdom is that Harry Truman recognized the State of Israel in 1948 because he had a Jewish partner in the haberdashery business in Independence, Missouri many decades earlier. The partner had come to him in the White House and asked him for the favor. Now you will hear the real story from Harry Truman himself.)
President Truman told Rabbi Lorenz “I was a little boy growing up in the United States and every little boy growing up in the United States dreams of becoming president. That was my dream. I’ll tell you something else. I was a good Christian boy and I learned my Bible. My hero in the Bible was Cyrus (who we know a Koresh, none other than a descendant of Queen Esther).  Koresh is the one who let the Jewish people go back to their homeland and build their Temple (Bais HaMikdash). I said, if I ever become President of the United States, I want to imitate my hero and if I ever get the opportunity to let the Jewish people go back to their country and rebuild their Temple that is what I am going to do. And that”, he concluded, “Is why I recognized the State of Israel.”
This is the same story: The Hand of G-d at work. Just like with Vashti – we do not know what on earth possessed her to disobey her husband and not come as he ordered, but we do know what in Heaven did. The Almighty sent an Angel and made it happen, so that Klal Yisrael should be saved. So too, Harry Truman had this ‘mishugaas’ – he wanted to emulate Koresh. Some of us have odd heroes, as well. When I grew up my hero was Bud Harrelson, a baseball player who played shortstop for the New York Mets, as opposed to the popular choice of either Tom Seaver or Bobby Mercer. There is probably not another person in the world whose main Biblical hero was Koresh, but that was the idiosyncrasy of Harry Truman. And because of that, the rest is history.
There is a popular Midrash which links Esther and Sarah, which pertains to the very beginning, the very first sentence of the Megillah. The first sentence includes the apparent superfluous information that Achashverosh ruled over 127 provinces. The Midrash describes Rabbi Akiva as asking, “How did Esther merit to rule over 127 provinces?” He answered, “Let [Esther,] the descendant of Sarah who lived 127 years, come and rule over 127 provinces.”
Sarah is the only woman in the entire Torah whose age is recorded: 127 years, a number that the Kabbalists explain denotes perfection and achievement.  The commentaries mentioned that the reason that Sarah is linked to Esther is because Esther is in essence is replacing Sarah who is the antithesis to Vashti.
In Tractate Megila the Gemara asks, “Who were the most beautiful woman that ever lived?” It goes on to list, Chava (Eve) the first woman, Sarah the first matriarch, Esther the Queen of Persia and Rachav the woman who helped the spies conquer Israel and who later converted to Judaism.
The Gemara also lists their virtues that led to them to be attractive. Physical beauty is not enough; it needs to be complemented by personality. The Gemarah says what brought out Sarah’s beauty was her modesty.
It is also written in the Holy Scriptures that besides modesty, Sarah is also known for her love of Shabbat. The Sages say that she purposely had a different maid servant for each day of the week, so she would be aware it’s Shabbat; mind you this is before calendars existed.
When Sarah passed away, the coronation of her son, Yitzchak’s bride, Rivka as her spiritual successor was as follows: when she entered Sarah tent, the Midrash says, the Shabbat candles automatically lit. Sarah’s candles, which she lit before Shabbat miraculously lasted to the next Shabbat.
It’s not for naught that we recite the beautiful prayer Eshet Chail – woman of valor, Friday night at the beginning of the royal Shabbat table. The prayer was composed by King Shlomo and was influenced by the eulogy given by Avraham to his wife Sarah.
Sarah, the loyal wife of Avraham, was instrumental in his campaign to bring the world closer to G-d. Vashti on the other hand, chose the opposite path.  Vashti was known to purposely force the Jewish women to work and dress immodestly on Shabbat. She caused a complete desecration of that holy day. Esther carried the torch of Sarah in trying to restore the G-dly decorum and dignity into the world, which only a queen or an equivalent stature can accomplish.

BARUCH SHE’AMAR starts with a very popular world BARUCH.  Baruch is commonly translated as “blessed”. If we contemplate this, we see that the translation “blessed” does not make sense. What does it even mean to say someone is “blessed”? Perhaps it means that he has a lot. Are we saying that G-d has a huge amount of everything?
A better translation of BARUCH is obtained by comparing this word to other similar words in Hebrew. When Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, brought his camels to the well where he met Rebecca, he caused his camels to bend their knees. The word used there is, “Vi’yavrach” (a derivative of “baruch”) which means “to make [the camels] kneel down. (Genesis 24:11)
The word BARUCH is also related to the word in Hebrew “berach” which means knee. Another use of the root of BARUCH is the Hebrew word “L’havrich” which refers to taking a vine, and to put part of the growing branch under the ground so that it may sprout roots. BARUCH is also related to the Hebrew word Barak, which means lightning. Barak is of a similar, although different root.
What we see by comparing the word BARUCH to all the various forms of the root of the word is something that has to do with a downward motion. The lowering of the camels, planting of the vine, and lightning, all have in common a downward motion.
What we now understanding is that the definition of BARUCH means coming down. In the standing silent prayer, the Amidah, we bend our knees when mentioning the word “BARUCH” in the first blessing. This is indicative of the real meaning of the word BARUCH – going in a downward direction.
More specifically in the general context of a “blessing”, it means that G-d is bringing something down to the earth and we through our prayers are requesting the goodness that will benefit us to do what we came to this world for.
* There are 13 BARUCHS equivalent to the 13 attributes of G-d.
* The prayer BARUCH SHE’AMAR was transcribed by the men of the great assembly 2400 years ago from a script that fell from the heavens.
Interestingly, one may ask why we kiss our TZITZIOT at the end of this prayer. According to the Kabbalah tradition the TZITZIT represent the 613 mitzvot.  What about the kiss?

One of the ways one can get close to G-d is through meditation which consists of breathing. It says (Bereshit 2,8) “And G-d blew into his nostrils the soul of life”. For this reason Shofar on Rosh Hashana is so potent. The blower, who represents the Jewish people, uses his breath to convey forgiveness. The same breath that we received for life is one to ask for forgiveness. Therefore breath is very spiritual. That is also why Jews are forbidden to blow out a candle with their breath. A kiss consists of breath and therefore it too is spiritual. Interestingly, according to the Mystics the proper way to have marital relationship is through kissing for it insures that the physical act has spirituality incorporated within. It would give it true and proper meaning. Therefore kissing brings down spirituality in the physical world. BARUCH SHE’AMAR is the bridge between the heavens and earth
All this is an introduction to the phrase in the BARUCH SHE’AMAR of BARUCH GOZER U’MIKAYEM – G-d decrees and fulfills the decree. Whether it be Vashti three and half generations later, whether it be Truman, the death of a loved one, whether the up and coming presidential elections, it’s all part of the master plan. HOWEVER WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE PLAN IS AND THEREFORE ONLY AT END WE SHALL SEE THE GOODNESS.
ZANAV (tail) in Hebrew consist of the letter ZAYIN which is the numerical value of seven that is Shabbat which is the seventh day of the week and NUN and BET which is 52, for the 52 weeks of the year. Shabbat is the end of the week similar to the fact that the tail is at the end. Vashti’s tail was insignificant. G-d runs the world with measure for measure, or MIDA K’NEGED MIDA. Vashti desecrated the Shabbat therefore the tail was a source of death for her. However Shabbat if done right the ZOHAR states has the ability to generate life, energy, and SHEFA throughout the coming week, the future.
However, Vashti’s  tail was insignificant. G-d runs the world with measure for measure MIDA K’NEGED MIDA. Vashti desecrated the Shabbat, or perhaps made others desecrate it, therefore the tail  was the source of death.



Rabbi’s Baruch Dopelt Yossi Bilus, Yitzchak Aminov and Dr. Robert Goldman
New York has a lot to offer, both spiritually and materialistically, to the mild mannered observant Jew. First of all, one should know there is absolutely no excuse not to keep kosher. There are so many great restaurants and amazingly, many of them are open at anytime of the night. One, not only can always get something to eat, at the most absurd time, but he can be selective as well. With the convenience of the physicality comes the often celebrated American dream theme, of “opportunity”. We know a number of those success stories. It’s in the back of the many minds that success is imminent. However, many times there is often the temptation of greed in the pressure of reaching those dreams.It’s natural that one feels more spiritual at times than other times. This is where New York came in real handy after Purim ended 1 year. As a matter fact, it’s becoming a tradition ever since.

After feeling the Purim blues a good number of years ago (I guess I didn’t want it to end), I met a friend who took me to a very late Purim party. It was at the Yeshive Shar Yashuv. My family had gone to sleep already and I was still in the Purim celebration mode. To my surprise, it was a very good party. Every year they get a new band and every year it’s A plus and uplifting. The students and their Rabbis bond through the joy of the holiday. Everybody is drawn to happiness. Isn’t that amazing about New York? You could be celebrating Purim until the wee hours of the night. On this one particular occasion, as I was walking into the building of the yeshiva, I was startled for a brief second or two by noticing a Purim prank. Apparently, up in the rafters, were 10 dummies that look like they were being hanged. This was symbolic of Haman’s 10 sons who were hung on a tree.

The sages are puzzled by the dialogue that transpired between Haman and his wife Zeresh. After he came back from the party with King Achasverosh and Queen Esther, he felt really good. Then however, he passed by Mordechai the Jew. Apparently, he was the only one that did not respect and bow down to him. Haman was distraught and he said to his wife “nothing matters as long as Mordechai does not subordinate himself to me”. Funny, he was the second most powerful man in the world but the one Jew made a difference.

It seems like a non Jews of yesteryear knew more about our religion then the religious people of today.

So Zeresh replied strangely; “perhaps you should take Mordechai and hang him on the tree of 50 amot.” It’s weird that her advice was so detailed and descriptive. Why does it have to be 50? Why not 40 or 60? Also why did Zeresh choose the tree as the specific form of execution?  They were very creative back then on torture and death.

Apparently, though, she knew her history quite well:

Let’s understand what she meant. The first miscue of mankind we read about in the Torah is the sin of Adam and Eve. One has to ask himself, how did the snake convince Eve to eat from the tree? The scriptures say that she saw it was good.  What was good about the tree that it was good to eat?  Also, the snake repeats in his dialogue with Eve that death is imminent? It seems as if he’s conveying to her that it is worth it to reach.  She had to be a smart lady, nevertheless he convinced her.

Seems like snake had a game plan. We all know that when Moshe ascended up the mountain at Mount Sinai he reached 49 levels of intelligence. Reaching the 50th level would have required death because no man could reach 50 and still remain alive. Man always has a strong desire to reach great depths of intelligence. That pursuit is built in us. This was the snake’s selling point.  It doesn’t matter if you die or not. If you eat from the Tree of Knowledge, you reach hey euphoria of intelligence like no other, the grand prize 50.

Zeresh realized Mordechai was a tzadic and therefore a hard nut to crack. So she used the method of symbolism. Symbolism arouses certain compassion. It also evokes judgment, depending how you steer it. Here she intended on enabling G-d to scrutinize the Jews because of the negative symbolism.


Symbols provide us with the ability to communicate absolute values in a manner that goes beyond words. As a final example, consider what 9-11 would have been like without the American flag. How would each of us expressed the sorrow of the tragedy, the desire to embrace each other and give strength, the fear for our nation and the extraordinary solidarity of a people standing proudly and fiercely behind their President, if we did not have the American flag? What would we have done in its stead? How much poorer we otherwise would have been? Think symbolism and think our nation’s flag. How important is symbolism? How important is the flag?


In truth, everything has symbolic as well as pragmatic value. For example, Rav Hirsch Zt’l (Introduction to the Study of Symbolism) contrasted the symbolic meaning conveyed by words of farewell with the added meaning of a farewell accompanied by a warm handshake. Both the words and the handshake symbolize sorrow at parting and the longing to stay; however, words alone cannot convey the profundity extended through the tactile warmth of human contact and touch.


So we see that Zeresh’s plan was based on a very powerful concept. Seemingly her intention backfired. At the end, her husband Haman and their sons were the ones hung on the tree.

There is a common bond, unfortunately, between Eve and Haman. Greed was the weakness. Eve could have eaten from any of the trees except one, however she chose the tree of knowledge. Haman had everybody honoring him except one, Mordechai. Nothing mattered because he wanted it all

The symbolic act perpetrated from greed is presented though the tree. We have to know our place and not let our ambitions and success overtake our morals

Mysterious Stranger

One of my popular lectures a number of years ago, was titled the “Mysterious Stranger.” We all had at one point of our lives the Eliyahu Hanavi experience, where we find ourselves in a horrible or dangerous scenario and some stranger comes out of nowhere and saves the day. When we turn around to thank him, he’s gone.


One example is a story I’ve been told countless times since I was a kid. A month after my parents immigrated to this country, my mother quickly got a job in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Kol hakavod to many New Yorkers who have these daily rigorous commutes to and from work. My mother had to quickly learn this new system, which was obviously most difficult since she did not speak a word of English. For this job route, she needed to switch numerous trains to get to this location. During the first week of this new experience, instead of taking the local train, she mistakenly took the express and ended up north of the City. It was a culture shock to be in a train station and not seeing one white face. Imagine yourself in this woman’s shoes – a month ago, she was in a familiar setting in the comfortable confines of her own people, her own language, her own country. And now, she is getting a guided tour by the New York City transit system of one of the worst neighborhoods in the country. Welcome to New York!


Out of nowhere pops this Chasidic old man who happened to speak Hebrew. He calmed my mother down and guided her to the right train en-route back to her life.


I also have two experiences with similar results. We all experience the burnt out feeling as a result of the highly pressured New York lifestyle. Learning in Yeshiva in Jerusalem for many, invigorates and energizes the body and mind. On one of these occasions, during the first days of my arrival, it was evident how beat up yours truly felt. I came across an elderly Rabbi in one of these mini eateries. I wasn’t sure I made the right decision, leaving a business and commitments back in the States and felt very uncomfortable. He reassured me I was making the right decision and I should focus on my learning. “Everything will be fine, you’re here because G-d wants you to be here.” After the half hour reassurance meeting, he excused himself and left. Talking to him made me focus better and put me back on course to recovery.


When my father passed away, my mother and I took him to Israel for burial. The Torah says one is excused from many Mitzvoth the time between a loved one passes away and when they are buried. It is one of the most depressing, shocking and very confusing time of ones’ life. Such was the feeling when we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The feeling I experienced was one of helplessness and confusion. We just stood there frustrated and not knowing where to turn. An American religious Jew with a beard approached us and offered his assistance. He guided us to the right channels and helped us out tremendously before excusing himself and going on with his life.


One can say these individuals were Eliyahu, the Prophet, coming down to help at a time of need; the mysterious stranger who guides us in a time of distress before leaving and never to be seen again. That’s one way of looking at it. However, in a practical view, it is what Purim is all about.


It says when we received the Torah, we accepted it with one heart; however, the true acceptance of the Torah didn’t occur until Purim. The Jews were so united and their belief on such a high level, that today, if one gives a whole-hearted prayer it will easily be heard.


On Purim, we give out Mishloach Manot, little food and candy platters, to friends and loved ones to show unity and care for our fellow Jew. My friend, Jack Brooks, once mentioned how impressed he was with bikur cholim at the hospital when his family had to go in for an emergency on Shabbat. It just happened to be before Purim.


We all have to assume the role of the mysterious stranger and help our fellow Jew in their time of need. Unity and loving one’s fellow man is what Purim is all about.

Why Do We Wear Costumes on Purim?



Everybody out there probably has fond memories about the holiday of Purim. Do you remember your first costume? What was your favorite costume you had worn over the years?


There was such a grin and an enthusiastic salute in a particular picture I looked up of myself. It seemed like I was thrilled with the police uniform costume that my parents bought me when I was five. Guess what? When my son was five, I also bought him a police uniform costume for Purim and I even asked him to salute for a picture, comparing the two; now that’s cool!


What is the source for the custom of wearing costumes on Purim in which every Jewish community in the world follows?


It says in the Megillah, ‘v’nuhafachu’ everything turned topsy-turvy; things were not as they seemed. When the king ordered Haman the rasha to parade a very distinguished person on a horse with royal garbs, he thought he was talking about himself; but it was the Jew. Haman did just that – holding the mussel of the horse while Mordechai was riding. Everybody thought Mordechai was holding the mussel and they threw garbage at him not knowing it was actually Haman. The death decree against the Jews was overturned and Haman was hung on the tree that Mordechai was supposed to get hung from.


The situation turned around within moments. A beautiful example of this is the incident of Lot, Abraham’s nephew who was living in Sedom. The city was to be destroyed the next day, and Lot was trying to convince his son-in-law to leave the city with him. The son-in-law replied, laughing at Lot, it’s so beautiful outside, not a cloud in the sky, nothing is going to happen. Within 12 hours, the city was destroyed and he was killed in a blink of an eye.


By wearing a costume, we’re making a statement. Nothing is what it seems; it’s not me, it’s somebody else and that G-d can turn around anything at any time because He runs the world. The costume signifies an act of belief whether it is a police officer, baseball player, cowboy, Indian, and even a little princess.

What Quality Did Esther Possess?


The Talmud in tractate Megila mentions that Ester was one of four of the beautiful women that ever lived. The others were Chava(Eve) the first woman, Sarah, Avrahams wife, Rachav who was a prostitute that later became an observant Jew. She later on married Yehoshua ben Nun, the leader after Moshe. Lastly, Ester.


G-d gave Ester CHEN a special grace that no one can resist. It was especially infused in her when she took the initiative and met with the king.



Esther invited Achashverosh and Haman for a meal. At the dinner party, she dropped the bomb on Haman. Inviting the enemy to your house is strategically a very good tactic. It makes your guest feel good and it disarms a person. One caters to one’s pride (in this case the guest).


We find that Korach invited many of the important people and won them over by the HACHNASAT ORCHIM- bringing in guests. That’s one reason his rebellion almost succeeded. The guest will forever be indebted to the host.




Well, there are two reasons. Firstly, the changing of fortunes took place at Esther’s dinner party. We try to emulate G-d’s mercy. Another reason is that Haman wanted to destroy us, not just our spirituality like by Chanukah, but rather our whole bodies, destroying both physical and spiritual. Here, we are using our physicality for good, for the love of G-d, for his sake. We are showing appreciation that He had mercy on us and using it for the right reason.



After Esther tells the king that there is a wicked man who wants to destroy my people, Achashverosh said, “ME WHO ZEH VEAI ZEH WHO- Who is this person?” Esther gets up and points her finger at who? ACHASHVEROSH, the king! Immediately, an angel came and redirected the finger at Haman. What was Ester thinking? This meeting between Esther, Achashverosh and Haman was carefully planned out. This was the perfect opportunity to finally get the evil Haman. Yes, we know Achashverosh was no boyscout, however young lady, please stick with the script!! The nation is depending on you!!


Obviously, Esther was under a lot of stress. Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt, Rosh Yeshiva in Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, says that when we are under a lot of pressure, one’s inner feelings come out. How many people, presidential candidates for example, slip and say something they shouldn’t.


In the case of Esther, G-d didn’t allow it to come out.


Dr. Goldman, a psychologist at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, says that pressure comes from the attitude we have. It is controllable; we just have to adjust our way of thinking and try to have a positive attitude.


The Secret is Esther

It was pretty obvious that Esther was destined to be the queen. Mordechai spent all the effort required to prevent this and tried to hide her from being exposed. The name Esther means hidden. What’s puzzling is that many commentaries say that she was not Mordachai’s niece but actually his wife.


There are two important hints that Sages are disclosing to us about Esther. She is the descendant of King Shaul and the comparison to our matriarch Sarah, Abraham’s wife.


The Sages bring an interesting passage relating the time when she prays to G-d in which she beseeches:


“My G-d you have forsaken me. Why have the order of the world and the order of the matriarchs changed to go against me? Sarah was held captive and Pharaoh was punished. I have been placed in the bosom of a wicked man all these years and you have made no miracles for me”.


Ester was Queen over 127 countries, the same amount of years that Sarah lived. Sarah was taken from her husband, however was saved from living with Pharaoh. Esther was not. For whatever reason, the soul of Sarah which might very well be Esther had to go through the torture of living with a barbaric king.


The connection to her ancestor, King Shaul, is revealed when Mordechai informs Esther to go to the king now. She protests and says he didn’t call me. No one goes to the king without being called. Mordechai answers in a most unusual way and says that if you don’t go, someone else will  be the one chosen to do this important mission. You and your ancestors will be lost.


Esther was the secret weapon to fix the mistake of her ancestor, King Shaul, who did not kill off all of the Amalekim (the nation that’s an enemy to the Jews). She has now come to kill off Haman who is from the genealogy of Amalek.

The Holiday of Purim



Introduction: The holiday of Purim is very difficult to understand for many reasons. First, there is no “expensive”, “special effect” miracle like the splitting of the sea or the whole world rockin’ ‘n poppin’ because of G-d reciting the Ten Commandments with fire on Mount Sinai. Purim’s miracles are all disguised. In fact, G-d’s name isn’t even mentioned in the Megilla. All is hidden between the lines. Everything was done in HESTER-secret. We call the scroll from which we read about this triumph MEGILLAT ESTHER-revealing the hidden.


The ARI”ZAL says that Purim is the greatest and holiest of all the holidays, even surpassing YOM KIPPUR. He mentions that YOM KIPPUR is YOM KEH PURIM- a day like PURIM, similar to PURIM, however not as great. This day is also a chance to get our prayers answered in a big way.




One fulfills the commandment simply by having a nice meal and getting intoxicated. WOW!! That sounds easy; I don’t think I can mess that one up!!







Life for the Jews in the Persian Empire was good, life was better than many of the other periods in Diaspora. However, the Persians were uncomfortable with the Jewish religion. The Persians believed in a belief called Zorastriasm- G-d of light and dark.


We say Friday night in our prayers before the SHEMA, “BAMEH MADLIKIN”. In that prayer, which is from the Mishna, we state, “HAMECHABEH ET HANER”- if a Jew blows out the candle. This is in reference to the Persian Empire, in which some pagan believers insisted on the lights being turned off during certain days in the Persian calendar upon which their holiday of darkness falls. On these days, the Jew is PATUR.


Rabbi Berel Wein mentions that whenever the Jews looked up to their host country, there would be a greater amount of intermarriage. Conversely, if they looked down at the host country, intermarriage would be minimal. Here, the Jews not only looked down at the Persians, they mocked their pagan belief. Therefore, the Persians felt uneasy. This is the reason HAMAN found an eager audience.


The nations of the world were very knowledgeable of the Jewish religion and the history of their Temple. They knew that if the temple was not built by a certain date, it’ll never be built.


Balshatzar who ruled before Achashverosh, was a big anti Semite. Balshatzar didn’t allow any attempt to build the Temple. He threw a party mocking the Jews and their G-d. This is where the famous expression “the writing on the wall” originated. In the middle of the party, on the wall, everyone noticed, was written “You will be killed”. Balshatzar soon died. People don’t get it! DON’T MESS WITH THE JEWISH G-D!!


Balshatzar’s daughter was Vashti, who married Achashverosh




Achashverosh was losing power and his domination of the world. He now ruled over 127 countries as opposed to 252. A person always strives to move ahead in life, moving up from one house or neighborhood to a slightly larger house and more affluent part of town. When one downgrades, he becomes desperate.


Marrying into royalty has its pluses and minuses. Achashverosh now had access to the booty that was captured by his wife, Queen Vashti’s grandfather, Nevuchadnetzar, the Emperor of Babylonia who destroyed the first Temple.


Achashverosh threw a party where many of the artifacts and utensils of the holy Temple were displayed. He dressed himself in the high priest’s garb which was worn in the Temple and he performed the ceremony that was done by the Jews and the Kohen Gadol. This was done to receive power to dominate his enemies in battle. He reasoned that every time the Israelites were about to enter battle, they would have their ceremony in the Temple and would emerge victorious. So too, he thought, these garments will be my lucky charm and I will regain all which I have lost and more!!


Another reason was to show the Jews that the time came and has gone already and the Temple and the salvation has not arrived. The Jews were forbidden to go to this party. However, many did and enjoyed themselves. This angered G-d and a bad decree would now be cast upon the Jewish people.


While the Jews were at their lowest point, the birth of the salvation took place.


NICHNAS YAYIN YATZA SOD- ‘wine goes in and the secret comes out’ is a famous expression. One can tell about a person through his KISO, KA’ASO, KOSO- his pocket, his anger, and his cup of wine. This is when the true essence of a person comes out.


When righteous people drink together, they start to sing. Music is very spiritual. Achashverosh was drinking with his friends and they were discussing who’s prettier, the Persian girls or the American. Then the conversation got more personal. Who’s prettier, my wife or your wife. Achashverosh said “I’ll show you!” and summoned his wife. When she didn’t come because of a blemish that suddenly appeared on her, Achashverosh had her killed.


The wine began the salvation.


There was a story that happened a few hundred years ago in Eastern Europe when a Gentile boy was murdered and the Jews were blamed. This is the kind of incident that the non-Jews wait for so that they can take the opportunity to cause destruction to the Jewish people. The Jewish leaders went to the Ba’al Shem Tov and asked him what to do. He said, “go to this particular person at four in the morning, wake him up from his sleep and ask him to pray and stop this bad decree.” Surprised, as this was the town drunk, they did as the Rabbi said. The next day, the real killer was found and he wasn’t Jewish. The Jewish leaders asked the Rav, “how did you know that this man is the savior and why at 4 in the morning?”


The Ba’al Shem Tov started to tell a story about this man. This man comes from a wealthy family. When he was a young man in his early twenties, he would treat himself every six months by going to the most expensive prostitute in the big city. At that age, it is quite difficult to control your desires and this was his weakness. On one of these trips as he’s traveling to the big city, he hears a cry of terror. He immediately informed the wagon driver to stop so that he can investigate. He ran to the apartment complex towards the screaming and learned that the landlord is about to kill the tenant for not paying the rent, and is taking the wife and daughter for his enjoyment. The traveler noticed that the family was Jewish.


After inquiring into the matter, he learned that this family and the Jewish family down the hall were about to be evicted and forced to endure a severe punishment for not paying the rent.


The traveler decided to pay the rent for the two Jewish tenants using all the money set aside for his trip to the prostitute.


The Baal Shem Tov said, “wow, here’s a man who gave up his extremely strong desire which he anticipated for 6 months to save these fellow Jews whom he doesn’t even know!!”


He continued, “They were impressed in the heavens and rewarded him that whatever he wishes will come true…..WAIT A MINUTE! MAYBE HE’LL ASK FOR MASHIACH. We can’t allow that! We’ll give him all the wealth, a nice family, his children will marry into nice families, however he’ll have an extreme desire to drink, we’ll keep him drunk all the time. When one is intoxicated, his prayers are not answered. This way there will be no request for the mashiach. The Baal Shem Tov said, “I know that at four in the morning after sleeping for a nice amount of hours he won’t be intoxicated.”


The question we can all ask is that on Purim it’s a MITZVA to get intoxicated. We also said that one can pray and get his prayers answered big time. But we see from this story that if a man is drunk, his prayers are not answered?


We can learn the answer from a parable. A man who drinks is compared to four kinds of animals. When he drinks one glass, he gets a buzz and acts like a cow. After the second cup, he roars like a lion. After the third cup, the man is jumping from chandelier to chandelier like a monkey. If he drinks all four cups, he wobbles around in the mud like a pig.


The first cup is the key. Rabbi Akiva Tatz said that we know NICHNAS YAYIN YATZA SOD- wine goes in the secret comes out. Yes, it’s true the secret comes out! The secret is a vision that man is able to see and focus on what life is all about, more than he would have ever been able to when sober. With the right dosage of wine, man can understand G-d and things can emerge so clear. At this point, the right dosage of intellect and emotions are perfect. However, he has to drink for the sake of the Mitzvah, then he’s able to ask for whatever his heart desires

Importance of Eating a Meal and Drinking Wine on Purim


 Fried Whiting (fish)Why is it important to have a meal on Purim? Perhaps one may ask an even stronger question. Why is it recommended to drink wine until the point of intoxication? This is uncharacteristic of the Jewish People. Jackie Mason had a funny line –  “Goyim like to drink and Jews like to eat”.  But Jews are not drinkers. Presumably, we may be knowledgeable in all the good and expensive scotches, and can rattle off a list of the fanciest wines at the most elegant restaurants. However, thank G-d for the most part, we talk more than we drink. We take pride in our traditions and try to connect and emulate with the generations before us. There is a famous concept; ‘The deeds of fathers are signs for children’. What’s important to note is that we also try to correct the flaws of our ancestors. And that’s the underlying reason why the meal takes place. 

Mordechai, the leader of the Jewish People, decreed that absolutely no one should attend the party of King Achashverosh. But many Jews didn’t listen and accepted the invitation, angering G-d, and thus the Jewish troubles began. On Purim we try to correct ‘the meal’ by eating, drinking and rejoicing with the purest intentions, unlike our ancestors who ate and became intoxicated, drinking wine in a negative way.


There is another reason why we indulge in a lavish feast on Purim. One might wonder why there is no mention of a feast on Chanukah. After all, we were saved from the hands of the Greeks. (On Chanukah we actually get away cheap with latkes and jelly doughnuts!) So why not have the meat and the wine and the whole nine yards on Chanukah? The reason is that the Greeks’ intentions were to destroy us spiritually by abolishing our religion, but sparing the physical body. However, Haman wanted to destroy us both spiritually and physically. Therefore, we elevate our physicality with the finest foods the world can offer. The body and the soul are part and parcel, so eating and drinking with pleasure with all the proper brachot, is ideal.

Symbolism plays a major importance in our religion and that’s another reason why we have the Purim meal. The one moment in which the events turned in our favor, was at the meal at the end of the Megillah with Queen Esther, King Achashverosh, and Haman eating and drinking wine. Esther revealed her origin and accused Haman of trying to kill her People. The Jewish luck changed. Therefore, we commemorate the meal with the finest, hoping our luck will change for the better.


The simple explanation of the passage “When wine goes in, the secret comes out”, is, when people get drunk, they blurt out what is in their heart, which is often embarrassing. Rabbi Akiva Tatz has a different explanation quoting the mystics. “What’s the secret”? He explains, “When wine goes in, one sees life in a clearer picture. He becomes more spiritual, discovering deep ideas and a thinking pattern that can never be expressed with words. Words are limited; they are specific, and one who consumes wine can never express the feelings he experiences”.


One important note; there is a fine line between a spiritual high on wine and being drunk. When wine is being consumed, it has the uncanny ability to lift any fear and paranoia that exists, resulting in a tremendous bond between friends. Our sages mentioned that when we received the Torah, we were unified ‘as one nation like one heart’. G-d loves unity, thereby elevating us to a very high spiritual level. The one time this level was surpassed was on Purim. Wine is symbolic of unity.