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The Eve of Shushan Purim Katan, 5752(1992)

The Eve of Shushan Purim Katan, 5752(1992)

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1. Tonight begins Shushan Purim Katan. Shushan Purim reflects an increase and an ascent to a higher level beyond that of Purim. First Purim is celebrated in unwalled cities, and then, there is a more elevated celebration of the holiday in walled cities, the latter celebration being referred to as Shushan Purim.

The name of this holiday requires explanation. We find that the celebration of Shushan Purim was instituted in connection with Eretz Yisrael. Our Sages decreed that Shushan Purim be celebrated in the cities that were surrounded by walls at the time of Yehoshua’s conquest of Eretz Yisrael. In this manner, they “paid respect to Eretz Yisrael,” giving its walled cities the honor given to Shushan even though they were destroyed at the time of the Purim miracle.

Nevertheless, the name of the holiday is connected, not with the cities of Eretz Yisrael, but with a city in the Diaspora, and furthermore, the capital city of Achashverosh, king of Persia (and thus the capital of the entire civilized world). Even if originally the holiday was instituted because of the events in Shushan, the name could have been changed afterwards.

The use of this name, however, reflects the completion of the Jews’ task of refining the material environment of the world. To explain: There are several levels in the fulfillment of this task. For example, the transformation of mundane worldly things to articles of holiness. On a deeper level, there is the transformation of influences which previously opposed holiness into holiness. The latter process often involves several phases and occasionally, there is an interruption between them. The most complete expression of the task of refinement is when this process of transformation takes place immediately, without interruption.

We see a parallel in the service of teshuvah, which is not a step by step process of ascent, but rather a radical jump. Similarly, the exodus from Egypt involved such a radical leap, and thus our Sages borrowed the verse “leaping on the mountains, springing on the hills” to describe that redemption.1

Similarly, in regard to the matter at hand, Shushan Purim shows how Achashverosh’s capital was transformed into a positive influence, indeed, an influence so great that it is connected with the celebration of Purim in the walled cities of Eretz Yisrael. Furthermore, this concept is accepted by all people. When a person is asked, “What is the second day of Purim called?” he will respond, “Shushan Purim.”

Moreover, this name is printed in siddurim (in regard to the days on which tachanun) is not recited, indicating its connection to every Jew, regardless of his spiritual level. For every Jew, even the most simple uses a siddur.

Purim itself represents a great process of transformation, demonstrating how even within the period of exile, great miracles can transpire on behalf of the Jews. Furthermore, Purim is associated with a level of transcendence so high that there is no difference between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed be Mordechai,” i.e., that Haman can be transformed into a positive influence greater than Mordechai.

The latter concept is reflected in the fact that the Hebrew phrase meaning “Cursed is Haman” begins with an alef, the first letter of the Alef-beis. The Hebrew phrase meaning, “Blessed be Mordechai,” by contrast, begins with a beis, the second letter.

This relates to the concept that the narrative of the Creation begins with a beis, the first letter of the word bereishis, i.e., a beis represents perfection within the natural order. The alef, by contrast represents a state of perfection above the natural order.2 Thus “cursed is Haman,” reflects a descent for the purpose of ascent. From Haman, a drastic descent, we ascend to a great peak, an infinite level above that of “Blessed be Mordechai.”

Thus Purim itself is associated with the process of the refinement of our material environment. And on Shushan Purim, we reach an even higher level within this process.

The ultimate expression of these concepts will be revealed with the coming of Mashiach. Indeed, a similar process of drastic ascent will be seen in regard to Mashiach himself as reflected in the verse (Psalms 78:71), “from following the ewes which give suck, He brought him to shepherd Yaakov His people.” Similarly, the very word Mashiach means “anointed,” implying that at that time, a radical change will take place in his level.3

Our Sages associate the concept of Mashiach with children, interpreted the verse, “Do not touch My anointed (Meshichoi)” as a reference to children who study Torah and emphasize how it is in their merit that the existence of the world is maintained. This shows how important chinuch (education), is.

In this context, we can understand the verse, “Educate the child according to his way so that even when he grows older, he will not depart from it.” On the surface, the verse is problematic: Why is the fact that an elderly man continues in the path he followed as a child praiseworthy? The intent is, however, that a child’s education should provide him with a foundation on which he will grow and develop until he reaches the level of a wise man.

Similarly, in a spiritual sense, although age — and the wisdom with which it is associated — is a high level (indeed, it relates to the unlimited dimensions of G‑dliness represented in the thirteen plaits of the beard), youth represents a greater advantage. This is reflected in the verse, “Who will arise on behalf of Yaakov, for he is small?”, i.e., the motivating force prompting positive influence on behalf of Yaakov is that he is small; he possesses the quality of bittul, “My soul will be as dust to all.” This quality is the foundation for all positive attributes.

And “dust” will lead to “the dust of the Sanctuary,” which was used to in the process of the purification of a sotah, allowing her to resume relations with her husband. This purification process can be seen as an analogy for the relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people during the exile. For it is certain that the Jews are above blemish and the exile is merely a test which, as the purification process of a sotah, will lead to increased blessing.

Our Sages relate that if a woman who was tried as a sotah would give birth to girls beforehand, after her trial, she would give birth to boys. Similarly, in regard to the Jewish people, after the “trial” of exile, their level will parallel that of males, i.e., they will sing a new song4 (as reflected in the masculine form of the Hebrew word for song, shir). And in this song, we will be joined by “those who lie in the dust” who “will arise and sing.” And together, we will proceed immediately to the ultimate Redemption, a level immeasurably above the exile and above even all previous redemptions. At that time, all matters will reach a level of perfection.

FOOTNOTES
1. Indeed, the redemption from Egypt also involved a jump in time, i.e., G‑d drastically reduced the period of exile stated in the Torah in regard to the Covenant Bein HaBesarim, recalculating the number of years the Jews were forced to stay in Egypt.

This represents a dramatic new development, for a covenant is established for all time. And indeed, the Covenant Bein HaBesarim has maintained the existence of the Jewish people throughout the centuries, and will continue to maintain them until the Era of the Redemption when we will be granted the lands of the Keini, Kenizi, and the Kadmoni as stated in that Covenant.
2. Since alef is the first of the letters of the Alef-beis, it also endows all the other letters with a dimension of this unlimited quality.
3. The radical nature of this change is reflected in the difference between anointment and eating food. While eating, a person assimilates a new influence into his system and causes it to become part of his flesh and blood. The oil of anointment, by contrast, represents a new influence, so great that it cannot be assimilated into one’s system.
4. Although the singing of a new song is mentioned in the Haggadah in celebration of the holiday of Pesach, the intent is not that we must wait until Pesach for the Redemption. Instead, every Jew possesses the potential to bring the Redemption immediately.
A free translation from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
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