1. There is a custom (mentioned in various legal authorities) of speaking divrei kivushin on a public fast day. The idea behind this speaking is to further inspire people to teshuvah, this being the main idea of the fast day itself.

The word kivushin contains a hint to the various effects of teshuvah:

a) Kivush meaning “crushing,” as in “crushing something under one’s foot so that it can’t be seen.” (See Radak on Micha 7:19.) This corresponds to the ability of teshuvah to wipe out the trace of sin, so that it no longer has any effect.

b) Kivush meaning “conquering.” This refers to a higher level, where the sins are not only nullified, but actually transformed to mitzvos (as the Gemara says). This is connected with the fast day, which, although it is a day of discomfort, is nevertheless called “a day of [G‑d’s] desire.” It is called so because of the special ability to conquer and transform sins to mitzvos on such a day.

The above applies to all fast days. There is something unique about each fast, however. The fast of Esther is related to the fast which took place during the times of Purim, which actually lasted for three days. Such a fast is unique, for there are authorities who hold that fasting for three days in a row is equivalent to fasting for four days. This shows the special will of G‑d associated with Taanis Esther.

This receives special stress this year, where (since Purim falls on Sunday) Taanis Esther was pushed earlier — from Shabbos to Thursday. Therefore, the preparation for Purim, which normally corresponds to the one day of Taanis Esther, lasts for three days, similar to the three day fast mentioned above.

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2. There is a lesson to be derived from the portions of Torah that we learn today. In the daily portion of Rambam today, we begin the laws of Blessings.

The concept of a blessing is similar to that of a fast. The function of a blessing is to bring down a flow of G‑dliness into the world, thereby helping to purify and elevate the particular individual’s portion of the physical world.

This is similar to the function of a fast day. Since it is “a day of [G‑d’s] desire,” it has the ability to actually transform the nature of the day. It is for this reason that in the days of Mashiach, these fast will not only be nullified, but they will also be experienced as holidays and days of joy.

The laws of Blessings begins with a discussion of the blessing said after eating bread. According to the Rambam, this is the only blessing which is of Biblical origin (although others hold that the blessings over the Torah are also of Biblical origin). Since the idea of a blessing is to draw down G‑dliness to the world (the word berachah stemming from the word “to bring down”), this high blessing represents the strongest flow of G‑dliness.

This brings out even more clearly the special quality of a fast day. In spite of the fact that eating and reciting the blessing bring down a powerful flow of G‑dliness to the world, the quality elicited on a fast day is so much higher that it is worth setting them aside.

This is also connected with our studying the laws of Blessings. The more deeply we understand the effect of blessings, the better we can understand the special quality of a fast day.

3. There is also a lesson to be drawn from the weekly parshah in Torah. Parshas Tetzaveh begins with G‑d’s command to Moshe, “You must command the Jews to bring you clear oil made from olives which were crushed in order to illuminate....”

Here we see that the olives must be crushed in order for them to be a source of light. This is similar to the teshuvah of a fast day. Through a person “crushing their heart” and fasting, they bring about light. Furthermore, they are “crushed in order to illuminate,” not only absorbing light but themselves becoming a source of light.

And this power is drawn from “atah tetzaveh” (“You must command”). Moshe Rabbeinu (atah) — and in particular the essence of Moshe which transcends the level in which he is called by name — has the power to connect (tetzaveh) every Jew with the essence of G‑d, thereby making him a source of light.

An additional lesson can be derived from the particular segment associated with this day, the fifth of the week. The end of this section states that, “Anything that touches the altar will thereby become holy.” The mere act of touching the altar is sufficient to convey holiness to the object which came in contact.

The same applies to every Jew, who by means of his connection to G‑d, automatically becomes sanctified.

One might object, however, and point out that this law applies only to objects which would themselves be fit to be offered on the altar. How, then, can we apply this lesson even to Jews who might have transgressed the Torah?

However, the mishnah says that, “Every Jew has a portion in the world to come,” even those who have transgressed and even those whose transgressions are so severe that they are listed explicitly as having no portion in the world to come. This is because the Jerusalem Talmud explains that after they have been punished and their atonement is complete, even they receive a portion in the world to come.

This point also has a special connection with a fast day. The Gemara says that, “Any fast which does not have sinners participating is not considered to be a fast.” This is because on a fast day there is a revelation of the level of yechidah of the soul. On this level, even sinners are holy and may therefore participate in the fast. On the contrary: if they don’t, it shows that there is something wrong with the fast.

Therefore we see that sinners are also in the category of being “fit for the altar,” and are therefore also “sanctified” by virtue of being connected to G‑d. On this level, even sinners are holy and may therefore participate in the fast. On the contrary: if they don’t, it shows that there is something wrong with the fast.

Therefore we see that sinners are also in the category of being “fit for the altar,” and are therefore also “sanctified” by virtue of being connected to G‑d, as mentioned above.

And through the arousal to teshuvah of the fast day, we hasten the arrival of Mashiach and the transformation of the entire world into a “dwelling place for G‑d.” This comes about through every Jew working now, during the exile, to purify and elevate his portion of the world. This includes influencing the non-Jews he comes in contact with to keep the 7 Noachide Laws.

The purification of the world is also hinted to in this verse, “Anything that touches the altar will thereby become holy.” Since the Jewish people are holy (like an altar), anything that comes in contact with them also becomes holy! This hints to the purification of the world, and its transformation into a dwelling place for G‑d.

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4. It is customary to conclude with the distribution of dollars for charity. Certainly in addition to giving one dollar to charity, everyone will add on from their own money. Every addition in Torah and mitzvos hastens the redemption; especially the mitzvah of tzedakah, regarding which our Sages say, “Charity is great, because it hastens the redemption.” This is also connected with Parshas Tetzaveh, since our Sages say that the usage of the word tzav refers to swift action. In its merit may we see the speedy resurrection of Moshe and all other tzaddikim (and the entire Jewish nation is also referred to as tzaddikim) with the Messianic redemption.

Everyone should also remember the Purim campaign: that every single Jew should celebrate Purim and fulfill its mitzvos, including shalach manos and giving charity. This should include even the smallest children, who can place a coin in a charity box.

We should also make mention of the necessity of each individual making the house into a “mini-sanctuary.” Even the smallest children should have their own charity box, prayerbook, and chumash.

May this all speed the redemption that we may finally see the rewards of our efforts, with the true reward, the arrival of Mashiach.