1. Because this gathering is being held close to and as a preparation to Purim, we will first explain the lesson to be learned from Purim and then that to be derived from today’s date and from the weekly parshah. Although we usually first explain the lessons learned from the day on which the gathering is held and then the lesson from the following days (in this case, Purim), nevertheless, today we shall follow the reverse order. Why? This gathering is associated with Purim, and it is a custom on Purim to change one’s dress (i.e. to dress up in costumes, to wear masks, etc.). It is therefore appropriate at this gathering to change the routine. Also, the days of Purim are “day of feasting and rejoicing,” greater than the joy of other festivals (Megillah 7b, Rambam, Hilchos Megillah 2:15). Since joy breaks through all bounds, the regular order of doing things is ignored, and we “grab” at anything that can bring joy. At this gathering connected with Purim, we must therefore immediately begin talking of joy — which is the theme of Purim.

What happened on Purim? The Megillah tells us that Purim celebrates the miracle of the elimination of Haman’s evil decree against the Jews, and such that the decree was transformed into good -”For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honor.”

Jewish children played a critical role in abolishing Haman’s decree. The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:13) states: “When those letters (to the governors of the king’s provinces containing the instructions to kill the Jews) were signed and delivered to Haman, he and all his associates were rejoicing; and they met Mordechai who was walking in front of them. Mordechai saw three children coming from school and ran after them. When Haman and all his associates saw Mordechai running after the children, they followed him to know what he would ask the children. When Mordechai reached the children, he asked one of them: ‘Repeat for me your verse [which you have just learned].’ The child said: ‘Do not fear sudden terror, nor the destruction of the wicked when it comes.’ The second child said, ‘I read the Scripture today and I stopped at this verse when I left school: “Contrive a scheme, but it will be foiled; conspire a plot, but it will not materialize, for G‑d is with us.’“ The third child recited [his verse]: ‘To your old age I am [with you]; to your hoary years I will sustain you; I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you.’ When Mordechai heard this, he smiled and was exceedingly glad.”

What had happened? Mordechai, meeting a Jewish child in the street, asked him to “Repeat for me your verse,” meaning, he asked the child which verse in Torah is your verse by which you live, and in the light of which you walk. The child answered that the verse by which he lives is “Do not fear sudden terror, nor the destruction of the wicked when it comes.”

Then, showing everyone that it is not just happenstance that this particular child lives by such a verse, but instead every Jewish child conducts himself in the same way, the second child says that the verse he finished off with at school is “Contrive a scheme, but it will be foiled;... for G‑d is with us.” Finally, the third child, indicating that such an attribute is a stable, enduring thing (a “chazakah,” which is established after three times), says, “To your old age I am with you ... I will sustain you and deliver you.” And because the third child recited his verse after hearing the previous two, the enduring nature of a “chazakah” is effected also in regard to the first two verses.

This episode shows that the normal conduct of a Jewish child, even when he is approached in the street without prior preparation, is to have ready his verse, the theme of which is not to fear any opposition to Judaism since “G‑d is with us” and “I will sustain you and deliver you.”

Mordechai, seeing that Jewish children are on such an elevated level, was “exceedingly glad” -for he knew that Haman’s decree would certainly be abolished through the power of Jewish children who go in the spirit of Torah.

As all matters of Torah, the events of Purim are not just a story, but also serve as directives for a Jew’s conduct. And as all of Torah’s directives, this lesson is “very close to you in your mouth and in your heart to do it”: It is very close to a person to translate this lesson into speech (“your mouth”), thought (“your heart”) and deed (“to do it”) in one’s everyday life.

What is the lesson? Just as in the days of Purim the wicked Haman passed a decree against Jews, so today the Yetzer Horah (wicked inclination) wishes to disturb Jews from observing Torah and mitzvos. When Jewish children announce that there is nothing to fear from opposition to Judaism since we rely on G‑d’s strength, the schemes and decrees of the Yetzer are made to naught, and instead, “For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honor.”

In further detail: The order of the above three verses — “Do not fear,” “Contrive a scheme” and “To your old age” correspond to the order in which the events happened in the days of Purim, in which there were three distinct stages.

1) The very fact that in the king’s court there exists a counselor named Haman the Aggagite, a descendant of Amalek who was known for his hatred of the Jews, is liable to inspire “fear” from “destruction of the wicked” that could result from Haman. This fear may be present even when Haman is just thinking about destroying the Jews, before he actually passes the decree. The counterweight to this fear is the first verse, “Do not fear sudden terror, nor the destruction of the wicked when it comes” — i.e. not to fear possible future events.

2) Afterwards, Haman’s thoughts are revealed when he schemes with other counselors, and advises the king to pass the decree against the Jews. The second verse, “Contrive a scheme, but it will be foiled; conspire a plot, but it will not materialize, for G‑d is with us,” is the answer to schemes already hatched.

3) When Haman’s words are accepted by Achashverosh, and the letters of destruction are sealed with the king’s signet, the third verse informs that “To your old age I am [with you]; ... I will sustain you and deliver you.”

These three stages and situations exist also in the Yetzer’s design to disturb Jews from observing Torah and mitzvos.

First, the Yetzer thinks about causing spiritual darkness in the world, displacing the “light of Torah” which illuminates a Jew’s everyday life. Then the Yetzer starts hatching plots as to how to translate his thoughts into reality. He tells a Jewish child that it is very difficult to be a soldier in G‑d’s Army, and therefore advises the child to tell his parents or teachers that he is too tired to pray or recite a blessing before eating. Further, there are times when a child must tear himself away from his surroundings. If he has non-Jewish neighbors with whom he plays, he must, on Shabbos and Yomtov, go to the synagogue rather than play ball.

The above three verses provide the answers to the Yetzer’s strategies. First, a Jewish child need not fear the Yetzer’s thoughts — “Do not fear sudden terror, nor the destruction of the wicked when it comes.” Even if the Yetzer’s ploy is already in place, “it will be foiled” and “it will not materialize,” for “G‑d is with us.” And finally, even when a child must remove himself from his surrounding, G‑d “will sustain you and deliver you” — and “to your old age” and “to your hoary years,” as written (Mishlei 22:6), “Train a child ... so that when he grows old he will not depart from it.”

The lesson from Purim, then, is that just as in those days Jewish children, living in the Torah’s ways, effected the elimination of Haman’s decree to the extent that “For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honor” — so in our days Jewish children have the ability to defeat the Yetzer Horah and to bring “light and gladness, joy and honor” to all Israel.


2. After having explained the lessons derived from Purim, we shall now return to the regular order and explain the lessons to be derived from the day on which this gathering is being held, and from the daily portion of the weekly parshah.

Today is Wednesday, the fourth day of the week. Each day of the week has its own unique distinction: Tuesday, for example, on which most of these gatherings are held, is the day on which “it was good” was said twice. Wednesday is the day when “the two great luminaries” were created -”the greater luminary to rule the day and the smaller luminary to rule the night” (Bereishis 1:16).

The sun differs from the moon in two respects: 1) The sun’s light is greater than the moon’s, such that everything can be seen clearly during the day; 2) the sun’s light is constant every day, whereas the moon’s light changes. The moon’s light tonight, for example, the 11th of Adar, is less than the next night, and so on until the fifteenth (Shushan Purim), when the moon is full. But even then, it cannot be compared to the sun’s light.

In spiritual terms, light means the light of Torah. “Day,” when the sun shines, is therefore a state of affairs when the light of Torah illuminates strongly and constantly, when it is unnecessary to fight against darkness which opposes holiness. “Night” is a situation of spiritual darkness, when the Yetzer tries to conceal the light of the Torah. In such a case, a Jew must fight and prevail over the darkness — “Do not fear sudden terror,” and “Contrive a scheme, but it will be foiled.” A Jew must engage in Torah and mitzvos in speech, thought and deed, thereby illuminating the darkness of the night. But, similar to the moon’s light, the illumination provided by a Jew’s service will still not make it day, since the Yetzer still exists. Tomorrow, the fight to prevail must begin again.

The above parallels the difference between the time of exile and the time of the future redemption. Exile is analogous to night, when the darkness of the Yetzer exists, and we must prevail over the darkness through the light of Torah — similar to the moon’s light. In this itself there are differences: On special days, such as Shabbos, Yomtov, Purim, etc., the light of sanctity shines forth strongly, so that even though we are still in exile, the Yetzer flees from the light that comes from sanctity and joy — and does not disturb a person. On regular days, weekdays, the light of sanctity does not illuminate so strongly; it does not penetrate every part of the day. Therefore, a Jew during part of the day is engaged in mundane matters, when, because the Yetzer does not flee, he must do battle with the Yetzer.

In the future era, however, sanctity will shine forth in full splendor and strength, for then we will see the fulfillment of the promise (Zechariah 13:2), “I shall remove the spirit of impurity from the land,” and “the L‑rd shall be an eternal light for you” (Yeshayah 60:19).

Wednesday, the day when the “two great luminaries” were created, teaches that Jews, even in exile when only the light of the “small illuminary” shines, must do their utmost to increase the light of sanctity so that darkness be banished, leading to the redemption when the darkness of exile will be totally eliminated, and “the L‑rd shall be an eternal light for you.”

This concept is stressed this year, a leap year, the function of which is to reconcile the difference between the solar and lunar years -similar to the future era, when “the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun” (Yeshayah 30:26).

3. There is also a lesson to be derived from today’s portion of Torah, the fourth section of parshas Tzav. It talks of the start of the days of dedication of the Mishkan, when, with all its utensils and all its component parts completed and ready, Moshe erected the Mishkan, began to offer sacrifices, and trained Aharon and his sons in the Mishkan service.

This teaches that every Jew should know that everything is ready for the building of the Sanctuary — the third Bais Hamikdosh. We are at the end of exile, and we need but complete a few minor matters before the redemption comes. Each of you, amidst all Israel, will end the war against the Yetzer, eradicate its few remaining small schemes, and joyfully complete your service of Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos. The exile is then ended, and the complete and final redemption follows.

Then all of us, “with our youth and with our elders, with our sons and with our daughters,” with all the children you have recruited into the ranks of Tzivos Hashem, will together go out from exile. The “whole people,” with the “whole Torah,” will go to our holy land — the “whole land” — and therein to the holy city of Yerushalayim, to the Temple Mount, where everything will be ready for the building of the third Bais Hamikdosh.

4. Since “deed is paramount,” we will, as usual, end with the deed of giving tzedakah. This is particularly associated with Purim, for one of its mitzvos is “gifts to the poor.” And, consonant to the custom of giving, before Purim, three coins of “half a shekel,” we shall give each of you three coins: one to be given to tzedakah; the second for a tzedakah associated with Purim; and the third to do with as you desire, using it for a good, kosher and holy purpose.

To emphasize the concept of joy, we shall, as usual, conclude the gathering with joyous songs. First and foremost, the song “Do not fear ... Contrive a scheme ... To your old age ...” Then the song “Indeed, the righteous ...”, followed by “We want Moshiach now,” and finishing with “May the Bais Hamikdosh be speedily rebuilt in our days, and grant us our portion in Your Torah.”