1. The Megillah (8:17) calls Purim a festival, a term which applies even though the Jewish people did not accept the prohibition of work on that day. Hence, it must be celebrated with joy as are all the other festivals.

Each festival is unique, having its own particular meaning. For that reason, we use different terms in our prayers: season of our freedom,” “the season of the giving of our Torah,” and “the season of our rejoicing” to refer to each of them. All are characterized by joy and termed “festivals of rejoicing,” but, there are differences between them. Each one has its own level of joy, differences which are reflected in the Torah itself. In reference to Pesach, the Torah makes no mention of joy; in reference to Shavuos, it is mentioned once; and in connection with Sukkos, three times, causing Sukkos to be called “the season of our rejoicing.”

Similarly, the “days of Purim” (9:28) are singled out as “days of drinking1 and rejoicing” during which one is obligated to become drunk to the degree of losing his senses. In fact, even though the celebration of Purim is only a Rabbinic ordinance and the celebration of the other holidays a Torah command, the joy of Purim surpasses them; there is no comparison between them, for the joy of the other festivals is limited. Though the celebration of Sukkos is greater than that of Pesach, there is a relationship between them; both share a basic limitation as evidenced by the fact that on these days the Jewish court would send messengers among the people to ensure that the celebration remained within the restrictions of propriety. However, the joy of Purim is not bound by any restrictions, but is totally unlimited.

On the surface, the question can be asked: How is it possible for a limited human being to experience unlimited joy? The reply is based on a concept that is explained in connection with the verse “Love G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” On the latter term, our sages commented “Love G‑d — whatever the measure that He metes out to you.” The fact that the individual’s love is not bound by any circumstances is proof that it is unlimited in nature. This concept is elaborated upon at great length in Chassidus which explains that a level of service that is unlimited for one individual, although it would be considered limited, for another reflects and draws down G‑d’s unlimited light. The same concept is brought out by a simple example. An overflowing cup is a sign of blessing. This applies whether the cup is small or large. Even though a large cup may be able to hold the contents of an overflowing small cup, the latter is still a sign of blessing.

The Medrash relates that G‑d only demands of an individual that which he is capable of. If he reaches what is considered for him to be unlimited joy — happiness above the restrictions of intellect — during Purim, he becomes a vessel for, and draws down G‑d’s unlimited light. This revelation affects him on this plane; — he receives “light, happiness, joy and honor” in a manner that surpasses his limitations. They are reflected in open and revealed good as manifest even in material things. Although Purim is only one day a year, it has a continuous effect throughout the entire year to come. Furthermore, this service will hasten the coming of Moshiach “who will redeem us and lead us upright to our land” speedily in our days.

2. In general, Jews always look down at becoming drunk. This is particularly true according to the Torah perspective. [There are number of laws concerning the status of a drunk person in regard to prayer, reciting grace, making Torah decisions, etc.] The idea of becoming drunk to the point of losing one’s sense is entirely out of the question, even on the festivals2 and the Alter Rebbe, in Shulchan Aruch, uses very sharp words of criticism in regard to those who go beyond propriety’s limits. According to Chassidus as well, though certain individuals maintained that in order to hold a farbrengen and speak from the heart, it is permissible to drink a little more than normal, the Rebbeim negated this concept entirely. Nevertheless, on Purim these limits are lifted entirely and one is obligated to drink to the point he loses his senses. Surely, a person who drinks in order to fulfill this Mitzvah will not suffer any negative effects. On the contrary “One who observes a Mitzvah will know no evil.” Rather, through going beyond his personal limits, he will fulfill a Mitzvah that is likewise unlimited.

Thus, though throughout the entire year, the overwhelming joy experienced on Purim is considered undesirable, on Purim that joy itself becomes a Mitzvah. The very same Shulchan Aruch, which cautions us throughout the year; requires us to behave in that fashion. This concept can be compared to a law mentioned in the Talmud in regard to a Shtar (legal contract). Generally, a Shtar if signed and witnessed correctly is accepted without question, yet, each of the parties has the right to question the authenticity of the Shtar and to verify the signature of the witnesses. Once the Shtar’s authenticity is questioned and subsequently verified, it carries even greater strength than a normal Shtar. Similarly, because the unlimited nature of the rejoicing of Purim is looked down upon during the entire year, the fact that it becomes a Mitzvah on Purim gives it more intensity and strength.

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3. It was intended that this exile demonstrate the ability of the Jewish people to withstand different trials and undergo the challenge of hard work. Just as during the exile in Egypt, the Jews were forced to work with bricks and mortar, in the later exiles they were also faced with difficult tasks. This refers to our present situation in America as well. Even though here, we enjoy freedom — as much freedom as is possible in exile — and are allowed to follow our faith without any persecution and difficulties, a difficult challenge exists. We are a minority surrounded by other peoples. The Yetzer Hora argues: follow the majority — act like the other nations. Even if one understands that at home, and surely in the synagogues and in the schools, Jews must act differently, there is a challenge when one goes out into the street, into the world of business. There as well “G‑d’s name must always be in one’s mouth.” One must remember that it is not “My strength and my power that brought me this wealth,” but rather “the blessing of G‑d that brings wealth” (Mishlei 10:22). Not only must one appreciate this concept intellectually, one must act accordingly. On Friday night, the business must be closed even though it might seem that by remaining open a large sum of money could be earned (and furthermore, a fifth of it given to charity). Because one knows that wealth is dependent on G‑d’s blessing, the store will be closed early, in time for one to return home and prepare for Shabbos.

This is one example of a trial that exists in a free country. There are others. For example, a businessman may employ others, Jews among them. Not only must he ensure that he himself comes home before Shabbos, he must be concerned with his workers as well. Furthermore, even if all his employees are non-Jews, he cannot keep his business open on Shabbos, for the very fact that the business goes under his name forces him to close it on Shabbos. He might argue that no Torah law is being broken and the only question is what people will think. He might even promise to give a large percentage of his earnings to charity, but none of these rationalizations help. The store must be closed.

Challenges like these arise only when one’s basic approach is “My strength and the power of my hand brought me this wealth.” Such a perspective causes one to view Shulchan Aruch as a secondary factor. However, if one understands that “it is the blessing of G‑d that brings wealth,” no such question will occur. The business will be closed early on Friday without even thinking of any loopholes. Nevertheless, it is difficult and trying to withstand such trials, particularly when one is faced with the example of non-Jewish merchants in one’s surroundings.

Another trial revolves around the education of one’s children. Here, it is very easy to compromise, for everyone wants his children to be considered a man like other men. Furthermore, in order that one’s son or daughter earn a living, they have to be educated in a certain fashion. The fact that Shulchan Aruch prohibits this approach to education is ignored. One is blinded by one’s “love” for one’s children and gives them the education demanded by the secular society. Furthermore, it is natural to desire that they have fun, a desire which often conflicts with the principles of Tznius. When it comes to dress, public opinion must be entirely ignored. Nothing can or should interfere with a Jewish girl following the Torah’s standards of Tznius.

This represents the challenge of the exile in free countries. Precisely because (at least, openly) there are no barriers separating a Jew from a non-Jew, it is possible to adopt the position “The House of Israel is like the other nations.” In this case, the challenge of exile is directed not to a Jew’s body, but to his mind and heart, a more difficult and trying challenge. The Jewish people faced similar circumstances in the times directly after the Purim miracle. Mordechai was second to the king, honored throughout the kingdom. Jews were allowed to do as they desired. For this reason, the Megillah was sent to them in their language, Hebrew; to serve as a reminder that even in times of well-being they must remain differentiated even in their language.

It is necessary to ensure that “the remembrance [of these days] never cease from their seed.” Not only must each Jew follow the lifestyle in which his parents had educated him in Europe, he must also educate his children similarly. They must continue the same pattern, following the same behavior and not be embarrassed in front of their gentile neighbors. They must know that it is “the blessing of G‑d that brings wealth” in both a spiritual and material sense. Then, “the Jews will have light and joy, happiness and honor.” Even the non-Jews will give them honor. The very same non-Jews who launched decrees because the Jews “had different beliefs than all nations,” will respect them for precisely that quality and for educating their children in this manner.

Then, on Purim, the entire family: father, mother, grandparents, and children will sit together around the same table and discuss the Megillah and “it will not depart from their descendants.” The children will take upon themselves the resolve to educate their children in a manner that will perpetuate the spirit of Mordechai — not bowing or bending to any secular influence.

Hence, when the Torah demands, on Tisha B’Av that one be clothed in sackcloth, they will don sackcloth. Even though “one cannot approach the gate of the king in sackcloth,” the idea of deviating from the directives of the Shulchan Aruch does not enter their minds. It isn’t even a test for them, for Torah is their nature. The Talmud explains this concept with a metaphor of a fish in the water. Sometimes it is possible that because a fish is in water it is harried and chased, but, despite those difficulties it is in a much better situation than a fish outside of water — The same applies to Jews and Torah. At times, a Jew’s situation is positive and at times it is difficult and it is necessary to appeal to G‑d for a blessing. However, in all cases, with Torah a Jew is alive. Only in the realm of Torah can he live. Hence, if following Torah causes him to be held back from appearing at the gate of the king for a short time, he is not bothered, for entering the king’s court is of secondary importance, added on to his essential being, while Torah is his essence. Furthermore, this is the path which leads the king to give “Haman’s house to Mordechai the Jew” and for Mordechai to become second to the king and have his decrees sealed with the king’s ring.

The Baal Shem Tov interpreted the Mishnah’s statement “one who reads the Megillah backwards does not fulfill his obligation” to mean that one who reads the story of the Megillah as something that happened in the past, thousands of years ago — did not fulfill his obligation.3 We must realize that the Megillah is relevant now and shows us how to act in our times, in the present situation. This is the path which draws down G‑d’s blessings in both spiritual and material things and leads to the future redemption, when Moshiach will “come and redeem us and lead us upright to our land,” speedily in our days.

4. The above discussion of the joy of Purim applies each year no matter which day of the week Purim falls. However, it is also necessary to derive a particular lesson this year from the fact that Purim falls on a Sunday. This fact is related to the Mitzvah of Simchah (joy). Generally, when a person is in a normal state of mind, he will become happy when he is exposed to a new thing of which he was previously unaware. However, if he is already happy, it requires a much more powerful influence to cause him to feel greater joy. This concept is relevant to the present year’s celebration of Purim. Generally, Purim comes after the fast of Esther; since on a fast, one is not allowed to eat at all let alone drink wine, it is self-evident that less wine is required to make someone heady then would be necessary had Purim not followed a fast. On Shabbos, one is required to experience joy as the Sifri states “The day of your rejoicing — these are the Shabbosim.” The Kiddush which initiates the first two Shabbos meals is recited over a cup of wine.4 Likewise, Havdalah is also accompanied by a cup of wine. Hence, it is necessary to have a greater motivation for joy on Purim, for, since “constant pleasure is not pleasure,” the celebration of Purim would be dwarfed by Shabbos.5

The above applies on the material plane. In a spiritual sense, the concept is surely relevant, wine being a metaphor for meditation in the service of G‑d and in prayer. Generally, on Purim, one must lose one’s senses — learn and meditate upon enough Chassidic discourses on Purim, — and study the laws of Purim, — that one loses his individual identity and stands as a servant before the king, with no will but to fulfill the king’s desires. This is the true goal of prayer. However, if Purim is preceded by Shabbos, he must experience an even more powerful meditation.

Nevertheless, even though one’s previous happiness was genuine, a joy recognized by Torah itself, when Shabbos is over and Purim begins, one is asked to reach an even higher level of joy, a happiness that takes one beyond his senses. Since Torah teaches that G‑d only asks of us what is within our potential, we must realize that we are able, in both a spiritual and a physical sense, to reach those levels.

The results of the celebration of Purim in this fashion are also different. Every year, the celebration of Purim effects every day of the following year, but in such a year the effects are greater. This great celebration increases our potential for deriving pleasure from fulfilling G‑d’s Torah6 and causes a year of unlimited joy, in both physical and material things, including the ultimate joy, the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

5. One of the main aspects of the celebration of Purim is the emphasis on the unity of the Jewish people. This is expressed by the Mitzvah of sending presents of food to friends and giving to the needy which draws the hearts of Jews to each other.7 Similarly, the Megillah should be read in a large assembly, with efforts made to ensure that each individual attends. In this sense, we can understand Haman’s request to Achashverosh. “There is one nation scattered and dispersed among the peoples... and it is no benefit for the king to tolerate them,” as a description of the personal as well as the physical status of the Jewish people. Not only were they scattered geographically, but in the realm of human relations, separation had also arisen between them, a lack of unity which caused Haman’s request to be accepted before G‑d. As long as the Jews are united, they cannot be destroyed by any enemies. Our sages explain that the verse, “Ephraim is joined to idols — let him be,” should be interpreted to mean that since the people of Israel are joined — i.e. there is unity among them, even if they worship idols, their sins will not harm them. They may fight wars and still be victorious. The unity of the Jews on Purim annuls Haman’s claim.

The above is connected with the concept spoken about on Yud Shvat:8 “an individual is a multitude.” Each individual has the power to forge a group of individuals into a single entity, a community. The concept of establishing unity among divergent entities begins when one establishes unity within oneself. In this context, we can understand the statement of the Previous Rebbe’s grandfather who was called Yosef Yitzchok. He told a colleague that he would join in the communal prayer and later that individual saw him praying alone (spending a long time in prayer meditating on Chassidic concepts). When he was asked to clarify his previous statements, he declared: “I pray with the community. I pray with my ten powers. They form my minyan.” On the surface, this statement is seemingly only witticism, yet, it reflects an inner truth. Since an individual can effect a multitude (particularly such an individual whom the multitude feels that they need), when he established unity within himself, his prayer is considered as a communal prayer. This personal sense of unity, in turn, helps him spread unity among the Jews around him, bringing them together without exception9 to form a community. Then, whether there is one individual involved, 10, 100, 1,000, or even 600,00010 (which represents the ultimate sense of community, being the complete number of Jewish souls11 ) they are joined together as a single entity.

This unity is desired by G‑d, but, His desire is that it be achieved through man’s own efforts. This concept is alluded to in the comment of the Medrash on the verse “Let us make man in our image.” When G‑d told Moshe to write this verse, he protested, fearful of the possibility of someone making a mistake and thinking that there are many gods. G‑d answered him, “Write it (as is) And he who wants to err will err.” Similarly, G‑d created the world in a manner which, on the surface, contains a multitude of diversified things. However, the intent of this creation is not that the Jew should err and leave the world in a state of diversity, but rather that the Jew join the different elements together and create unity.

The quality that is expressed when many people are united together is called ‘Eichus’ in Hebrew (translated as quality). On the other hand, there is another quality Kamos (translated as quantity) which is expressed when many people come together even if they are not joined into a single entity. In Torah law, there is a long debated question as to which weighs more powerfully, Eichos or Kamos, a debate which is reflected in the policies of the nations of the world at large. There are some nations that follow majority rule or the rule of a dictator and others in which the entire populace is joined together into a single entity. In the former cases, it is possible that strife will arise as the Mishnah declares “If not for the fear of the ruling authorities, men would swallow their colleagues alive.” However, when the members of a community, or the people of a country join together as a community, then the leaders they choose become the emissaries of the community as a whole, conducting the affairs of the city or the country with total power. Surely, there will be disagreement at first in regard to appointing those leaders. Our sages declare “the minds of all are not alike.” Even in the case of Mordechai, the Megillah relates that he was “acceptable to most of his brethren” i.e. a portion of the Jewish people did not approve of his conduct. However, once the election is held and the opinion of the majority established, it becomes the policy of the entire community, the minority as well.12 Thus a true sense of community is formed. It is impossible to establish a unanimity of public opinion, for people will always disagree. However, once the Rav or the leader is chosen, they will be unified behind him and follow his will. In regards to deed and action, the Halachah as the government policies are uniform. This policy, in turn, leads to establishment of a country in which Jews are allowed to express their Yiddishkeit openly. Even if a Haman arises, whether from the gentiles — or even from the Jews themselves — and declares that Yeshivos should not be supported, women should be conscripted into the army etc., his plans will be foiled. The majority will defeat all of his efforts and he himself, will regret his deeds.

Thus, the greater unity that is formed among non-Jews leads to greater unity among Jews. Then, because the reason for the exile, baseless hatred, will be eradicated, the exile itself will cease. Similarly the clash between certain factions among the Jewish people — some in favor of Chassidus, of studying and spreading the teachings of Kabbalah, and some opposed — has also ceased. Now, it is accepted in all quarters,13 that Chassidus and Kabbalah lead to positive activities: growing a beard, wearing Rabbeinu Tam’s Tefillin, etc. Then, “the wellsprings of Chassidus will spread outward” and we will draw one Jew together with another. This will serve as a preparation for the time when “a great congregation will return there” with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

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6. The Megillah begins with an entire chapter describing Achashverosh’s kingdom and the extravagance with which he ruled it, the party he made etc., the question arises: what does this have to do with the Jewish people? It would seem more appropriate if the Megillah began with the story of Esther, or something of that nature. However, the present form of the text teaches us a basic lesson. In the words of the Mishnah “Every man is obligated to say the world was created for me.” All of Achashverosh’s wealth, the gardens, the beds, vessels he used, etc. had one purpose: the miracle of Purim that eventually resulted.

This concept can be explained by a well known example — A wagoneer was driving two sages to their destination. The horses ran because they thought of the fodder they would receive at the journey’s end. The wagoneer hurried because he was anxious to receive his wage. The sages sat in repose and discussed Chassidus. Did the thoughts of the horses for their fodder or the wagoneer for his wages detract from the G‑dliness of their subject? Similarly, the fact that we don’t understand the connection between “the hangings of white, fine cotton, and blue” of Achashverosh’s court described in the beginning of the Megillah and the fact that at the end of the narrative, the Megillah describes how “Mordechai went out from before the king in a blue garment” does not detract from their interrelationship. A Megillah is complete only when it includes the entire Purim story beginning from “and it came to pass in the days of Achashverosh.”

7. The Megillah praises Mordechai for “not bowing or bending” to Haman, an example followed by all Jews. Hence, they were called “the nation of Mordechai.” On the surface, this approach had a negative effect, for it was precisely this gesture which incited Haman’s anger and caused his decree. Furthermore, there was no necessity not to bow down before him, as there is no reason for it to have been considered idol worship. Nevertheless, Mordechai and the entire Jewish people, refused to bow down, thus demonstrating the power of Mesirus Nefesh (self-sacrifice). Their devotion lasted an entire year i.e. they went through all the possible changes and fluctuations14 without altering their stance. This led to the success described at the end of the Megillah.

Mesirus Nefesh is the true nature of every Jew, from the most simple to the leaders of the nations. For the most simple, Mesirus Nefesh surely represents the ultimate of their service. However, even the leaders cannot limit themselves to the service of intellect but, must also show Mesirus Nefesh. Thus not only on Yom Kippur but the whole year through, the Mesirus Nefesh a Jew reaches is higher than the holiness of Yom Kippur. Therefore, there should be no difference between Yom Kippur and any day of the year.15

This service was epitomized by Moshe. Our sages commented that the verse “the fool believes everything” refers to Moshe when receiving the Torah. Though he represented the quintessence of intellect, he chose to approach Torah from the standpoint of belief. Human intelligence is limited and is not able to grasp G‑d’s will and wisdom. Finiteness cannot grasp infinity. Only because G‑d in His grace gave us His Torah can we understand certain concepts that He has revealed. This is the approach which leads to Mesirus Nefesh.

With Mesirus Nefesh of this nature, Mordechai approached Achashverosh’s court. As the Megillah relates, an entire series of events transpired, all seemingly nature — G‑d’s name is not mentioned once. Yet, at the end Mordechai becomes second to the king and Haman’s house is given to him. This all results from the approach of “not bending and not bowing!”

[At this point, the Rebbe Shlita explained how this attitude is appropriate at present as well. The Israeli government must take a positive and strong stance. The approach of concessions of trying to curry the favor of the non-Jews has weakened not strengthened Israel’s position. The Rebbe called for an increase in settlements in Yehudah and Shomron and a show of military strength.]