Purim and Parshas Ki Sisah 5758 - '98
Outline Vol. 2, # 20
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Chodshei Hashanah Part 12
The Individuals Within Society -- Each
No two people are alike. Still, individuals can find the means to overcome
their idiosyncrasies and special characteristics, and make a common bond.
It is not as easy as it might seem, though. Not everyone wants to turn
away from their own identifying qualities, for the sake of a fragile union.
We concluded last week with the question: How could it be that the decrees
of Purim would cause a division in Jewish practices, when the purpose of
the Megilah story was to unite the scattered people?
Villagers and City-Dwellers
The Talmud introduced the concept that the inhabitants of small, outlying
villages be able to read the Megilah at a separate time from the other,
larger cities. This would permit the villagers to be free on Purim itself,
so as to be able to supply the city-dwellers with food and drink. (Megilah
4a-b) We need each other. Each individual serves a vital function for the
whole. True, the Talmud concludes that the city-dwellers could manage without
the villagers -- but the villagers could not manage without the city-dwellers.
The miracles that occurred throughout the kingdom of Persia could not compare
with the miracle in the capital of Shushan. The main miracle was the very
existence of Tzadikim (righteous leaders) such as Mordechai, Esther and
Daniel. Shushan is no longer inhabited, but Yerushalayim is the center
of Jewish life of past, present and future. Therein dwell the Tzadikim
and Torah Scholars of exemplary character. Yerushalayim could survive without
us, but we cannot survive without Yerushalayim.
The separate days of observance would demonstrate that -- not in spite
of our differences, but because of our differing roles -- the Jewish People
Ki Sisah and Leadership
Through Humility, Strive for Unity
The parsha read the week of Purim provides a interesting forum for this
topic. The story is the disastrous episode of the Golden Calf. While still
communing with Hashem on Mount Sinai, Moshe is informed of the people’s
heretical act. Hashem threatens to destroy the nation, and make Moshe alone
great. Moshe doesn’t bat an eyelash, but instantly begins to plead for
Moshe has been spurned and disobeyed. His teaching have been contradicted.
Couldn’t he find his own spiritual perfection with a nation made up of
only his own descendants? No. "If You will not forgive them, erase
me from Your book..." (Shmos 32:32)
The agents of enduring strength are those who can quietly manipulate
influence without flaunting it. The humility of Jewish leaders has always
been their greatest power.
The Risks of Power
"The heart of a king is in the hand of Hashem." (Mishley
[Proverbs] 21:1) The mighty rulers may seem powerful, but are truly mere
pawns. Those officers that really wield influence are behind the scenes,
keeping a low profile, being very careful not to overextend themselves.
Daniel, Mordechai and Esther were the champions of influence. How careful
they had to be, so as not to draw too much attention to themselves.
Indeed, Daniel was killed while working in Queen Esther’s court. (See
Tosfos, Baba Basra 4a and Toras Moshe, Drosh l’zayin Adar.)
The Talmud says that Esther requested from the sages in Yerushalayim
that her story be recorded for all generations. The sages replied that
they were concerned about the possible reaction among the nations. Esther
answered that it was too late, because her story had already been recorded
among the chronicles of the kings of Persia and the Medes. (Megilah
Imagine the dangers, the sacrifice. Esther gave up all that she cherished,
by marrying the wicked king, Achashverosh -- for the sake of the survival
of her people.
The Leaders’ Sacrifice
After the destruction of the calf, the people are humbled and wounded.
Stripped of their glory and broken in spirit, they drag on. See Asarah
Ma’amoros, that Shevet Levi willingly joined their brethren in suffering
and deprivation, even though they didn’t share in the guilt.
Chasom Sofer al Hatorah: Why did Moshe break the tablets? He
figured that for such a act, he’d be liable to death by the Divine Court.
This was in answer to Hashem’s words: "Leave Me -- My anger will rage
against them, I will destroy them, and make you into a great nation."
(Shmos 32:10) Moshe had answered with a plea for the people, and later
asked: "Please forgive their error; if not, erase me from Your book..."
(Shmos 32:32) By breaking the tablets, he was showing that he truly intended
to be erased, if the people could not be forgiven.
Similarly, Ksav Sofer explains (Shmos 32:31): Moshe wanted to
accept the blame upon himself for the people’s actions. Surely, if anyone
is to blame, it is the leader of the people, who could have better instructed
These are stories of leadership at its finest. Our leaders were prepared
to suffer hardship and indignation -- for the sake of the people. They
suffered for people of different temperament, not only for their close
Lo Tisgodedu -- Separate Congregations -- Unity and Diversity
[The Rebbe of Munkatch used to say that the Kabalistic works he studied
were the open parts of Torah learning; the Halachic discussions from the
Talmud were the concealed, mysterious part. He explained: The Kabalah is,
of course, esoteric; however, there are commentaries which explain all.
The "havayos of Abaye and Rava" (main Talmudic debates) however,
are the true mysteries. No one can explain them to the student, without
the student’s full application and diligence. The laws may seem dry --
but if you open your heart to search for deeper meaning, you will see the
wonders of the Torah. (From the work Divre Torah)]
We have been discussing the Torah’s prohibition of "Lo Sisgodedu,"
-- not to make diverse groups, observing the Torah in different ways. Last
week, we mentioned that separate courts, in differing locales, are permitted
to follow diverse traditions.
Each congregation is basically considered a separate court (even if
they do not actually have a Beis Din [Rabbinic Court]). The general prohibition
(not to make diverse groups) would only be within a single congregation;
those members who belong to the congregation must abide by its practices.
The prohibition is only for publicly visible practices, but not those performed
A congregation, then, must have an established protocol. This is the
gist of the law -- failure to have a uniformity of practice will lead to
splinter groups within the congregation, making it appear that there are
two separate Torahs.
Many areas today have a "shtibloch" that is intended for all
diverse groups to be able to daven together. Since this was the intention
of the place from its inception, and the makeup of the congregants is constantly
changing, there is no problem for each person to display his own custom.
Even so, the founders of the institution may stipulate that the Chazon
(leader) only recite the prayers publicly according to a specific custom.
(See M’vakshei Torah, vol. 3, chapter 169.)
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi
Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.