Lifting Our Cup of Salvation
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
Purim, the holiday on which we celebrate the salvation of the Jewish people
from the hands of the evil Haman, this year begins at sunset, March 1, 1999.
(See I: 66-77 for additional information.)
The Talmud in the tractate of Megillah (7b) relates: "Raba said: It is the
duty of a man to mellow himself [with wine] on Purim until he cannot tell the
difference between cursed be Haman' and blessed be Mordechai'." This teaching
is the source for imbibing more than the usual amount of alcohol by the Purim
feast. The Rema (Orech Chayim 695) writes that one need not get drunk to
accomplish this level of incapacity to discern; one may drink more than he is
used to and then sleep, and because he is sleeping, he will not be able to
differentiate. The bottom line, the Rema writes, is that the drinking must be
done "for the sake of heaven," with pure intentions, with the intent to
fulfill the dictate.
Why, on Purim, is there a special commandment to drink? All holidays carry
with them an obligation to rejoice, to feel happiness. However, on Purim, we
are told to take this happiness to an added level. Why is this the case?
Haman did not merely want to kill all the Jews. He wanted to eradicate every
vestige of the Jewish nation that existed. The Megillah of Esther (3:13)
states Haman's plan: ". . . to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews,
both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth
day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to plunder their
goods." Why does the Megillah use a number of synonyms to repetitively
describe the destruction of the Jews? The Vilna Gaon explains that each
expression of destruction related to a different aspect of Jewish existence.
Haman wanted to "destroy" the spiritual existence of the Jews, by destroying
all mention of the Torah, its commandments, and their observance. Haman
wanted to "kill" the Jewish spirit, the spark that exists in the heart of
every Jewish soul, binding the nation together culturally. Haman wanted to
physically "annihilate" the Jewish nation. Not only did he want to kill them;
he wanted to destroy every last shred of their existence by burning the
corpses, hence a literal annihilation. Lastly, Haman wanted to plunder the
goods of the Jews, so that no physical remnant would remain of the Jewish
However, Haman was denied the opportunity to carry out this horrendous plan.
Instead, the Jewish people, by the grace of G-d, were saved. Their spirit
perseveres, their Torah lives, and they are found throughout the world. We
commemorate this all-encompassing salvation in four ways. We observe an
additional Mitzvah, the reading of the Megillah, to celebrate our spiritual
salvation. To mark the continuance of the Jewish spirit, we have a
commandment to rejoice, to feel gladness in our hearts. Because the physical
existence of the Jewish nation was spared, we celebrate in a physical fashion,
by feasting and drinking. Lastly, as the property of the Jewish people wasn't
plundered, we give gifts to the poor to mark this preservation. Because Purim
commemorates a multifaceted salvation, the commemoration consists of more than
just a commandment to be happy. It has an added aspect: to feast. Because of
this specific facet of the celebration, we feast and drink on Purim, unlike
(Adapted from Sefer Kimu V'Kiblu)
A Freilichin Purim!
R' Yehudah Prero
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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