Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Purim: Revealing the Hiddeness

Among the many peculiarities of Purim, one that definitely deserves mention, is the mitzvah to read the Megilah. The reason we read the Megilah is to broadcast and publicize the miracle of Hashem’s intervention in the Purim story. Yet, throughout the entire Megilah, G-d’s Name is mentioned all but never. We seem to be caught somewhere between revealing and concealing...

Purim signified the close of an era. Until then, Hashem dealt with Klal Yisroel in a more explicit manner. As the Gemara (Chulin 139b) says: "Where do we see a reference to Esther in the Torah? In the verse, "ואנכי הסתיר אסתיר את פני ביום ההוא" - "And I will hide My face on that day (Devarim 39:18)." The name "Esther" comes from the word that means “hidden”.

Until that time, as it will be after Moshiach comes, Hashem's intervention was clear and direct. But Purim began a new chapter in our history. Although the Almighty loves Klal Yisroel, and He continues to redeem, protect, shelter and provide for Klal Yisroel, it is done in a way in which His Face is concealed from us. Therefore, His Name is not mentioned in the Megilah. But inasmuch as He intervenes in the most exquisitely detailed and caring fashion, albeit from behind the scenes, we publicize His hidden involvement in the miracle of Purim.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (6:6) lists the forty-eight ways through which the Torah is acquired: listening, saying the words out loud, understanding with your heart, studying with fear, with trembling, with humility, with joy, with purity, proper role models, good friends, debate and so on. The last of these forty-eight ways is that whenever you repeat something that you have learned from someone else you must say it over in their name.

The Mishna then continues with the following comment:

והאומר דבר בשם אומרו, הא למדת כל האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאלה לעולם, שנאמר, ותאמר אסתר למלך בשם מרדכי

“Someone who repeats something in the name of its author brings redemption to the world, as it is written (Esther 2:22) “And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai.”

Mordechai overheard Bigsan and Seresh conspiring to do away with the king and informed Esther. Esther could have simply told the king, “These two advisers of yours are going to poison you.” Instead, she told Achashverosh that Mordechai had told her. The miracle of Purim, at least in the way that it occurred under the wraps of nature, was that one night the king couldn’t sleep and he asked that the book of favors that people did for him be brought and read before him. Just as they finished reading how Mordechai was the one who discovered the plot, Haman came in to try to convince the king that Mordechai should be hung. Normally Achashverosh would have likes the idea, but instead the whole thing did a flip-flop and Haman ended up taking Mordechai through the streets of the capital on the king’s horse, calling and announcing in front of him, “This is the way that people who honor the king are honored.” Because of the fashion in which Esther repeated what she had been told, the miracle of Purim came about and Jews were saved. Not only does one who repeats something in the name of the author acquire Torah, but he also brings salvation to Klal Yisroel and redemption to the world.

There are a couple of apparent difficulties with this. Most of the other ways are very clear how they are ways of acquiring Torah. You’ve got to have the right teachers, the right friends, the right ways of learning Torah. But to repeat something in somebody else’s name, what does this have to do with acquiring Torah? If I’m repeating it then I have already learned it.

Secondly, bringing redemption is clear enough in the instance of Mordechai and Esther, but how does this work in other instance, as the Mishna clearly implies that it does?

Hashem Does the Same

A very interesting Medrash (Medrash Rabba in Bamidbar and Medrash Tanchuma in Chukas) tells us that not only is man supposed to repeat Torah in the name of its author, but Hashem does so as well.

Rav Acha said in the name of Rebbe Yossi bar Chanina, “When Moshe ascended to the Heaven he heard the Voice of G-d engaged in the study of the laws of the Red Heifer, and G-d was repeating the halacha in the name of the person who was destined to extract that law from Torah. G-d said as follows, “Reb Eliezar says that the Eglah Arufah has to be a year old. The Parah Adumah, however, must be two years old.”

Ribono Shel Olam,” exclaimed Moshe Rabeinu. “Master of the World, heaven and earth belong to You, and You repeat a halacha in the name of flesh and blood?”

Hashem replied, “There is a great tzaddik who is destined to arise in My world and he is going to open up this chapter of the Parah Adumah and Rabbi Eliezar is his name. I am, indeed, repeating his halacha."

Moshe Rabeinu was so taken with this that he said, “Master of the World, may it be Thy will that this great man will be amongst my descendants.” And G-d subsequently assures him that it will be so.

The Almighty was repeating a halacha that man was going to be discover and formulate. It is understandable that man should repeat and give credit where credit is due, this we can understand. But here the Almighty Himself adheres to the same reasoning and adamantly repeats the halacha in the name of the sage who is destined many centuries later to make the necessary inferences to state the halacha - using his insight which is a gift from Hashem!

The Maharal explains this Medrash in the following way: The role of every Jew that comes into the world is to leave a mark, to make his contribution. Everybody has a portion in Torah. Great people have a great portion in Torah, people of lesser station have the opportunity to make lesser contributions, but everybody has a role in Torah which brings together Jews of each generation and Jews of all generations. But it’s not haphazard. Each person is given his own unique, particular contribution to make. And we’ve underscored this point time and again: You cannot make or compensate for the lack of somebody else’s contribution. If someone is supposed to apply himself to the world of values, through Torah, with Torah, in the day-to-day give-and-take of things, if one is supposed to make an insight, to make an active impact by reacting with the sensitivity and the nobility and the generosity and the charity of a Jew, then that opportunity was tailored for that person, that was something that he needs to give. So what G-d was saying over here was that ‘I have reserved for Rabbi Eliezar, who is a man of stunning greatness, this mark in history, and when I repeat it I am going to repeat it in his name because it belongs to him.'

Connecting to the Source

One of the reasons for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh is that, although they were a generation of great Torah scholars, they didn’t recite the blessings for the Torah before they studied Torah.

Every morning we say the berachos for the privilege and the honor of studying the Torah which G-d has given us. We recognize G-d's authorship of the Torah and that it is a Divine gift, that it emanates and is derived from the Divine and Infinite Being and we thank G-d that we have an attachment to Torah. We thank Him for the privilege of studying Torah. Those people who did not recite a blessing were making the following very significant commentary: Torah is a fascinating wisdom. It is provocative, it is stimulating, it can give you some tremendous intellectual kicks, and a person can make wonderful scholarly contributions through the study of Torah, but it is a wisdom.

While that is surely true, Torah is literally infinitely more than that. Torah is a wisdom that is intended to uplift people, because of its direct connection to the Divine, to pour its light, its spiritual energy, over people and situations, and pick people up and transform people and events. The failure to stop and recognize this is not a wisdom like other wisdoms, it is not a discipline like other disciplines, it is not a science or a branch of knowledge, but this is a branch of Divine Wisdom, the failure to make that connection takes Torah and makes it just another science.

There are people who study Torah but do not reflect Torah values. We find their character objectionable, insensitive, haughty, conceited, dishonest, and deceitful, a whole litany of things we complain about when we see a Torah scholar who is inconsistent with what we would expect from one who learns Torah. Something like that happens only because they are detached from the Source.

When one learns Torah, they must prepare themselves beforehand and say, “I am about to take into my mouth words that derive from the most awesome Source of wisdom, from an infinite, sacred, holy source, and I want to be connected to that source and I want to be affected by that connection. I want to be changed by that connection.”  A lack of doing so is what gives people smarts but not sanctity.

One of the lessons that Pirkei Avos is teaching us is that if you want to acquire Torah - not wisdom, but Torah - then you have to connect up with its Divine Source. To repeat a Torah idea that is a contribution of the person who was responsible for bringing it to a revealed state from concealment, which was reserved for him by G-d from the beginning of creation, to take that contribution and fail to repeat it in his name is to repeat a science, an intellectual statement, but separated from its source. Ignoring the source is indicative of one’s approach to Torah in general: he is are not sufficiently cognizant of the holiness and loftiness of Torah, that there is something in Torah that is deeper than the words and the outer garments of Torah. In his mind, he is learning something detached.

It is a Divinely connected statement only when it goes through the person to whom G-d gave it. Torah means something that transforms people, their lives, their characters. The word ‘olam’ means not only ‘world’ but also ‘concealment.’  When the Mishna says, “One who repeats something in the name of its author brings redemption to the world”, we can also say that he “brings redemption to that which is concealed.” The objective, if we want Torah to be a redemptive force in our lives, is to be certain that we are always connecting up to the Force which is hidden therein. The Almighty is the hidden Force in every molecule of life. We must redeem that spark that connects us to Hashem. 

Revealing That There Is Hiddenness

The word Megilah comes from the same word as m’galeh, to reveal. And as mentioned earlier, the word Esther connotes hiding. Megilas Esther is really the process of revealing (Megilah) that which is hidden (Esther).

The pasuk (see above) that references Esther’s name uses the word concealment twice, connoting a double concealment. The Baal Shem Hakadosh explains: usually when someone is hiding, you can tell that they are missing. You have a sense of their absence which moves you to go search them out. But Hashem says, “I will hide the fact that I am hidden.” The curse is that we will not be moved to search for G-d because we will be so far gone that we won’t even realize that something is amiss.

Hashem’s name is not apparent in the Megilah because He, and since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, His intervention, are truly hidden. The goal is to connect through the concealment to Hashem and His Divine presence in our lives, in the Torah and in the world. But that can only be achieved if we know that there is what to look for. 

Yes, we read the Megilah on Purim to broadcast the miracle. But we are also publicizing the fact that in the murkiness of this world, there is always something to look for, to connect to. We are revealing that there is hiddenness. The secret is out.

From the divrei Torah of the Rebbe, shlit"a, in 5748 and 5771.

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