Our Honored Guest

PURIM
RABBI WAGENSBERG
“Our Honored Guest”

Once upon a time the Chiddushei Harim (Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter Rotenberg, the first Gerrer Rebbe, Poland, 1799-1866) said at his Purim meal, “Purim is the most favorable time. Any person can approach Hashem on Purim and ask for whatever he wants, and Hashem will fulfil his request. This is an outright law in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, 694:3; based on Yerushalmi, Meseches Megillah, pg. 5a) which says that we are not to be stingy with money on Purim; but rather, any person who stretches out his hand and asks for a handout, we should give to that person.”

This is a law that Hashem abides by as well (see Yerushalmi, Meseches Rosh Hashana, pg. 7a, and Tanchuma Parshas Naso, siman 29, where it says that Hashem chooses to fulfil both Torah and Rabbinic law). Therefore, anybody who asks God for something on Purim, Hashem will grant him his request (Sefer Likkutei Harim).

The Shvilei Pinchas quotes Sefarim Hakedoshim who point to a remez (hint) in Megillas Esther which supports this notion that Hashem grants everybody his request on Purim.

A pasuk in Megillas Esther (5:6) says, “And the king said to Esther during the wine feast, ‘What is your request, it will be granted to you.’” A deeper read of this verse is based on the Midrash in Esther Rabba (3:10) which quotes Rebbi Yudan and Rebbi Levi who said in the name of Rebbi Yochanan that whenever it says the word “Melech” by itself in the Megillah (meaning, when the word “Melech” is not attached to the word “Achashveirosh”), it is not only a reference to Achashveirosh (which is the pshat), but it is also a remez which points to Hashem, the “Melech Elyon” (King Above).

With this Midrash in mind, we can reread this pasuk in the following way:

“And the king said” = the King Above, Hashem said…

“To Esther” = the Jewish people who were represented by Esther…

“During the wine feast” = of Purim…

“What is your request, it will be granted to you” = whatever you ask from Me (God) will be given to you.

We are going to explore why Hashem chooses to grant every person his request on Purim. To do so, we are going to take a look at Mordechai’s ancestry.

In Megillas Esther (2:5) it says, “There was an Ish Yehudi (Jewish man) in Shushan the capital whose name was Mordechai.” In Esther Rabba (2:5) it says that the word “Ish” in this verse connects Mordechai to Moshe because there is a pasuk about Moshe which also uses the word “Ish,” as it says, “V’ha-ish (and the man) Moshe Anav Meod” (was exceedingly humble; Parshas Beha’alosecha, 12:3). This comparison teaches us that Mordechai was humble just as Moshe was humble.

The Midrash goes on to say that just as Moshe rescued the Jews from annihilation after they sinned with the Golden Calf (Tehillim, 106: 19 & 23), so did Mordechai rescue the Jews from annihilation after they sinned by participating in the filthy party of Achashveirosh and after they sinned by bowing down to an idol (Megillas Esther, 10:3; Meseches Megillah, chap. 1, “Megillah Nikreis”, pg. 12a, Rashb”i).

The final comparison that this Midrash makes between them is that just as Moshe taught Torah to the Jewish people (Parshas Vaeschanan, 4:5), so did Mordechai teach Torah to the Jewish people (Esther, 9:30).

The Megaleh Amukos (Rabbi Nasan Nata Shapira, 1585-1633, Cracow, Poland; Vaeschanan) adds that not only were there several comparisons between Mordechai and Moshe, but, Kabbalistically speaking, Mordechai was actually a gilgul (reincarnation) of Moshe! This idea will become relevant as we proceed.

For a moment, let us focus on the aspect of humility which Moshe and Mordechai shared. Under the humbled leadership of Mordechai, the Jewish people became humbled as well. This national humility led to the Jews, in Mordechai’s days, to reaccept the Torah willingly, from a place of love (Shabbos, chap. 9, “Amar Rebbi Akiva”, pg. 88a, Rava, Megillas Esther, 9:27).

We will explain this connection behind humility and lovingly accepting the Torah in a few moments. Before we do, let us add the following.

Although Moshe also maintained humility to the greatest degree humanly possible, the Jews under his leadership did not completely follow in his humble ways. This was not a poor reflection on Moshe, but rather a result of the Jews coming into contact with Amalek (Parshas Beshalach, 17:8).

In his Zera Kodesh, the Ropshitzer Rebbe (Rabbi Naftali Tzvi, 1760-1827, Poland) says that one of the character flaws of Amalek was that they were an arrogant people. There is a hint which supports this idea. The Hebrew word “Amalek” equals 240. The number 240 is also the exact same numerical value as the Hebrew word “Ram” (high; haughty).

This numerical equivalency teaches us that Amalek maintained that they were higher (Ram) and better than everybody else. They thought that they were a superior race, very much like the Nazis, yemach shemam, who thought that they, the Aryan race, was superior to all others.

As is often the case, the Jews were affected by their surroundings. The Amaleki culture, which they had just been exposed to, rubbed off on them, leaving the Jews with feelings of arrogance.

Under Moshe’s leadership, Yehoshua only succeeded in weakening the evil forces of Amalek slightly (Parshas Beshalach, 17:13). Therefore, although the Jews won the battle against Amalek, the poisonous arrogant philosophy of Amalek still lingered within them.

This is why the Jews rejected Torah Sheba’al Peh (the Oral Tradition) at Sinai (Tanchuma, Parshas Noach, 3), to the point that Hashem had to suspend Mount Sinai over their heads threatening them with death if they refused to accept it (Shabbos, chap. 9, “Amar Rebbi Akiva”, pg. 88a, Rav Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa, Parshas Yisro, 19:17).

It is because Torah is compared to water (Yeshaya, 55:1). The reason why Torah is compared to water is because Torah behaves like water. Just as water tends to rest in the lowest of places, so does Torah reside within the humblest of spirits (Meseches Ta’anis, chap. 1, “m’eimasai”, pg. 7a, Rebbi Chanina bar Idi). But since the Jews at Sinai were still a bit arrogant, the Torah did not settle within them. Therefore, they did not taste the sweetness of the Torah. Since they did not appreciate the sweetness of the Torah, they rejected the Oral Law. Although Hashem forced them to accept Oral Law, that was only an external acceptance, because deep down they still rejected it.

Once they rejected Oral Law, it could be argued that they even rejected Torah Shebichtav (Written Law) without even realizing it. This is because Torah Shebichtav without Torah Sheba’al Peh has no meaning.

It turns out that Moshe was disappointed with the people’s Kabbalas HaTorah (acceptance of Torah) because it really was not that much of a kabbalah to begin with.

However, under the leadership of Mordechai, the arrogant forces of Amalek were weakened much more since Haman (who was an Amaleki) was hanged with his sons. This weakening of Amalek led to the Jews becoming even more humbled. As a result of that, the Torah rested within them. Once that happened, the Jews began to taste the deliciousness of Torah. This new appreciation of Torah’s sweetness led them to accept not only Torah Shebichtav willingly, but even Torah Sheba’al Peh was accepted from a place of love.
It was like Mordechai was sending two gifts back to Moshe, his previous transmigration. Those two gifts were: 1) Torah Shebichtav, and 2) Torah Sheba’al Peh.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this explains a deeper dimension of the mitzvah called Mishloach Manos where we send two gifts to one other person on Purim (Megillas Esther, 9:19). The two gifts represent the two aspects of Torah (Written and Oral). The sending of them to one person reenacts what Mordechai sent to Moshe. The giver is like Mordechai and the receiver is like Moshe.

Although the verse says to send Mishloach Manos “Ish L’rayayhu” (one to another), the Gemara in Megillah (chap. 1, Megillah Nikreis”, pg. 7a; Rav Yoseph) and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, 695:4) say “L’ish Echad (to one person). Both expressions are true, but one expression adds to the other.

The expression “Ish L’rayayhu” hints to us that Mordechai and Moshe were “friends” where one (Mordechai) sent gifts to the other (Moshe). However, the expression “L’ish Echad” hints to us that in reality, both Mordechai and Moshe were really “one person.”

You know, the Chidah (Rabbi Chaim Yoseph Dovid Azulai, 1724 Jerusalem-1806 Italy) in his Chomas Anach (plumbed wall; Amos 7:7) on the Megillah says that there is a hint supporting this idea that Mordechai was a gilgul of Moshe. The words “Ish Yehudi” (Megillas Esther, 2:5), which describe Mordechai, has the same numerical value as the word or name “Moshe.” This numerical equivalency teaches us that Mordechai Ish Yehudi was a gilgul of Moshe.

However, there seems to be a problem with this numerical comparison. The words “Ish Yehudi” equal 346, whereas the word “Moshe” only equals 345. How can the Chidah say that they are the same?

One answer is based on the Ba’al Haturim throughout Chumash who maintains that the rule of thumb regarding the world of gematria (numerical value) is that it is accepted to be one off.

This rule of thumb does not sit well with many because we like things to work out exactly. Therefore, perhaps we could suggest a reason why there is a slight discrepancy between this gematria of “Ish Yehudi” and “Moshe.” Maybe one reason why “Ish Yehudi” is one digit more that “Moshe” is because it comes to teach us that Mordechai had “one up” over Moshe.

This is because in the days of Moshe, Amalek was only weakened a little bit which led to an inferior acceptance of Torah. However, in the days of Mordechai, the arrogant forces of Amalek were weakened much more so, which led to a superior acceptance of Torah.

One need not worry about how Mordechai could “outdo” Moshe because Mordechai was Moshe. Moshe came back down a second time as Mordechai in order to be metaken (fix) and in order to be mashlim (complete) the Jewish people’s Kabbalas HaTorah. So, it was like Moshe outdid himself when he was in the body of Mordechai.

After sharing all of the above, we will finally be able to explain why Hashem chooses to give to all who ask of Him on Purim.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that it is because we find that Hashem chooses to rest His Shechina (Divine Presence) only in a place where there is humility. For example, Hashem rested His Shechina specifically on Mount Sinai because it was the most humbly of the mountains (Sota, chap. 1, “Hamekaneh”, pg. 5a).

The Zohar (Parshas Pinchas, pg. 244a) adds that whenever Hashem chooses to dwell with us down here on earth, Hashem becomes our Guest and we become His hosts.

Once Hashem becomes our Guest, a certain halacha regarding guests kicks in. The Gemara in Meseches Pesachim (chap. 7, Keitzad Tzolin”, pg. 86b) says, “Whatever your host asks you to do, you must do [with the exception of doing a sin].”

Since Moshe was humble, Hashem felt comfortable to rest His Shechina on earth. Therefore, when the Jews sinned with the Calf and Hashem wanted to destroy them, Moshe [the host] asked Hashem [the Guest] not to destroy them. Since Hashem chooses to abide by Torah and Rabbinic Law, He acquiesced and did not eradicate the Jews. This was a typical case of a Tzaddik who made a decree and Hashem fulfilled it (Moed Katan, chap. 3, “Eilu Migalchin”, pg. 16b, Rebbi Avahu). It is just that now we understand a little bit more of the mechanics behind this idea.

Mordechai was also humble. As a result, the Shechina rested on earth in his merit. Therefore, when the Jews sinned by Achashveirosh’s meal, and when they sinned by bowing to an idol, Hashem wanted to destroy them. However, Mordechai [the host] asked Hashem [the Guest] not to. Like a good Guest, Hashem complied and the Jews were saved.

Therefore, on every Purim, when we focus on our hero, Mordechai, and when we try to emulate his ways by becoming a little bit humbler, the Shechina rests upon us on Purim. Once Hashem is our Honored Guest, whatever we [the hosts} ask of Hashem [the Guest], will be granted, as is that law.

Practically speaking, perhaps we could suggest six steps to further enhance our Purim experience. Here they are:

1) Be prepared that by the time Purim rolls around, we have a large pouch of change that we will carry around with us wherever we go on Purim. Let us make it a practice that whoever asks us for a handout, we give him at least something.

2) Also look to do a chesed for somebody on Purim.

3) During Mishloach Manos, keep in mind that the giver is like Mordechai and the receiver is like Moshe, and remember that the two gifts represent Torah Shebichtav and Torah Sheba’al Peh.

4) At some point during the day, say, “Na’aseh V’nishma Mei’ahava, V’kiyimu V’kiblu Hayehudim Aleihem.”

5) Learn some Torah, even five minutes more than we would have.

6) Approach Hashem from a place of humility, recognizing that we are not in control, and ask Him for His handouts, and keep begging and asking over and over and over again.

Please God, Hashem will deliver on all of our requests as a Guest who fulfills the desires of His host.

So, may we all be inspired by Moshe Rabbenu and by Mordechai Hayehudi even more so, and follow in their footsteps regarding humility even more so, by helping others and by maintaining a commitment to the Sea of Torah study like one who thirsts for water, in order that Hashem causes His Shechina to rest upon earth below as our Honored Guest, Who will fulfil any of our wishes, since we are His hosts, which will help keep us all healthy, wealthy, holy, and happy.