Transformers

Rabbi Wagensberg
Purim
Transformers

It has become a famous Purim song. We can already hear the tune of, "Michayiv Inish Libisumei Bipuryei Ad D'lo Yada Bein Arur Haman Libaruch Mordechai," (a person has an obligation to get so drunk on Purim that he no longer knows the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai; Megillah, chap. 1, "Megillah Nikreis", pg. 7b; Rava) ringing in our heads. This is how we paskin in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, 695:2).

The difficulty is that in all other places, our Sages frown upon getting drunk. Look at what happened to Lot when he got drunk. He wound up committing incest with his two daughters (Parshas Vayeira, 19:32-36). Look what happened when two of Aharon's sons were intoxicated. They waltzed right into the Kodesh Hakadoshim and were killed by God immediately. This is why we have a pasuk which says, "Do not drink intoxicating wine" (Parshas Shmini, 10:9; See the Da'as Zekeinim Miba'alei Hatosafos there).

How could the same Sages who always guide us to remain sober, command us to do just the opposite on Purim? This seems to be a blatant contradiction.

Moreover, the Yalkut Shimoni (Mishlei, Remez 9) says, "In the future, (when Moshiach comes), all the holidays will be batel (nullified). However, Purim will never be batel. Some say, even Yom HaKippurim will never be batel."

Why is Purim different than all the other holidays? Also, why do some say that Yom Kippur will also continue to be celebrated in the Messianic era?

Speaking of Yom Hakkipurim, the Zohar (Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 21) and the Arizal say that "Yom Hakkipurim" does not just mean a "Day of Atonements," but it also means, "Yom Ki- Purim" (it is a day like Purim). This means that Yom Kippur is cute, but it simply cannot compare with Purim. Purim is an even greater day than Yom Kippur.

How can this be? If you ask anybody, "What's the most solemn and holy day on the Jewish calendar?" They will probably say, "Yom Kippur." How, then, can the Zohar and Arizal say that Purim is greater than Yom Kippur? In what way does Purim have an advantage over Yom Kippur?

The Tiferes Shmuel (the Kominker Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Hakatan; vol. 1) says that there are two approaches on how to overcome the Yetzer Hara. They are:

1) Itkafya
2) Ithafcha

Let us explain.

1) The approach of Itkafya is where a person wages an all-out war against his Yetzer Hara. He fights fire with fire. Although he still has negative tendencies, he fights against them. For example, he would really rather sleep in, but, he forces himself to get up and go davin. He would really like to say that Lashon Hara, but he bites his bottom lip and forces himself not to. This approach is one in which he constantly goes against the grain by forcing himself to go against the current.


2) The approach of Ithafcha is best described by the pasuk, "Bichol Levevecha" (Vaeschanan, 6:5) which expects us to serve God with "all of our hearts." Since a person only has one heart, the plural word "Levavecha" comes to teach us to serve Hashem with both yetzers (inclinations) of the heart, not only with the Yetzer Tov, but even with the Yetzer Hara (Mishna Berachos, chap. 9, "Haroeh", pg. 54a). This is why the pasuk does not say, "Libcha" (your heart) in the singular, but rather, "Levavecha" (your hearts) in the plural. It comes to include both proclivities. Actually, the letter added to that word making it plural is the letter beis which is numerically two, further hinting at serving Hashem with both yetzers. This means that the person is supposed to make Torah and Mitzvos so much fun that even the Yetzer Hara wants to participate. This approach transforms the Yetzer Hara into a Yetzer Tov.

We can see these two approaches in the two words which represent them.

1) Itkafya comes from the word "kofef" (to force). We may have heard of the term "kefiya datit" (forcing religiosity upon others). This phrase is usually heard from non-observant Jews who feel that that religiosity is being forced on them. Sometimes we do this to ourselves. Maybe we would enjoy to do something which is forbidden in the Torah, but we force ourselves not to. This is self-imposed "kefiya datit."

2) Ithafcha comes from the word "hafuch" (transformation), which represents turning bad into good.

What is the difference between these two approaches?

1) When a person operates on the frequency of Itkafya, he is constantly throwing punches at the Yetzer Hara. He knocks the Yetzer Hara to the floor, twists his arm behind his back, and shoves his face into the ground, not letting the Yetzer Hara get the best of him. This agitates the Yetzer Hara. And do you know what he is waiting for? He is waiting for the person to tire. Once the person shows signs of weakness, the Yetzer Hara will spring up and throw a right cross, causing a K.O. in the first round. The person will be on the canvas without the ability of making the mandatory ten count. This means that the Yetzer Hara can cause such a person to sin, not just with a misdemeanor, but with such a mega sin that he never saw it coming.

2) When a person operates on the frequency of Ithafcha, even when he is having a bad day, showing signs of tiredness and weakness, not only will his Yetzer Tov try to push him to do mitzvos, but even his Yetzer Hara will encourage him to do so. He will have double horse power moving him in the proper way.

Obviously, the second way is greater than the first. Now that we have established the difference between these two approaches, let us demonstrate how they play out when contrasting the first Geula from the first galus, Mitzrayim, to the last Geula from the last galus, at the End of Days.

1) The Jews who came out of Mitzrayim did God's will from an Itkafya approach. We see this from the verse which says that the Jews came out of Mitzrayim "chamushim" (Parshas Beshalach, 13:18) which the Mechilta says means "one fifth." Four fifths of the Jews perished during the Plague of Darkness. How long do you think it took the Jews to realize that they better shape up before they get shipped out? They had a fear-based approach in serving God. They would have rather behaved like an Egyptian. After all, they had sunken to the forty-ninth level of impurity. They were Egyptianized to a large degree. They loved Egyptian culture. But, they forced themselves to tow the line because they were frightened to do otherwise. Then, when they arrived at Sinai, the verse says that they stood "bitachtis" (underneath) the mountain (Parshas Yisro, 19:17). The Gemara (Shabbos, chap. 9, "Amar Rebbi Akiva", pg. 88a; Rav Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa) explains how they stood underneath the mountain. Hashem ripped Mount Sinai out of the ground and held it suspended over their heads and gave them an ultimatum, "If you accept the Torah, I will put this little mountain down, right back where I got it from. But, if not, I will turn this place into the largest Jewish cemetery to date by crushing you with it. What's it going to be?" The Jews must have looked up at the bottom of this mountain, while dirt probably fell into their eyes, and said, "You know Hashem, You drive a hard bargain. We'll take it! We'll take two! We'll take ten! Whatever You want." Once again, the Jews were forced into acceptance. This was the approach of Itkafya. Now we can understand how the Jews were capable of committing the mega-crime of the Golden Calf so soon after receiving the Torah. Their Yetzer Hara was ticked off at having been forced into compliance. It was just waiting for the moment that the people would tire so that he could retaliate. Once the Jews relaxed a little bit, the Yetzer Hara sprung up and served them such a powerful blow, that we have still not completely recovered from it. This explains all of the sins that the Jews committed during their forty-year journey through the desert. They kept fighting against the Yetzer Hara in the way of Itkafya. But, how long can a person fight? We are only human. Eventually, we tire. That is just when the Yetzer Hara will take advantage of our weakened state and cause us to fall.

2) However, at the End of Days, Hashem is going to introduce a new approach as to how to overcome the Yetzer Hara. It is called Ithafcha. The prophets tell us that, "Hashem will remove the spirit of impurity from the land" (Zecharia, 13:2), and, "Transform the nations to speak a pure language so that they all proclaim the Name of Hashem" (Tzefania, 3:9). This means converting evil into good.

The Tiferes Shmuel says that this explains why everyone agrees that Purim will still be celebrated in the Messianic era, whereas, the other holidays will not be.

1) The other Festivals are all Zecher L'yetziyas Mitzrayim" (a memorial for the Exodus from Egypt). As such, they all represent the Itkafya approach. We already saw how Pesach was Itkafya when 80% of the Jews perished during the Plague of Darkness. We also saw how Shavuos was Itkafya when God held the mountain over our heads. Succos was also Itkafya because one mistake could cause Hashem to expel you from the Clouds of Glory (which the Succa represents; Succa, chap. 1, "Succa", pg. 11b, Rebbi Eliezer), which could result in death from the blazing desert sun and heat. Therefore, there is really no place for those holidays and the Itkafya approach in the Messianic era when the energy is Ithafcha. There is no place to force the Yetzer Hara to conformity when the Yetzer Hara has already become good and wants to do God's will. Therefore, they will be batel.

2) However, Purim is all about Ithafcha. We see this from Achashveirosh who hated the Jews more than Haman did (Megillah, chap. 1, "Megillah Nikreis", pg. 14a). Yet, by the end of the story, when he found out that he was married to a Jewess, he still loved her, and he showered Mordechai the Jew with gifts, and he became a lover of Israel. How does the greatest anti-Semite become a lover of Zion? Such is the power of Purim. It's transformative, turning foe into friend. Moreover, the Gemara (Gittin, chap. 5, "Hanizkin", pg. 57b) says that Haman's grandchildren converted to Judaism, made Aliya to Eretz Yisrael, and studied Torah in Bnei Brak. How does a neo-Nazi family, known as the House of Haman, come to join a Kollel in Bnei Brak? Again, we are being shown the magic of Purim which has the ability of causing evil to defect to our side. There are two words which describe the essence of Purim. They are, "Vinahafoch Hu" (and it was turned about; Esther, 9:1). On a simple level this means that what should have happened to the Jews, happened to the enemies of the Jews. Instead of us being killed, they were. But, on a deeper level, the pasuk is revealing to us the constitution of Purim which is that it has the power of transformation. Therefore, Purim will be celebrated even in the Messianic era because it fits into the new energy that will be introduced at that time. As such, there will be a place for it. Even today, during Purim, we sense that it feels other-worldly, like there is some special holiness to the day, but, we find it difficult to place our fingers on. This is because Purim is a taste of what's yet to come. Purim is a glimpse of the future.

It is important to mention the Sefas Emes who says that when the Yalkut Shimoni said that in the future the other holidays will be batel, it cannot really mean actual bitul (nullification). It cannot mean that we will not eat Matzah, sit in a succa, and blow Shofar. This is because the Torah is eternal, the mitzvos are eternal, and the holidays are eternal. Rather, it means that the other holidays will be tafel (secondary).

There is one analogy that we can compare this to. Imagine a pitch-dark room. You cannot see. Then you light a candle. Wow, suddenly you can see. Now imagine lighting a candle when the sun is shining. How much benefit is there from the candle (Chullin, chap. 3, Eilu Traifos", pg. 60b)? Not much.

This is analogous to the holidays. Today, we are in exile. This means that we live in perpetual darkness. But, the holidays are like candles. Therefore, when Pesach comes, it gives us so much light. The same holds true with Shavuos and Succos.

However, when the final redemption comes, Hashem is going to take the sun out of its box and reveal the greater light of Ithafcha. Then, the other holidays will pale in comparison. Yes, we will still eat matza on Pesach, but it will not be as essential to us as it is now. We will probably relate to a Passover Seder in the future, like we relate to a Tu-B'shvat Seder today. A Tu-B'shvat Seder is cute but it doesn't carry the same weight as a Pesach Seder. I do not mean to say that Pesach will be optional when Moshiach comes as a Tu-B'shvat Seder is today. Of course, we will have to conduct a Pesach Seder in the future. It just won't be as central to us as it is now. The only holiday that will still be celebrated as a primary holiday in the future, will be Purim, because it shares the same light as the Messianic era.

This explains why there is a debate about whether Yom Kippur will be a primary holiday in the Messianic era or not. One opinion says that Yom Kippur will be secondary. This is because when you look at Yom Kippur, it seems to be Itkafya. We do not eat or drink. By 2:00pm on Yom Kippur afternoon, we would probably want a tall glass of Coke Zero on ice. But, we force ourselves not to drink. The same is true with the other forms of affliction on that day. We force ourselves not to wash, shmear, etc. This is Itkafya. This will be secondary to the new energy of Ithafcha that will be introduced in the future.

However, the second opinion views Yom Kippur from a different perspective. The word "Hasatan" (the Satan) in numerically 364. This comes to teach us that the Satan prosecutes against us 364 days of a solar year. But, there is one day on which he does not prosecute against us. That day is Yom Kippur (Yoma, chap. 1, "Shivas Yamim", pg. 20a). Not only does he not prosecute, but he becomes a defending attorney who says, "Hashem, there is one nation, Israel, who are just like angels. They do not eat, they do not drink, they walk around barefoot, and they have no jealousy, hatred or strife amongst them" (Rosh, Yoma, chap. 8, "Yom Hakippurim", citing Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer). It's shocking to hear the Satan sing our praises, when every other day, all he does is point out all of our shortcomings. How did he turn from foe to friend? It must be that Yom Kippur also has the energy of Ithafcha. From this angle, Yom Kippur will also be celebrated as a primary holiday in the Messianic era.

Now we can understand why the Zohar said that Yom Kippurim means Yom Ki-Purim (a day like Purim), but not quite there. It is because Yom Kippur has one foot in the world of Itkafya because of its afflictions, and it has one foot in the world of Ithafcha by transforming the Satan from foe to friend. Yom Kippur is 50% Itkafya and 50% Ithafcha. However, Purim is 100% Ithafcha. Therefore, Yom Kippur cannot compare to Purim.

Let's ask ourselves a question. How do we know if we operate on the frequency of Itkafya or Ithafcha? There is one litmus test.

The Gemara (Eiruvin, chap. 6, "Hadar", pg. 65b) says that one of the ways you can tell a person's true character is through "koso" (his cup), meaning, when he has a bit too much to drink. When wine enters, secrets come out. If a person is an Itkafya type person, once he gets drunk and looses control, his real inner-self emerges. The monster comes out, and he is capable of terrible things.

But, if he is an Ithafcha type person, even after he is drunk, he will still behave in a holy fashion because there is no monster on the inside.

This is how Chazal can instruct us to get drunk on Purim, even though they frowned upon drinking the rest of the year. The answer is that they did not tell us to get drunk. If they did, it would have said, "Michayev Inish Lihishtacher Bipuria." Instead, it says, "Michayev Inish Libisumei Bipuria." "Libisumei" comes from the word "bosem" (perfume). The obligation of Purim is to perfume the Torah and mitzvos to such a degree that they are so attractive that even the Yetzer Hara wants a piece of the cake. We can achieve this by tapping into the energy of "Puria" (Purim) which is all about transformation.

The sentence goes on to say, "Ad D'lo Yada Bein Arur Haman Ubaruch Mordechai." Do you know why we won't be able to tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai? Because THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE any longer! Haman became Mordechai. All we've got is Mordechai Hayehudi and Haman Hatzaddik.

We all have a Mordechai and Haman within us. Our job on Purim is to transform the Haman into a Mordechai. Once we follow this directive of Chazal, then, we can do the traditional definition of "Libisumei" and get drunk. You want to know why? Because nothing harmful will come of it. A person who connects with Purim's energy and adopts the Ithafcha approach can get drunk. Do you know what he will do in that state? He will run to a Beis Midrash, pull out a Sefer Tehillim, shuckle like crazy, and cry in teshuva. He will run over to his Rosh Yeshiva and hug and kiss him a thousand times screaming that he wants to become just like him when he grows up.

During the rest of the year the sages frowned upon drinking because they understood that we are probably operating on the level of Itkafya. Therefore, they said, "Don't drink! You'll unleash the monster! Stay in control!"

Practically speaking, each day, when reciting the Shema, let's pause by the words, "Bichul Levavecha" and pray inside that Hashem assist us in accomplishing the goal of serving Him with both Yetzers.

Let's also try more and more to learn areas of Torah that we enjoy, and let's try more and more to occupy ourselves in mitzvos that we enjoy so that our Judaism becomes even more fun and attractive to the point that even our Yetzer Haras want a piece of the action.

So, may we all be blessed to transform all of our negative drives into positive energy, and thus transport ourselves to spiritual dimensions we never thought possible, in order to deserve to witness the time when Hashem will transform all evil hearts into good ones. This will be something to drink about in an era where every day will be a yom like Purim.