Adar 5770 / February 2010
You certainly have fond memories of the Purim you spent in Ohr Somayach. In this letter we wish to share with you some thoughts about the significance of the special miracle we celebrate for our own generation.
You are probably familiar with the reason given for Purim to be a day of festive eating and drinking whereas the Chanukah miracle is celebrated only with the praise of Hallel and the thanks of Al Hanissim. The Mishnah Berurah (Siman 670) quotes the Levush as explaining that since Haman aimed to physically destroy the Jewish people, our celebration of his downfall must be expressed in a physical way. Chanukah, on the other hand, celebrates the triumph over an enemy who tried to spiritually subvert our people, so that our celebration must be a spiritual one.
There is, however, one thing which must be cleared up in regard to this approach.
It is certainly true that the basic celebration of Purim is for the gift of life. This is evident in the rationale given by Chazal for the legislation of the new mitzvah of reading the Megillah.
"If we are required to say the praise of Hallel on Pesach for the transition from slavery to freedom, how much more so should we be obliged to offer praise to G-d through the reading of the Megillah for the transition from death to life." (Mesechta Megillah 14a)
However, in the Megillah itself there appears to be another reason for celebration:
"ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר" - “The Jewish People had ohra, v’simcha, v’sasson, vikar.”
Chazal (Megillah 16b) explain that the four expressions of celebration mentioned in this pasuk refer to Torah study, Yom Tov, Brit Milah and Tefillin. All of these mitzvot, Rashi explains, were prohibited by Haman in his role as prime minister, and when he fell, Jews celebrated the freedom to resume fulfillment of these mitzvot.
This gemara seems to run counter to the above-mentioned point that Purim was only a physical threat and not a spiritual one.
Perhaps the answer lies in another gemara describing the shrewd incitement of Haman to convince the king to approve his genocide. When the king hesitated based on an expressed fear that the G-d of the Jews would punish him as He did all his predecessors who had tried to harm His chosen people, Haman assured him that such Heavenly protection would not be deserved this time because Jews had abandoned the fulfillment of mitzvot. (Megillah 13b)
Haman, unlike the Hellenists, was not interested in turning Jews into idol worshippers, only in totally wiping them off the face of the earth. But he realized that unless he weakened their fulfillment of certain key mitzvot he would not be able to succeed. By coercing them into neglecting those mitzvot, he was able to convince the king and himself that his "final solution" might succeed. What he failed to take into account was the power of fasting, prayer and teshuva which eventually turned the tables in our favor.
Purim therefore remains not only a time to thank G-d for the gift of life but also for the freedom to perform His mitzvot and be deserving of His eternal protection.
In our own day so many of our brothers and sisters have abandoned the above-mentioned mitzvot and others, without being forced to do so. It is therefore so gratifying to us and all the Rabbeim of Ohr Somayach to know that so many of our talmidim are faithfully learning Torah and fulfilling the mitzvot of Yom Tov, Brit Milah and Tefillin along with all the others.
An Honored Guest
Ohr Somayach had the great honor on Adar 1st / February 15th of hosting a Kennes Hisorerus for the Talmidim of the Yeshiva and Bnei Torah in Jerusalem featuring the venerable Rosh HaYeshiva Hagaon Hagadol Rav Aaron Leib Shteinman, who aroused the audience to greater responsibility in learning and supporting Torah.
A wedding of two generations of Ohr Somayach talmidim took place on 21 Shvat (February 4th) at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel in Yerushalayim. Devorah Channah, the daughter of alumnus Shmuel Kalos, Ohr Somayach's representative in Florida, married Yehoshua Grusd, a recent talmid now learning in the top shiur in Yeshivat Mir.
Shmuel (aka "Kovod") Steele came in from Monsey to visit his daughter who is married to one of our Ohr Lagolah avreichim and reminisced with us about his days in the first decade of the yeshiva.
Another talmid from that era, Shmuel Silverstein, now living in Boro Park, came to see his son learning in a local yeshiva and spent some time "recharging his batteries" by learning in our Beit Medrish.
Yitzchak Benroubi brought to Israel a group of young people from San Paulo, Brazil where he is very active in kiruv.
On Motzei Shabbat Parshat Yitro a Melave Malka reunion was held for the avreichim, past and present, of the Center Program who live in Eretz Yisrael with over a hundred men and women attending.
A reunion for Center graduates in the US is taking place on February 21st in the Sheraton Hotel in Edison, New Jersey.
Following on from the success of our Pesach and Chanukah Handbooks, we have just published our Purim Handbook - featuring enlightening and inspirational new material and material from the archives. The Purim Handbook provides a background and deeper understanding of Purim, combining profound articles with a lighter humorous touch for Purim. You can download a copy for free from www.ohr.edu/purimbook
Rabbi Nota Schiller & Rabbi Mendel Weinbach