Seasons - Then and Now

For the week ending 11 March 2017 / 13 Adar II 5777

Eternal Lesson of Purim

by Rabbi Chaviv Danesh
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In the future, all the holidays will be nullified, and the days of Purim will never be nullified… (Yalkut Shimoni, Mishlei, 944).

Rabbi Yochanan said: the [Books of] Nevi’im and Ketuvim will be nullified in the future and the Five Books of the Torah will not become nullified in the future…Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: Megillat Esther and halachot will also not become nullified in the future. (Yerushalmi, Megillah 1:5)

The above statements appear somewhat surprising. First of all, based on the principle that the Torah is eternal, how is it possible for any holiday to become nullified? Furthermore, in light of the fact that Purim is a rabbinic holiday in origin, in what way is it superior to the other holidays, including those that are of Torah origin, that it has the merit to outlast them? Finally, why will Megillat Esther, which was written through ruach hakodesh, outlast the Books of Nevi’im, which were written through prophecy, a higher form of revelation (see Alshich on Esther 9:28)? To answer the above questions we first need to delve into the essence of the holiday of Purim.

Unlike yetziat Mitzrayim, where G-d performed numerous open miracles, the final salvation of the Jewish People in the Purim story seemed almost completely natural. Achashverosh’s feast, Vashti’s execution, Esther’s election as queen, Haman’s rise to power, Mordechai’s role in saving the king’s life, and the victory over Amalek did not disobey the laws of nature. In fact, Rav Simcha Zissel zatzal points out that because the occurrences described in the megillah happened over a span of nine long years, the people who experienced the events could have easily labeled each event as a separate and independent occurrence. In other words, when examining the events of the Purim story superficially one could very well attribute it to chance. Through carefully analyzing the megillah, however, a person is given a glimpse behind how every single event was a piece of a puzzle put in place, ultimately depicting the guiding Hand of Divine Providence (Michtav M’Eliyahu I p.76). Revealing this hidden Hand of G-d is exactly what the megillah is meant to do. This is why the megillah never explicitly mentions G-d’s Name — to teach us to search for Him when He is not revealed, and to help us realize that G-d is not only the Force behind open miracles, but behind nature as well (see the Maharal’s “Ohr Chadash” on Esther 6:11).

All the holidays basically revolve around the miracles and revelations of yetziat Mitzrayim (see Tur, Orach Chaim 271:10). Pesach commemorates the miracles that took place while leaving Mitzrayim, Succot commemorates the miraculous Clouds of Glory that sheltered the Jewish people after their departure from Mitzrayim, and Shavuot commemorates the grand finale of yetziat Mitzrayim — Gd’s remarkable revelation at Mount Sinai and kabbalat haTorah. Even Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, holidays that may conceivably bear no resemblance to yetziat Mitzrayim, are described as in memory of the coming out of Egypt in Kiddush and the tefillah (see Shibulei Haleket, din seder tefillat Rosh Hashana, 286 for how this is so). Regarding the miracles of yetziat Mitzrayim, the Talmud states:

Ben Zoma said to the Chachamim: Will we mention yetziat Mitzrayim in the days of Mashiach? Doesn’t it say “Behold days are coming, the word of G-d, and they will no longer say ‘Alive is G-d Who took the Jewish People out of Mitzrayim’; rather they will say ‘Alive is G-d Who raised up and brought the seed of the house of Israel from the land of Tzafonah, and from all the lands to which they were dispersed?’ They (the Chachamim) said to him (Ben Zoma): It does not mean that the mention of yetziat Mitzrayim will be uprooted from its place; rather, the salvation from servitude to the nations will be primary and yetziat Mitzrayim will be secondary (Berachot 12b).

The above Gemara helps us attain an understanding behind the midrash that says all the holidays, except for Purim, will be nullified in the future. Obviously, since the Torah is eternal, it doesn’t mean we will no longer keep the mitzvot associated with those holidays. Instead, it means that even though the other holidays will be celebrated, they wouldn’t be as significant in light of the new revelations. This idea is beautifully hinted at in Chazal’s words. The Hebrew word Chazal used, batel, doesn’t mean that something is eradicated; rather, it means that it is insignificant in comparison to something else (Manos Halevi on Esther 9:28). The other holidays that essentially commemorate the open miracles of yetziat Mitzrayim will pale in comparison to the open miracles that will take place with the Mashiach’s arrival. Purim, however, whose main lesson is uncovering G-d in concealed situations, will not become nullified even in light of the open miracles that will accompany the coming of the Mashiach (Pachad Yitchak, Purim, 34).

We can now also understand why, as opposed to the other Books of Nevi’im and Ketuvim, Megillat Esther will never be nullified. Without a doubt, every book of Tanach has invaluable wealth of information that will always be useful. However, when the Mashiach comes the Jewish People will rise in their level of knowledge, and they will be able to find all of the lessons from the Nevi’im and Ketuvim in the Five Books of the Torah itself (see Alshich on Esther 9:28). As the Gemara says: There is nothing in the writings [Nevi’im and Ketuvim], that isn’t hinted at in the Torah (Ta’anit 9a). Even though the lessons of Megillat Esther are also hinted at in the Torah, nevertheless the unique lesson of finding G-d even in darkness is better learned through the medium of the megillah, which doesn’t openly mention G-d and His miracles, instead of the Five Books of the Torah that speak of G-d throughout. This is why it will specifically be the megillah that will remain significant even with the arrival of the Mashiach.

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