Purim 5781 – Modesty!

The Vilna Gaon, in the opening of his commentary on the Book of Esther notes that “The Megillah alludes to the days of man in his war with the evil instinct, the devastation of Satan and his fall.” He implies, then, that thus book is not just a story of a miracle that occurred, but a spectacle of ethics, morals, ways of life implied in the scroll. He clarifies that one should not see it as “historical story”, but as a moral scripture. To confirm his words, he writes: That it is the only scroll where the name of Hashem is not clearly mentioned. Thus, the Midrash teaches that wherever the word “King” is mentioned alone, it is referring to the King of the world, Hashem, but when it is accompanied by the name Ahasuerus it points to the Yetzer Hara. The Talmud Megillah [11a] explains that he was called Ahasuerus as in Hebrew it is a composition of two words black and head, to teach us that he blackened the face of Israel by enticing them to leave the Torah ways. As the Verse says: “There was darkness over the abyss” [Bereishis 1:2], which refers to the angel of death, as abyss,ְּוםֹה ְּת ,are the same letters as death, ְּת ְּו ְּמ ְּה. The Vilna Gaon points out that the downfall started due to evil virtues, lust and pride. Ahasuerus makes a feast as stated “In showing the riches of the glory of his majesty” [Esther 1:4], where he uses the utensils that his grandfather had stolen from the Beth Hamikdash and greets his guests dressed in the clothes of the Kohen Gadol. His intention was to impede the Jews and to lead them away from Hashem so he could decimate them without facing consequences. Thus, he fell in his own trap due to his boundless pride and lust. Ostensibly, he is a king but in practice he is ruled by his evil virtues. The story of the Book of Esther is a story of a Jew named Mordechai that Haman sought to destroy. Esther, Mordecai’s cousin, was favored by the king. In the eyes of the Vilna Gaon, however, Esther’s work is of great moral and Jewish importance. It is strange that Mordechai was organizing all the prayers, the fasts, the Torah study with the Children, though, The Megillah is called the Book of Esther, not the book of Mordechai. Then, what did Esther achieve to deserve eternal remembrance? Modesty says the Chaffetz Chaim, as the Midrash states, “Rabbi Akiva said; since Esther followed the path of our mother Sarah who lived 127 years and was dressed modestly, hence she deserved to rule over 127 nations.” The correlation between the life of Sarah and the number of nations is not clear at first glance. The Talmud [Megillah 13b] says; “In reward for the modesty shown by Rachel she merited that Saul, who was also modest, should descend from her, and in reward for the modesty shown by Saul, he merited that Esther should descend from him.” The Talmud teaches that the reward for modesty is kinship, Shaul became King of Israel and Esther was queen of the world! The Arizal explains that a woman is a vessel in which lies all the blessings showered by Hashem to a family [after the man did his share]. How is it then that some families have financial or marital problems? Hashem’s blessing contains no obscurity whatsoever, and these problems obscure people’s life, which implies that they originate from the darkness? The Arizal’s answer is astonishing; The Talmud defines the Woman as a “Public land” which points her main virtue, ‘she likes to please’. However, sometimes it is taken off limits and her focus is to look overly attractive. In return, anyone attracted by her will have the right to share her blessings. Though, if she overcomes that instinct, she will deserve beauty, love besides the financial abundance. The Midrash states clearly that Esther was not particularly pretty, though Ahasuerus favored her more than the other contenders and made her queen. She still did not abandon the Torah ways and dressed modestly. The outcome was counter logical, the king’s love only grew, and she achieved what no man has ever been able to accomplish, an “eternal impact.” Purim today is still saving Jew’s lives! This is a beautiful story about the importance of Shabbos, which is the vehicle through which the blessings arrive: Rav Hillel of Paritch would spend most of the year travelling around the country, visiting Jewish communities and teaching them about Chassidus, encouraging them to do Teshuva and to draw closer to Hashem. On one such visit to a large Jewish community, Rav Hillel was told that the local wine dealers refused to close their stores on Shabbos. Rav Hillel was dismayed. How could Jews work on Shabbos?! He requested that all the wine dealers in the city come to him for a meeting. The wine dealers arrived, and Rav Hillel spoke to them about the sanctity of Shabbos and the severity of desecrating it. He beseeched them to close their businesses on Shabbos. Moved, the wine dealer agreed, yet they made one stipulation: They would all close their businesses on Shabbos provided that Berel, the main wine dealer in the city, a rich man who was not present at the meeting, will agree to close his business too. Otherwise, they argued, they would simply not be able to survive the competition.The Arizal explains the reason, as the “Lights” required to enable the salvation of Purim were those that will shine during the final salvation. All the other miracles, including the exodus, will seem small compared to the marvels that will occur with Mashiach. The Tzaddik immediately sent a messenger to call Berel, yet the man ignored the summons. He sent for him again, and then a third time, yet the man did not come. That Shabbos, the city was proud to host Rav Hillel, and men of all ages streamed to watch him conduct his seudos. In a different home in the city, however, the scene was quite different. Berel was doubled over, struggling to breathe through the shooting stabs of pain in his abdomen. The pain was growing more and more unbearable by the moment. Berel’s wife immediately grasped what had happened. It must be her husband’s brazenness toward the Tzaddik that had caused this! She quickly threw on her coat and rushed toward the home where the tzaddik was sitting down for his Shabbos morning seudah. Rav Hillel was seated at the table, a large congregation of Chassidim gathered around him, when the door suddenly burst open and Berel’s wife rushed in. “Rebbe!” she cried. “Please help my husband! He is in agony! Please pray for the pain to stop!” The tzaddik did not respond. The Chassidim looked at each other in stupefaction. “Rebbe,” they turned to him, “maybe you can at least tell her that ‘Shabbos hi milizok urefuah kerovah lavo,’ One should not cry out on Shabbos as the cure in impending – but the Tzaddik remained silent. Berel’s wife left, dejected. At home, her husband’s pain grew more and more intense until he was writhing and screaming in agony. Finally, on motzai Shabos, after havdalah, his wife could no longer take it and she decided to try approaching Rav Hillel again. Rav Hillel was sitting at the table with his chassidim, a large jug of hot tea on the table, in keeping with Chazal’s directive that eating or drinking something hot on after the Shabbos brings healing” [Shabbos 119]. Rav Hillel was sharing words of Chassidus with the crowd when the door burst open again. Berel’s wife stumbled in, crying and pleading that the Rebbe help her husband and givehim a brachah for a refuah sheleimah.Turning to her, Rav Hillel said,“Shabbos hi milizok urefuah kerovah lavo!” The chassidim were surprised. On Shabbos, the tzaddik had not said anything, but now that Shabbos was over, why was he saying that “it is Shabbos,” and therefore one “should not cry out?” The tzaddik continued, “‘Shabbos hi milizok’ – it is the Shabbos itself that is crying out! If the Shabbos will stop crying out because of this man’s desecration, then ‘healing is imminent’ Go tell Berel that if he pledgesbefore three people that he will close his wine business on Shabbos, he will heal completely.” Three of Rav Hillel’s chassidim quickly left the house and rushed to Berel’s home to give him the Tzaddik’s message. Losing no time, Rav Berel gave them his word that he will never again open his business on Shabbos. Very soon, the pain began to subside, until Berel was completely healed. And in the city, the sanctity of Shabbos was once again restored.

By Rabbi Fridmann * rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com * 305.985.3461

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