Torah Readers Reflections

From separation to unity

What is the key lessons of the miracle of Purim - maybe not what we think! The last verse of the Megillah ends on a rather negative note indicating that the Jews were not unified in their support of Mordachai.
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The verse in which the scroll of Esther ends is:

כִּ֣י מָרְדֳּכַ֣י הַיְּהוּדִ֗י מִשְׁנֶה֙ לַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ וְגָדוֹל֙ לַיְּהוּדִ֔ים וְרָצ֖וּי לְרֹ֣ב אֶחָ֑יו דֹּרֵ֥שׁ טוֹב֙ לְעַמּ֔וֹ וְדֹבֵ֥ר שָׁל֖וֹם לְכָל־זַרְעֽוֹ:


For Mordecai the Jew ranked next to King Ahasuerus and was highly regarded by the Jews and popular with most of his brethren; he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his brethren.

"Popular with most of his brethren"


This ending to the Megilah is a little disappointing. After the great euphoria, of the sweet victory, over the enemies of the Jews, there is an immediate return to normality. With the return to normality, it seems that the situation of the Jews begins to deteriorate. In one single word, written in the verse that closes the scroll, it is revealed to us that the unity that prevailed at the time when there was a great threat to the Jews, until after the miraculous victory, has already begun to crack. "Because Mordecai the Jew is subordinate to King Ahasuerus and great to the Jews and desirable for most of His brothers".. It turns out that it didn't take long until Mordechai - one of the heroes of the scroll, is no longer a consensus among his brothers. There are already some people who highlight his flaws and possibly think about his personal interests in being the viceroy of King Ahasuerus.


It seems that Mordechai and Esther understood that there is some truth in Haman's claim "There is a people divided and dispersed". The dispersal of the people was caused by their exile, however “divided” is something that is decided upon by choice. Even people who are scattered can still feel unity, but unity was probably not considered critical by the people of Israel (to say the least).


Mordechai and Esther probably understood that this is a significant obstacle to the people of Israel and that the entire miracle will probably go down the drain if the lesson is not learned. However, how can the gap between the people's negative attitude and the understanding of the lessons of the miracle be bridged? After all, disputes are something that happens - whether it's big and substantial disputes or whether it's small and petty disputes. How can unity be preserved even in peaceful situations and not only as a response to an external threat?


Mordechai and Esther wanted to offer us a recipe. The mitzvaot of Purim are practical but are also symbolic actions that bring out the recipe in ever-expanding circles:


A joyous meal - A meal is considered a joyous meal when it is shared with other people. It turns out that in order to express joy we need our natural partners - family, close friends and others. When we share our meal and time together with these people, we can really be happy.


Mishloach manot (The giving of presents) - Our friendship needs strengthening all the time. Let's not assume that it is taken for granted and will last without attention. On Purim we express it by sending dishes and giving friendly greetings - “I recognize this friendship and it is important to me”. It is also an opportunity to strengthen friendships that have weakened over time. It is a time to make new friendships with people who we might know casually but want a stronger connection with and are not sure how to approach them.  


Gifts to the poor - Don't forget the weak, the one who doesn't have the means to celebrate. Don't see the poor or the weak as people who are transparent, people who are outside of society. On the contrary, it is our brethren and we must make sure that those who do not have the means to be happy are not left out of the joyous celebration - no one should be excluded from celebrating, no matter their status in society.  If we are happy we have to make sure that everyone will also be happy because our true joy is only when all of Israel, from all classes, are all happy.


On Purim we remember that the beginning of all calamity stems from the separations between us and the beginning of all redemption stems from the unity between us. Overcoming our enemies only happens when "the Jews are unified."


"He sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his brethren"

I wrote earlier that the Megillah ends in a disappointing way, but the last words really inspire the right attitude in which to respond, even when there is a negative attitude from a friend or a specific group from within society. This positive attitude can be achieved by practicing it daily in every possible circumstance.


This is how Rabbi Moshe Elsheich writes about the verse:

Speaks peace to all his seed: In other words, no matter whether you love or hate someone or are apathetic  towards them, you should greet them with peace:


Mordechai the Jew understood that this was the secret of the victory, and therefore even when he was treated coldly and possibly treated unfairly, he pursued peace. In the simplest way - he kept saying hello, kept greeting people,  kept asking for the love of those that disliked him.


The Rabbi of Brisk states that, it is said that Mordechai the Jew, even when he was "subordinate to King Ahasuerus" did not forget to greet people and spread peace" to all his brethren" - even to small children. The work of peace and friendship is not a matter of any less value, it is important at any age at any stage of life and at any time. The Book of Esther teaches us how to value the unity of the people through peace. Mordecai and Esther teach us how to maintain and persist the miracle of Purim through friendship, unity and celebration that is inclusive to everyone.


Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim, Matan Schneweiss


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