Prevent Negative Gossip
Gossip is a terribly destructive activity. The problem is, we usually don't mind as long as it's not being spoken about us!
If you ever hear someone needlessly relating negative information about another person, feel compassion for the person spoken against and ask the speaker to stop.
Love Yehuda Lave
Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5) this is our bible section this week
Megillas Esther (the story of Purim) is a book full of suspense and intrigue with a very satisfying ending – the Jewish people are saved from destruction! In the Megilla, Esther and the Jewish People fast for three days to beg G-d to save them.
Usually the Fast of Esther immediately precedes Purim. However, this year the day before Purim is Shabbat. Since we only fast on Shabbat for Yom Kippur, the fast is moved up to Thursday, March 13th. The fast commemorates the three day Fast of Esther and the Jewish people before she approached King Ahashverosh with her request. Named in her honor, it is also in memory of the Jews' fast before going to battle the anti-Semites in the Purim story.
Purim comes from the word "pur" in Persian which means "lots" – as in, "Haman cast lots for the most 'auspicious' date to kill the Jews." The date fell on the 13th of Adar. The events of that date were turned around from a day of destruction to a day of victory and joy. We celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar for "they gained relief on the fourteenth, which they made a day of feasting and gladness" (Megillas Esther 9:17).
In very few places – most notably in Jerusalem – Purim is celebrated the following day, the 15th day of Adar. The Sages declared that all cities which were walled cities at the time of Joshua should celebrate Purim the following day. This is to commemorate the extra day which King Ahashverosh granted Esther to allow the Jews of Shushan (the capital of Persia, which was a walled city) to deal with their enemies. In Shushan they gained relief on the fifteenth. The holiday celebrated on the 15th of Adar is called Shushan Purim.
There are two ways in which to try to destroy the Jewish people – physically and spiritually. Our enemies have attempted both. Chanukah is the celebration over those who have tried and failed to culturally assimilate us (the Greeks and Western Culture); Purim is the celebration over those who have tried and failed to physically destroy us (from the Amalekites to the Persians, ad nauseam).
Why do we masquerade with costumes and masks on Purim? As mentioned above, nowhere in the Megillas Esther does God's name appear. If one so desires, he can see the whole Purim story as a chain of coincidences totally devoid of Divine Providence. Just as we hide behind masks, but our essence is still there, so too God has "hidden His face" behind the forces of history, but is still there guiding history.
Why do we make noise every time Haman's name is mentioned in the Megillah? The answer: By blotting out Haman's name we are symbolically obliterating evil.
The holiday is celebrated by hearing the Megillah Saturday night and Sunday morning. During the day only, we fulfill three mitzvot: 1) Matanot L'evyonim – giving gifts or money to at least two poor people. (While it is good to give locally, one can fulfill the mitzvot by giving at http://www.kerenyehoshuavyisroel.com for the poor Jews of Jerusalem)
2) Mishloach Manot, the "sending of portions," giving at least two ready-to-eat foods to a minimum of one person. One should send via a messenger commanded to drink wine until we don't know the difference between "Blessed is Mordecai" and "Cursed is Haman." (It is best fulfilled by drinking a little and taking a nap – one doesn't know the difference between them while sleeping!) One should NOT drink to excess. The mitzvah is about connecting to the Almighty – and sloppy drunks are lousy at spirituality. Drinking can be dangerous. The mitzvah is only at the meal with wine and should be well-controlled and minimized.
Why are we instructed to drink this amount? In a certain sense, Purim is greater than Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur we fast and it is easy for our soul to have dominance over the body. Purim is the epitome of integrating the physical and the spiritual towards realizing that the Almighty loves us. The only thing that stands between you and the Almighty – is you. The wine and the spirit of the day help us get beyond the barrier – to realize that everything comes from the Almighty for our good! We may perceive things that happen to us as "bad" though ultimately they benefit us either physically and/or spiritually.
The mitzvot of Mishloach Manot and giving gifts to the poor were prescribed to generate brotherly love between all Jews. When there is love and unity amongst us, our enemies cannot harm us!
Netanyahu Speech at AIPAC
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