Perhaps one of the most perplexing days in the Jewish calendar is Purim. Purim is a day when all of our usual standards of behavior seem to be abrogated. It is a day marked by incredible, unbridled rejoicing and complete drunkenness to the point of “ad d’lo yada bein arur Haman l’baruch Mordechai.” This seems to defy everything we would expect from a sacred Jewish day. What is the place of such limitless merrymaking on this most meaningful day?
Furthermore, the joy of Purim seems to clash with a number of other established rules. For instance, the Gemara teaches us (Berachos 31a), “Rabbi Yochanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai: It is forbidden for a person to fill his mouth with laughter in this world, as the pasuk says, ‘Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with song.’ When will this take place? When ‘the nations will declare: Hashem has done great things with these people.’” Until our final Geulah, we are forbidden to display complete, unfettered joy. But then how can we be permitted to lose ourselves in the drunkenness and revelry of Purim?
The explanation of Yosef Lekach (9:23) for the requirement of ad d’lo yada makes the mystery grow even deeper. Yosef Lekach explains that on Purim Chazal wanted us to forget our suffering in exile and the pain of the Churban, instead rejoicing over the fact that Hashem exercised His hashgachah over us even after the Shechinah had departed. But Chazal did not want to command us explicitly to forget the destruction of Yerushalayim, so they phrased the halachah as a requirement to lose our understanding of the difference between Mordechai and Haman, who were diametric opposites. If we reach that level of intoxication, we will certainly be unaware of the tribulations of galus.
Yosef Lekach’s approach is truly astounding. How can a Jew ever forget the destruction of Yerushalayim, even for a moment? We are all familiar with the pesukim in which Dovid Hamelech cries (Tehillim 137:5-6), “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning. May my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not recall Jerusalem at the height of my joy.” Yet Shaarei Teshuvah (Orach Chaim siman 695) quotes Mor u’Ketziah, who rules that there is no requirement to recall the Churban at the seudah of Purim. Furthermore, some authorities maintain that during the month of Adar, one should place a sign bearing the words Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simchah over the section of the wall that is left unpainted as a commemoration of the Churban. Why would there be such a drastic turnaround on Purim that we are actually required to forget it?
A fascinating resolution from the sefer Egeres Hapurim paints the revelry of Purim in an entirely new light. Rabbeinu Bechaye writes in Kad Hakemach that the entirety of Megillas Esther represents an allusion to future events. Just as many non-Jews converted to Judaism during the times of Mordechai and Esther, the nations of the world will abandon their false religions in the future, at the time of the Geulah, and serve Hashem. Just as Haman’s nefarious plot against Klal Yisrael was miraculously reversed and the Jews became dominant, in the future as well, the Jewish people will go from being oppressed and downtrodden to being the most exalted and respected nation in the world.
The miracle of Purim, in other words, generated an awesome revelation of Hashem’s honor. The Jewish people’s salvation from Haman’s decree caused the entire world to recognize our special relationship with Hashem, foreshadowing the events that will take place when Mashiach comes at last. Thus, Purim is a day when we experience a microcosm of the future Geulah. That being the case, it is entirely fitting that Chazal instituted the halachah of ad d’lo yada on Purim. As the Gemara clearly states, the prohibition of unadulterated joy applies only until all the nations of the world acknowledge Hashem’s sovereignty, but on Purim, we are essentially catapulted into the future era when that will have already taken place. ‘Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with song.’ When will this take place? When ‘the nations will declare: Hashem has done great things with these people.’” We can also understand how we can be commanded to forget the Churban on this day, for the joy of Purim is itself a celebration of the Geulah and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. The most fundamental aspect of the Geulah is that it is a time of kiddush Hashem, when Hashem’s honor and glory will be revealed to the entire world, and on Purim we celebrate such a revelation.
Purim teaches us that not only must we constantly strive to create kiddush Hashem, but we should be incredibly overjoyed when it takes place. Kiddush Hashem should be a source of more joy to us than any other accomplishment in the world.
Purim is a day when we celebrate the massive kiddush Hashem of the victory over Amalek, the primary detractors from kavod Shamayim. The avodah of Purim is to express the fact that a Jew experiences true joy only when there is kiddush Hashem. Therefore, kiddush Hashem should be at the forefront of our consciousness on this day; it should be the sole object of our concerns. The unbridled festivity of the day, the drunkenness and the atmosphere of unchecked celebration do create a significant danger of chillul Hashem. We must be careful to use such a powerful day in the right way and conduct ourselves in a way that can lead only to kiddush Hashem. Then, perhaps, we will usher in the era when Hashem’s honor is fully evident to the entire world.
Rabbi Shraga Freedman is the educational director of the Living Kiddush Hashem Foundation. He is the author of Sefer Mekadshei Shemecha, Living Kiddush Hashem, and A Life Worth Living.
For a free file of the sefer Mekadshei Shemecha please email: LivingKiddushHashem@gmail.com.
Visit LivingKiddushHashem.org for more resources.
A few weeks ago, a man who truly gave from his heart to family, friends, plus thousands of others in the local Clifton-Passaic community, around the country and in Eretz Yisrael passed away, Rabbi Mordechai Rindenow, zt”l. This was a major loss for all he touched and who he could have touched in the future. In this week’s parsha of Teruma, a pasuk says “…asher yidvenu libo (Teruma 25:2)—who will give generously from the heart. But literally it means “who gives his heart.” When building the Mishkan—a home for Hashem—one needs to give his heart. This type of giving exemplifies the life of Rabbi Rindenow.
Rabbi Rindenow helped “build” so many Jewish homes in our midst, doing so with such a full heart, it’s hard to describe. In paying tribute to him I think we’ll gain a deeper understanding of our parsha and what’s possible when we give with a full heart.
Simply put, Rabbi Rindenow made everyone feel like they mattered. Everyone felt like they were his best friend. He was a scion from the Chernobyl Rebbe dynasty, a rabbi and a psychologist. During the week he wore a colored shirt with a blazer, slacks and a tie. On Shabbos he wore a chasidic bekishe. He looked at each Jew and felt for him no matter what stripe or color he wore. Everyone could relate to him, and everyone was able to count on him; he helped so many.
It was the night of the first Seder, and a person who was visiting Rabbi Rindenow for Pesach forgot to bring along a critical medication. After Maariv on Seder night, Rabbi Rindenow walked to several pharmacies in town until he found one willing to fill the prescription without any payment. He didn’t come home to his Seder until a few hours later.
Family and guests were waiting when he finally arrived, medicine in hand. He asked his wife if she was upset about his lateness. She replied, “Not at all. Why should I be upset? I knew my husband must be doing chesed, taking care of some people.”
Another time there was an individual in a hospital in Paterson, and on Shabbos afternoon Rabbi Rindenow told his son he had to go visit this person in the hospital in Paterson. His son indicated it was a two-hour walk! He could take a car after Shabbos and be there just a half hour later than if he would walk. Rabbi Rindenow responded, “Yes, but do you know what kind of simcha (joy) I will bring to him if I show up on Shabbos? It will make his entire Shabbos!” So, he walked there.
I personally know a story of a family that wanted to move into the Jewish community, but couldn’t guarantee the lease payments. Rabbi Rindenow not only signed the lease himself, but he also paid a year’s rent in advance! Who would do that?
We at Passaic Torah Institute (PTI) enjoyed him for 20 years as a rebbe, leader of the “tish” on Shabbos, and as a friend. People in San Francisco Bay benefitted from him for 13 years. Each of us had our special connection and we now have our priceless memories of his impact on our lives. Rabbi Rindenow’s common approach was using Torah and chesed with a full heart to change the world.
There was one constant that never left him: his wife Mindy, his eizer kenegdo—his helpmate and soulmate. They were a team. Mindy was a nurse in a hospital and worked the night shift. Reb Mordechai would tend to often “bend time,” but never when it came to Mindy. He was known to say, “I have to leave; my wife is getting out from work at the hospital and I need to pick her up on time.” He valued her time more than his own.
His home was the place not only to drop in, but even to live temporarily when needed. It was open to everyone. He had a large family, but his “family” was much larger than him and his children. The little house on Rutherford Boulevard was a home to so many.
Why was he taken from us, at his prime? Why such a righteous person? There are many calculations that Hashem takes into account and we don’t understand them. Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Pakuda tells us it could be there is a shaas ha’din, a time when HaKadosh Baruch Hu wants to send a certain judgment, and many people’s lives are at stake. Sometimes Hashem takes a tzaddik who is worth many thousands of individuals as a replacement for them.
We are living in a time of judgment and people are passing away because of COVID and other illnesses. It’s a shaas ha’din. It’s very likely that Rabbi Rindenow offered not just to live for everybody else, but in leaving us, to spare others as well.
May his soul be bound eternally with the bond of life.