Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024

Jewish Infrared Night-Vision Goggles

“Mishenichnas Adar marbin besimcha - When the month of Adar commences, we increase our joy” (Taanis 29a). Rashi (ad loc.) explains this famous dictum as follows: “Yemei nissim hayu leYisroel, Purim uPesach - These were miraculous days for Yisroel - Purim and Pesach.” We see that the joy and happiness which we usually associate with the month of Adar is actually not connected to Adar per se, but rather to the entire time period in which Purim and Pesach fall. Both of these Yomim Tovim commemorate redemption and the collective salvation of the Jewish nation. As such, this entire time span is one of joy and celebration.

(This is also one reason why, when we add a second Adar during a Jewish leap year, Purim is celebrated in the second Adar. The intention is for the Yomim Tovim of Purim and Pesach to fall one after the other.)


The post-Purim-pre-Pesach time is usually a hectic one. Before we have a chance to really think about our Purim, to contemplate what lessons we can take from it and how we can harness the spiritual highs we’ve (hopefully) reached or witnessed, we find ourselves knee-deep in the frenzy of Pesach preparations. We feel like Purim was ages ago, and who has time to even think about how we’re supposed to properly harness the power of Pesach?


If you’re thinking, you’re obviously not cleaning. Pass a shmatta please…


Yet, this is such a special time. “Yemei Purim uPesach,” Rashi calls it. It is one continuous time-period of joy, redemption and celebration.


How can we get the most out of it?


Recently, I was privileged to attend the seudas bar mitzvah of one very wonderful bochur. At the seudah, the esteemed father of the bar mitzvah boy related an amazing insight from Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt”l. Had I gone just to hear that one vort, it would have been well worth it. It is in his merit that I can share Rav Hutner’s thoughts with you.


Rav Hutner (Pachad Yitzchok, Purim, 34) begins by asking how we explain the Rambam’swell-known statement (Hilchos Megillah 2:18) that all Jewish festivals will be discontinued (in some form, at least) in the days of Moshiach, except for Purim, as it says “Vezichrom lo yosuf mizarom” (Megillah 9:28).


What is it that differentiates Purim from every other festival in the Jewish calendar?


Rav Hutner goes on to give a parable of two people, both of whom are given the job of keeping tabs on who passes by a certain area at night. The first fellow goes and gets himself a flashlight. The flashlight enables him to clearly see each and every person who passes by. In this manner, he knows exactly who passed by and can mark down the information.


The second fellow cannot get hold of a flashlight. In order to properly carry out his job, he has no choice but to develop other means of figuring out the identity of each person who passes by. Thus, he concentrates on each person’s gait, on how quickly or slowly they walk, what kind of noise their footwear makes on the pavement, and any other tidbit of information that might assist him in identifying the people who pass his post each night.


There is no question that the first person – the one with the flashlight – has a much clearer vision of who passed him by. Even so, the second fellow has an advantage over the first.


What kind of advantage could he have?


We only learn that in the morning.


When the sun comes out, shining brightly, the first fellow puts away his flashlight and goes home. Though he did his job well, the job did not make him any better, smarter or wiser than he’d been until now. His flashlight doesn’t help him in any way now. After all, the sunlight makes it obsolete.


The second fellow, though, goes home much enriched by his nightly experiences. Though he doesn’t need a flashlight or any other method of seeing now – after all, the sun is shining brightly – this man has honed a whole host of new and helpful skills. He has become more perceptive, more sensitive to nuances and subtlety, and more aware of the world and of people around him.


This, explains Rav Hutner, is the difference between Purim and every other Jewish festival. Every one of our Yomim Tovim, save for Purim, celebrates a different aspect of hisgalus haShechinah, Hashem’s open miracles, salvation or similar manifestation of His love for us. Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos all fall into this category.


Purim is an entirely different entity. On Purim, G-d’s Hand was hidden. There were no open miracles, no splitting seas, no Voice of G-d emanating from on top of a mountain. Still, the Jews were saved, and the unbelievable chain of events that led up to our complete turnabout of fortune could be none other than the hidden Hand of G-d at work.


Witnessing the hisgalus haShechinah, the wondrous and awesome manifestation of Hashem’s Presence, during our other Yomim Tovim is surely more dazzling, more blindingly clear, than discerning the Hand of Hashem through the marvelous chain of events of the Purim story. This is akin to the greater clarity which shining a flashlight at someone’s face helps us in seeing him, as opposed to figuring out who he is by studying the manner in which he walks. Without question, we have a brighter and clearer vision the first way.


What happens, though, when the sun comes out, shining in all its dazzling glory? When Moshiach will come, may it be speedily in our days, the open manifestation of the Divine Presence will be so awesome, so miraculous, so blinding and dazzling, that the Yomim Yovim we celebrate today and the light it gave us will simply have little meaning, little power, compared to the infinitely greater and more powerful light that will shine then. Of what use is a flashlight once the sun has come out? At the time, the flashlight was a powerful tool. After daylight arrives, though, we will no longer need it.


Not so with Purim. On Purim, we had no flashlight. We were left to discern the subtleties, the nuances, the feel and the characteristics of Hashem’s love for us. We honed our skills, sharpened our perceptions, and deepened our appreciation for the myriad ways in which Hashem reaches out to us and draws us in. These skills, once acquired, remain with us and will enrich our appreciation of Hashem and of our relationship with Him forever. Even after the light of Moshiach will shine brightly, what we learned on Purim will forever enhance our relationship with our beloved Father in Heaven.


The post-Purim-pre-Pesach period is a unique and awesome time. Yemei nissim hayu leYisroel, Purim uPesach. Pesach is a harbinger of a great “Anochi.” After taking us out of Egypt, Hashem brought us to Har Sinai and spoke to us, saying, “Anochi Hasehm ElokechaI am Hashem, your G-d.


Purim, Rav Hutner explains, brought us a different great “Anochi,” as it says in the Torah, “Ve’Anochi hastir astir PonaiAnd I will hide My face.”


These two great Anochis together form a singularly joyous time-period in the Jewish calendar. We are marbim besimcha. We celebrate both G-d’s open miracles and His hidden, yet equally powerful, love for us. The latter enhances the former. Purim enhances Pesach. The spiritual highs we reached when we drew close to Hashem though He remained hidden from us on Purim will intensify our appreciation for the miracles we will celebrate and commemorate come Pesach.


So before the effects of Purim wear off (physically or otherwise!), and while we gather up our shmattes, cleaning agents, toothpicks and toothbrushes, it may serve us well to spend a few moments reflecting on how we can extend our Purim joy and the ‘high’ we reached straight through to Pesach.


When things are not going so well for us – not unlike what the Jews experienced when Haman was still a powerful influence – how can we concentrate on seeing the hidden good, on seeing the hidden Hand of Hashem orchestrating everything? When we think our luck is down, how can we focus on Hashem’s eternal love for us and realize that everything is actually for our benefit? While some see their cup as half empty and others see theirs as half full (still others see theirs as poisoned!), how can we see our cup as overflowing?


The better we become at honing these skills, the richer we will find ourselves for all eternity. When Pesach brings with it the commemoration of Hashem’s open miracles, and when Moshiach will, bekarov, bring with it an even more dazzling awareness, we will find ourselves with an even deeper, richer, more nuanced and more thorough appreciation for the wonders surrounding us.


It’s the sensitivity and understanding we hone now that will allow us to live it up and savor the great moments with all of our senses later.



My Take on the News

  Hostility in the Court This week’s top story, without a doubt, was the Supreme Court hearing this Sunday that dealt with the draft of

Read More »


Subscribe to stay updated