Thursday, May 23, 2024

Purim: The Day Hastarah Goes into Hiding

There is a special thrill in finding something precious. Within each of us is a child’s dream of digging in the backyard to find a hidden treasure. When we were young, we would dig and dig, finding nothing but dirt, but we never gave up the search for a hidden treasure until we grew older and stopped playing and dreaming in the dirt altogether.

There is a unique joy in discovering light in a place of darkness and value in a space considered worthless. Not only people who prospect for gold, but also real estate investors and stock pickers search all day for assets with hidden value. When they find one, they celebrate the great payday in the making.

One of our tasks in this world is finding some of the sparks of holiness that were hidden at the time of creation during the original act of tzimtzum, when Hashem confined His presence and power to conform with a finite physical world of boundaries and limits. If the divine presence had not been hidden to a large degree, there would be no bechirah, no choices of good and bad, no possibility of error or struggle, and no reward and punishment.

Hashem is there for those seeking to find Him, never far away and never totally hidden. Chazal teach that the essence of the Divine name Shakai is that “Dai Elokuso lechol beryah uberyah.” Sifrei Kabbolah explain those words to mean that there is enough Elokus in the world for everyone to find Him.

A story is told about one of the early chassidishe rebbes who heard his grandson crying. He asked the child what prompted his tears. The young boy explained that he was playing hide-and-seek with his friends and was hiding under a pile of clothing in a closet. His friends looked for him for a few minutes, and when he wasn’t quickly found, they got restless and ran off to play some other game, leaving him behind and forgotten.

As the rebbe listened to the child’s tale, he began to cry. “The way you feel,” said the rebbe, “is how the Ribbono Shel Olam feels. He hides and people spend a few minutes trying to find Him, then tire and give up.”

The rebbe explained that the novi Yeshaya refers to Hashem as a Keil Mistater, stating, “Ochen Atah Keil mistater” (Yeshaya 45:15). Commentators observe that the novi doesn’t call Hashem a Keil seiser, a hidden G-d, but a Keil mistater, a hiding G-d. The difference is that someone who is hidden does not want to be found. Someone who is hiding – as the young rebbeshe ainikel was – wants to be found. Hakadosh Boruch Hu is hiding. He wants us to look for – and find – him.

This task is central throughout the year. However, on the holiday of Purim, a day dedicated to revealing depths and removing masks and veneers of this world, we are obligated to see beyond the superficial and find the hiding truth.

This is alluded to by the Gemara’s statement (Chulin 139b), “Esther min haTorah minayin.” A hint to the tale of Esther is found in the Torah in the posuk which states, “Ve’anochi hastir astir es ponai,” where Hashem says that His face will be hidden. The essence of Purim is to realize that Hashem is ever-present, though in hiding.

The Gemara (Yoma 69b) further sheds light on this reality: “The Anshei Knesses Hagedolah received their name from restoring Hashem to His former glory. Moshe Rabbeinu had referred to Hashem as ‘Hakeil, Hagadol, Hagibor, Vehanora, the Great, Awesome and Strong G-d.’

“Yirmiyohu Hanovi saw gentiles violating the Bais Hamikdosh and wondered, ‘Ayeh nora’osav? Where is Hashem’s awesome power?’ Left without an answer, he omitted the word norah when speaking of Hashem. DanielDaniel viewed Hashem’s chosen nation subjugated to gentiles and asked, ‘Ayeh gevurosav? Where is Hashem’s strength?’ He left out the word gibor.

“Then the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah came along. They saw things differently. ‘To the contrary,’ they said, ‘we see His gevurah everywhere, for He controls His will, allowing wicked people to succeed in order to carry out His ultimate plan of rewarding the righteous. Klal Yisroel’s survival, one nation amongst so many others, is testimony to His awesomeness.” They restored the original nusach.

Yirmiyohu and Daniel didn’t see the attributes of Hashem and thought that they had been concealed and that Hashem was now running the world differently. However, the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah saw things differently.

Mordechai was a member of that august group, and when he experienced the miracles that are described in Megillas Esther and celebrated on Purim, he saw that even though Hashem is hidden, He is not concealed. He is in hiding. From His matzav of hester, He controls the world with gevurah and noraah. Thus, he prevailed upon the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah to return those attributes when proclaiming the glory of Hashem.

All throughout the period that the tale of Achashveirosh and Haman transpired, Hashem was coordinating the moves, setting up the world for the great miracle that would save the Jewish people from destruction and show His gevurah and nora to all.

Yirmiyohu had seen the evident splendor and then the churban and destruction of everything he held dear. Daniel was taken prisoner by Nevuchadnetzar and experienced the subjugation. Although he was miraculously saved, he never made it back to Eretz Yisroel and passed away in golus (see Maharsha in Yoma, ibid.).

Mordechai experienced the gezeirah and the hatzolah, all behelem ubehester, demonstrating for him that in our days of darkness and churban, Hashem is here, but He is operating behester, as mighty and as awesome as ever.
The words of the Gemara and the insight of the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah resonate through the ages, empowering us to continue despite Hashem being in hiding. On Purim every year, we are reminded of Hashem’s powers even as we are in golus and under the domination of others. The gevurah is not always apparent, but it is always there.

Purim is the day when we see that gevurah does not have to be out in the open for it to be present. We see that we cannot judge the world by the way current events are recorded in the media. There is always something much more potent transpiring beneath the surface.

On Purim, we perceive this fact as it relates not only to Hashem and His people and the entire world, but to every one of us personally.

On Purim, the hastarah goes into hiding.

Sometimes, we feel as if we are lacking in gevurah. We feel weak and beaten. We become depressed and unhappy, because we think that we aren’t as strong as we have to be. Purim tells us that Hashem cares for us and provides us with the amount of strength we need to fulfill our missions in this world. If we feel as if our physical strength is declining as we age, we should recognize that we have been given other strengths. We have become more astute and more intelligent and have imbibed more Torah. Perhaps we cannot run as fast, but maybe we don’t have to be running anymore, as there are other ways to get the job done.

Our strengths may not be as obvious, but they are there, waiting to be tapped into and utilized to realize our goals. They are in hiding.

That is why Chazal say, “Eizehu gibor? Hakoveish es yitzro.” The really strong person is the one who defeats his yeitzer hora. Our mission is to beat back the yeitzer hora and not let him overtake us. No matter our situation, we always possess the strength to overcome him. We may feel weak and defeated, but, in truth, the strength we require is always there, albeit sometimes in hiding. It is our task to discover our latent inner strength and utilize it to defeat our arch foe.

Who is strong? One who recognizes the strength he beholds and uses it for its intended purpose.

On Purim, the essence, which is hiding beneath the surface, is revealed and the sod of every Yid flows as free as the yayin that allows it to rise to the top. We recognize our strength and that causes us to be joyful.

On Purim, we hear the dreams that are kept silent a whole year. On Purim, we hear the songs that are kept buried deep in our hearts all year. On Purim, the dreams come alive, the music is pumped up, and the songs are sung with vigor, zip and zing.

On Purim, you look at our people, and at the people around you, and you see how strong we are. You see the gevurah and you become filled with pride. You see the realization of the posuk in Megillas Esther (8:16) which states, “LaYehudim hoysah orah vesimcha vesasson viykor – The Jews had light, joy and splendor.”

The Gemara states that when the posuk says, “LaYehudim hoysah orah,” it refers to the light of Torah. On Purim, when the plan came together, the Jews of the time perceived, as Mordechai did, that even in a time of hester, the Hand of Hashem is evident, even though it is hiding. Unlike those who had come before them, the Jews of golus Shushan understood the hanhogah others had missed.

Perhaps this is also the explanation of the statement of Chazal that “Hadar kibluha b’yemei Achashveirosh, the Jews accepted upon themselves the observance of Torah all over again.” Now that they realized that the power and glory of Hashem are ever-present and they can always bring themselves to the level of perceiving that truth and power in all situations, they agreed wholeheartedly to follow the Torah. They knew that they’re never alone, no matter how lonely they appear to be. They are never in the dark, no matter how little light there is. There is always more light beneath the surface, in hiding, b’hester.

On Purim, we stand back and marvel at Hashem’s power. Though unseen, He is always guiding us, providing for us, breathing life into us at each moment.

On Purim, the hastarah goes into hiding.

Rav Chaim Kreiswirth zt”l was escaping from the Nazis when he met a beaten Jew lying on the ground, his life slowly leaving him. The dying man saw the young rabbi and asked him to bend down to hear his whispers. He didn’t have strength to speak and knew that his end was approaching.

“Please, do me a favor,” the man whispered. “You look like someone I can trust.”

He told Rav Chaim who he was and other identifying information, along with a series of numbers, which represented his substantial bank account. “If you survive,” he asked, “please find my son, Shloime, and give him these numbers. Tell him about the account.”

After enduring much suffering, Rav Chaim survived. He was rosh yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois, and then rov of Antwerp, Belgium. Wherever he went, Rav Chaim never forgot the dying Jew and his wish. He never gave up trying to find Shloime. Years went by and he didn’t find him.

One day, a poor Yerushalmi came to him seeking help. Like so many others, he went to the rov and out came his tale of woe. The compassionate rov listened to his story and asked the man about his background.

The Yerushalayimer visitor said that he was a Polish survivor and had arrived in Eretz Yisroel alone, having lost his family in the war. Rav Kreiswirth asked more questions about his hometown, shtiebel and relatives. The poor man just wanted a donation. He wondered why the rov was asking him so many questions.

It was because the rov never gave up his quest to find Shloime.

Finally, he decided that the man asking for a handout was none other than Shloime, the son of the dying man with the bank account.

Rav Kreiswirth asked the man to wait for a moment and went to retrieve the paper with the bank name and account number from his safe.

“Here,” he said, handing it to the middle-aged pauper. “This is from your father.”

Rav Kreiswirth subsequently had local lawyers help the man deal with the bank and prove his identity in order to claim the funds.

He returned to Yerushalayim a wealthy man. His father’s inheritance had finally reached him.

Rav Gamliel Rabinovitch retold this story and added some lessons we can learn from the tale.

One is the trustworthiness of Rav Chaim. Even though he could very well have rationalized withdrawing the money and distributing it to the various charities he raised money for, he never considered using the money even for tzedakah. It wasn’t his.

Another lesson is yeshuas Hashem keheref ayin, how Hashem helps in the blink of an eye. This collector from Yerushalayim was destitute his whole life and then suddenly became wealthy.

The third lesson is that so many people don’t even know how rich they are. The poor Yerushalmi struggled and saved and sighed. He avoided creditors and cut corners wherever he could. He traveled out of the country seeking handouts to be able to feed his family. All because he had no idea that he was really wealthy.

In fact, that is true for so many of us. In many ways, we are all like the pauper who has no idea how much money he has. We don’t know how strong we are. We don’t know how smart we are. We don’t know how capable we are.

And then Purim comes along, revealing the secret codes and showing us that we are lacking nothing. Nichnas yayin yotza sod. Wine elicits the secrets that are hiding. Our hidden strengths and abilities are revealed.

On Purim, the hastarah goes into hiding.

On Purim, we see what is inside. We see our truth and we dance.

On Purim, we see the riches and the sod of every Jew.

We see a nation of silent gibborim led by Hakeil, Hagadol, Hagibor, Vehanora.

May we all merit experiencing the orah, simcha, sasson and yekor of Purim.

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