Thursday, Jul 11, 2024

See the Strength

Most real estate solicitations begin the same way: “I found this great building/project/development. The past owner didn’t manage it properly, so I can get in at a low price as the income is not where it should be due to his delinquency. With not much effort or investment, I can fix it up, put in a new roof and boiler, renovate the apartments/offices/homes as they become vacant, refresh the outside, spruce up the landscaping and parking lot, and voila, we will have a quick turnaround. Rents will go up and we will be making money in six months.”

There is a unique joy in discovering light in a place of darkness and value in a space considered worthless. Investors of all types spend their time searching for assets with hidden value. When they find one, they celebrate a great payday in the making.

As Yidden, we also search for light and value where others don’t see much, and when we hit paydirt, our reward is more precious than an investment in any highflying stock. We search for lost souls and kids who people have given up on because we know that within each Jewish person, there is a torch of goodness and holiness waiting to be lit by someone who cares enough to create a spark.

A story is told about a chassidishe rebbe who heard his grandson crying. He asked the child what prompted his tears. The boy explained that he was playing hide-and-seek with his friends and was hiding 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 a different 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 Hashem feels. He hides, and people spend a few minutes trying to find Him, but then they tire and give up.”

This task is relevant throughout the year, but on 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. Often, we do. It is a day to get close to others and listen to what is on their chest. Thoughts, wishes, ambitions, and regrets that are kept hidden all year are often given voice on this holiday of Purim, when the hidden is revealed and the revealed is hidden.

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 hasteir astir Ponai,” where Hashem says that His face will be hidden. The essence of Purim is to realize that Hashem is always there, though His Presence is hidden in what is referred to as hester.

The same is with people. Sometimes, their goodness is hidden under years of pain, their holiness covered by so many scars. Good people see the hidden. They sense the potential and seek to coach others back to life, so that all can see and appreciate what is not readily apparent.

Life is tough, and too many people go underground rather than contend with the daily pressures of having to prove their goodness. Doing so can lead them down a slippery path of duplicity and danger, but they have become too hurt to conform. They think that their independent course will work for them, and when it doesn’t, few believe in them anymore and they are left with no place to turn.

Our task, not only on Purim, is to warm their cold souls, spark their latent goodness, and arouse the torch of holiness and goodwill that lies within them.

The Gemara (Yoma 69b) teaches, “The Anshei Knesses Hagedolah received their name from restoring Hashem to His former glory. Moshe Rabbeinu 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 nora when speaking of Hashem. Daniel 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 text.

Mordechai Hatzaddik was a member of the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah, 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 saw clearly that from His place of hiding and hester, He controls the world, and led the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah to return those attributes that had been removed.

All throughout the period of the tale of Achashveirosh and Haman, Hashem was coordinating the moves, setting the stage for the great miracle that would save the Jewish people from destruction and show His mastery 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 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 dread and threats and then the remarkable salvation, all occurring while Hashem remained hidden and unseen. He appreciated that in times of darkness and worry, as well as in times of good, Hashem is always there.

In our day, as well, we witness the world as a gunpowder-filled-keg, waiting for someone to light a fuse and launch World War III. We see weak and ineffectual leaders confronted by a feared tyrant and unable to deter and stop him from genocidal medieval barbaric inhuman attacks that threaten the equilibrium of the Western world.

The world seeks explanations for why the tyrant’s army didn’t seem as capable as they had thought. How was a much smaller, more backward country able to hold them off? Why are the leaders of the West inept? Why is indiscriminate, senseless human slaughter allowed to continue inside a sovereign nation? Meanwhile, the bombing of civilians, including apartment buildings, hospitals and schools, goes on, as cities are surrounded and pounded, bereft of food, water, power, heat, medicine and much else. Death is everywhere.

We don’t seek explanations, for we know that the Hidden Hand of Hashem is at work, preparing the world for Moshiach. There is much we don’t understand, but we know that with the redemption will come the revelation and explanation of all that is taking place now and all that occurred throughout the centuries. We know that Hashem selected these leaders for these times in order to bring about the result He seeks.

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. We need a tiny spark to reveal the light that remains hidden. Purim provides that spark.

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 described and portrayed. There is always something much more potent going on which we cannot see or appreciate. Purim demonstrates that it is always there.

On Purim, we perceive this fact, as it relates not only to Hashem and His people and the entire world as a whole, 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 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 that is because we don’t have to be running anymore to complete our mission.

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, though it needs a spark to get it going. Our job is to look for and find our inner strength and use it to accomplish good and beat back evil.

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 much more life than all year around.

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 happy. You see the realization of the posuk in Megillas Esther (8:16) which states, “LaYehudim hoysah orah vesimcha vesasson vikorThe 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. They had light because the miracle gave them the spark they needed to light their torches which had been kept unlit under the fear of Haman and the thought that the Bais Hamikdosh would never be rebuilt.

Perhaps this is also the explanation of the statement of Chazal that “Hadar kibluha b’yemei Achashveirosh, the Jews reaccepted upon themselves the observance of Torah in the days of Achashveirosh.” Now that they realized once again the prevalent power and glory of Hashem, they agreed 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 stood back and marveled at Hashem’s power. The hidden became revealed, and when we put the story together, we saw Hashem’s Hand guiding the news of the day from the beginning of the sad saga until its joyful end.

On Purim, the hastarah goes into hiding.

Rav Chaim Kreiswirth 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 knew that his end was approaching and he had an important message to impart.

“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.”

Rav Kreiswirth survived the war. He occupied rabbinic positions in Israel, America and Belgium, and traveled the world speaking and raising funds for charity. Yet, wherever he went, he always remembered the dying Jew and his last wish. He never gave up on finding Shloime. Years went by and he had not found 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 on his mission 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.

One never gave up searching, while the other never searched. Why should he? How was he to know that he had a father who provided for him?

The story has a dual message. We all have a treasure somewhere. We all have the ability to help other people. Within us, there is strength, ability, power, goodness and kindness waiting to be tapped. If we have faith and search enough, we will find them.

In many ways, we are like the pauper who has no idea of his wealth. We don’t know how strong we are. We don’t know how smart we are. We don’t know how capable we are.

On Purim, we were reminded once again that we are not lacking anything. Wine elicits the hiding secrets. Our hidden strengths and abilities were revealed. Our goodness, kindness and holiness were on display for ourselves and all to see.

May we all merit experiencing the joy and light, the orah, simcha, sasson and yekor of Purim, all year round.





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