Purim is Forever: A Purim Insight by Rabbi Yitzhak Hutner

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13 Feb 2014

Retold by Rabbi Pinchas Stolper

Our Sages teach that when the Messiah arrives the festivals will cease to be observed, but Purim will continue to be observed. The Midrash (Mishlei 9) derives this unusual conclusion from a statement in Megillat Esther, (9:28) “the memory of Purim will never cease from among their descendants.” Why should a relatively minor festival be observed forever while the basic and more significant festivals will no longer be needed? The following analogy will help explain this extraordinarily puzzling rabbinic teaching:

Two individuals were given an assignment: Identify your friends in the black of night. One was supplied with a flashlight. He identified his friends by shining light in their faces. The second did not receive a flashlight. He was compelled to identify his friends by listening to their voices and the sound of their walk. The first did a far superior job. Seeing people’s faces is far more effective than listening to their distant conversation or walk at night. But the second person developed a unique talent. By learning to train his ears and to listen attentively, he developed a special sensitivity, born of his concentrated listening.

When the sun rose in the morning, the first person extinguished his flashlight. What value is there to a small light in the glare of sunlight? The second individual, however, had developed the talent of recognizing people even when he couldn’t see them. He had acquired the ability to recognize people in the dark. This talent, which he developed and perfected during that long and dark night remained with him during the next day, and the next.

During a leap year, there are two months of Adar in the Jewish calendar, Adar I and Adar 11. Usually, halacha insists that we observe a commandment at the earliest moment available, but Purim is an exception. Here, the law mandates that we celebrate Purim and read the Megilla of Esther on the second Adar (Talmud: Megilla 6:2). Why? We want to make a point of the relationship between the redemption of Purim and the redemption from Egypt. Just as the redemption from Egypt is dominated by the word Anochi, “I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of the Land of Egypt”, the redemption of Purim is also dominated by the ‘word Anochi, “I am the Lord who will surely conceal” (Devarim 31:18). Anochi Haster Asteer.

The Talmud asks, “how do we derive Esther from the Torah” (what are -the roots of Esther in the Torah)? despite the fact that Esther lived many generations later? The Talmud replies: in the Torah it says (Devarim 31:18) Anochi haster asteer, I am the Lord who will surely conceal. ” (“asteer” ” I will hide, is written with the same letters as Esther).

What lesson do we derive from the two Anochis? That the Jewish people possesses two methods by which to identify and recognize G-d. The first is the Anochi of the Exodus. I am the Lord your G-d. ” I performed public miracles when I brought you out of Egypt and gave you the Torah. This Anochi can be compared to the person who identified his friends by using a flashlight. There is a second way to recognize G-d. The ability of the Jewish people to recognize G-d’s Anochi I am” when He is concealed bespeaks a unique talent, the ability to identify and understand the ongoing redemption of haster asteer, I will surely hide and conceal. ” The presence of G-d’s hand in human events even when it is not evident, perceived or obvious is similar to the special talent of the person who trained his ears to recognize friends at night by listening to their voices and sounds.

What conclusion does this lead us to? When the night of exile will be banished by the rising sun of the Messiah, when the presence of G-d, the Redeemer will shine in all its strength and glory, this presence will be so glaring and obvious that we will no longer require the lights provided by our holidays to perceive the guiding hand of G-d in historical events. At that time the light of G-dliness will be seven times more powerful than the light of the sun. And then the festivals with which the Jewish people felt the presence of G-d’s guiding hand through great historical events will no longer be required. At that time, the holidays, all of which are rooted in the Exodus, Zecher Le’yetsiat Mitzrayim, will pale when exposed to the glare of the light of redemption.

However, there is one exception. The special talent acquired by the Jewish people, enabling them to recognize the hand of G-d’s guiding providence when G-d’s hand was concealed will remain their eternal possession even after the sun of the redemption will rise. At that time all of the holidays will pale, except for Purim, “whose remembrance will never be forgotten. ”

We see that there exist two types of light. The first is, ” G-d is my light,” and the second is, “Though I sit in darkness, G-d is my light” (Micah 7:8) The special quality of Purim is its ability to bring to the fore the light which breaks through the darkness. Just as that unique light which guides man through darkness has a unique advantage, even surpassing the normal light of the sun, so, too, the pearls of knowledge which shine through the “not knowing” of the ad de lo yoda of Purim, are especially precious.

Translator’s Conclusion:

Pesach is the holiday of spring, the first holiday of the first month of the year. As the plants break through the cold barren earth, as the rays of spring warm the ground and cast away the cold, the heart is stirred by feelings of redemption. When a year has two Adars, Purim takes place at the end of the year. Purim is the last holiday – and must occur on the last month of the year. All attempts to destroy the Jewish people will end with the banishment of the darkness of exile.

The moment Purim departs we prepare for the new year by studying the laws of Pesach. Our Rabbis taught, “When Adar arrives we begin to increase our joy.” We rejoice in the knowledge that our enemies have been subdued, that the exile has ended. Pesach is coming. It is a prelude to the great redemption which will witness the rebirth and regeneration of the Jewish people as it rejoices in the arrival of the King Messiah.