April 12, 2024
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April 12, 2024
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Love That’s Personal

This time, it was from love. Indeed, not always did the Jewish people embrace the Torah with endearment and self-motivated interest, but instead approached it from a state of pressure and no choice. It was only until the aftermath of the story of Purim that they finally accepted the Torah willingly and wholeheartedly (see GM Shabbat 88b).

The implication of this gemara seems to be that the generations from the time of Har Sinai up until the time of the Purim story reflected upon their relationship with Torah in an unideal sense: It lacked the feature of self-interest and desire for it. And since, as the Zohar states, Hashem and Torah are one (see Nefesh Hachaim 4:10), it may be that even their relationship with Hashem lacked such a feature. Yet, the generation of the Purim story reached such a level…

Let’s put things in perspective. First off, unlike the theory of evolution, which is predicated upon the fact that man developed from beast, Judaism is of course more than the polar opposite. We believe that the farther back you go, the greater the people were. Greater people should translate into reaching greater levels of spirituality. Moreover, those people who stood at Har Sinai experienced monumental sights far beyond what anyone could possibly imagine. The amount of wide-open miracles they saw in Egypt and by the splitting of the sea, according to Rabbi Akiva, was 50 in Egypt and 250 by the sea! Further, at Har Sinai itself the Jewish people experienced Hashem Himself, so to speak, let alone all the other incredible things they may have seen and heard. How could it be that they didn’t accept the Torah (and possibly Hashem) out of love and only the generation of the Purim story did? Sure, by the Purim story they experienced a miracle, but the Jews who who stood at Har Sinai seemingly experienced far greater, as well as open, miracles. One might say that because by the Purim story Hashem saved their lives, it showed how much He loves them and therefore they accepted it from love. But the Jews who stood at Sinai were not only saved from an absolutely bitter life in Egypt, they were also saved by Hashem when they were trapped at the sea (see Midrash Rabbah 21:15)!

Imagine for a moment living in the times of the Purim story. All of a sudden, one day, for some odd reason, all the Jews are sentenced to perish on a certain day. Rav Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu, 1, p. 76) brings an idea in the name of R’ Simcha Zissel that in retrospect, when looking back at the Purim story, one can connect the dots and see how one thing led to another to eventually snowball into a great success for the Jewish people and the downfall of the enemy. However, imagine someone living through that story. One thing after the other just seems to go wrong. Nothing seems to go right. Why does Mordechai say not to go to Achashveirosh’s party, which might have instigated Achashveirosh? From where all of a sudden does Haman rise up and develop his evil scheme? Why doesn’t Moredechai bow to Haman, which probably enrages Haman and makes him even more motivated for his evil plans? Why does Esther get snagged by King Achashveirosh? Why does Esther invite Haman to her party, which may indicate that now she’s on their side? With every event that occurred, the people in those times were bewildered and just couldn’t understand. Indeed, it was dark times, with everything seemingly going wrong.

And then the Jews are saved, and they look back and they see that Hashem was right there with them in those difficult, dark and dreadful times. The irony of the situation becomes starkly revealed, as the Megillah states “v’nahafoch hu,” and in retrospect they can feel that Hashem wasn’t somewhere distant but was right there with them guiding them and their lives, moving one thing to the next, orchestrating all these “natural” and “man-made” events so that the Jewish people can reach a pinnacle of salvation and an obliteration of their evil opponents. The story was “clothed in nature,” as the Bnei Yissaschar puts it, but looking back, the Jews saw that it’s not people or nature that contributed to their experience but rather Hashem masked by those externalities, making these things happen for their own good.

Although those who stood at Har Sinai experienced miracles of seemingly greater proportions both quantitatively and qualitatively, as well as Hashem protecting them all the way through, the miracle of Purim contained an inner dimension that was more advantageous in drawing the Jewish people’s hearts toward Hashem. The miracles that Hashem demonstrated in Egypt and by the sea without a doubt showed His care and love for the Jewish people. And surely the Jewish people saw the majesty of Hashem, so to speak, there and at Har Sinai. The awe, the “yirat Hashem,” that those people had for Hashem was likely unparalleled. However, although such majesty and might cause a profound reverence of Hashem and an adherence to His Will, it may nevertheless contain a gap between the people and Hashem. One may feel that Hashem is so great, so beyond us, and one may therefore not fully feel that Hashem is also right there with him in those down-to-earth challenges that come up in life.

On the other hand, Hashem’s hidden “hand” throughout the Purim story revealed that throughout all those difficult events, and for all those difficult years, Hashem was right beside them in practical matters. This recognition becomes more personal since it means that Hashem is involved directly in my personal life, in those things that one may have assumed Hashem may not busy Himself with since, after all, they are “my problems” or just nature or other people running its course. Hence, what is generated when a person is finally able to see the depth of Hashem’s care for him is a profound sense of love for Hashem, and thus, the Jews were finally able to accept the Torah (and perhaps Hashem Himself) from a state of love.

It would thus perhaps emerge that a nature exists within the human dynamic—that love is generated when we feel that someone else is involved and cares for the very practical things that pertain to our lives. It doesn’t have to be such great feats that draw one’s heart to another, but many times it can be the small things that remind us that there is someone there who cares so much about us that he or she is even attentive to these minor, seemingly insignificant things in our lives.

When one can look back and connect the dots in his or her life, one can begin to see that Hashem isn’t just a “supreme Being” in the high holy heavens, but rather is our Father, Who although may indeed be in Heaven, was and is also right with us, deeply caring about the events of our daily lives, and whether big or small, significant or seemingly insignificant, lovingly guiding us to eventually reach a place that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attain.


Binyamin Benji can be reached at [email protected].

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