This week’s parsha deals with the construction of the Mishkan (tabernacle). The Mishkan / Bais Hamikdash was the source of light for the world. The construction of its windows was unusual. In the Bais Hamikdash, the window openings were built to be narrow on the inside and wide on the outside. This allowed the light from within the Temple to illuminate the world without (as opposed to allowing the maxim of light from the outside to shine in). (Kings I 6:4)
Betzalel had the monumental task of constructing the Mishkan. The name Batzalel means, “In the shadow of Hashem.” The definition of a shadow is the absence of light. What is the significance of the light of the Mishkan and the darkness inherent in Batzalel’s name?
The Baal Shem Tov explained the verse in Tehillim, “G-d is your shadow” (121:5) Hashem, like a shadow, responds to your every move. The mystics offer perhaps a deeper interpretation. This verse suggests that the innate divinity in man, the tzelem Elokim – the Divine image in whose likeness we are created, is reached through embracing one’s inner shadow. What is the meaning of this?
The Megilah is the only book of Tanach in which Hashem’s name is not written. The Megilah’s authors, Mordechai and Esther wanted to maintain the true nature of the recorded Purim story in the same light that it originally transpired in and hence, teach a powerful lesson. Similar to life, the entire story can be perceived as an apparent random display of cause and effect. Only the trained eye sees Hashem in every nuance of the scroll.
In fact, Hashem’s name is encoded throughout the Megilah. The name of Hashem, can be found as an acronym in the words of various verses. In addition when the word melech / king is used without a direct reference to Achashveirosh, there is a secret hint to Hashem, the King of all kings. There is even a tradition that King Achashveirosh is a reference to Hashem, as this name is a combination of two words, acher (after) and rosh (first). Hashem is the first and last.
Like the hidden nature of the Megilah, costumes conceal the true identity behind a mask. Thus, costumes have an important role in the Purim celebrations. The pristine greatness of Mordechai, the tzaddik was hidden in coarse clothing. “Mordechai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth.” (Megilah 4:1)
Hashem Himself is said to wear clothing. “He wears light like a garment.” Like clothing, nature disguises Hashem. When one observes a sleeve move on a person, he does not perceive the arm itself, only the concealment around the arm. However, the intuitive eye sees the sleeve move and understands that it’s the arm within, that is performing the act. Similarly, the initiate can see nature / the world and know Hashem.
Hence, clothing does not only conceal, it reveals. Often the higher on the body a garment is worn, the less it conceals and the more it reveals. A crown for example, in essence does conceal a part of the body however, it is worn in order to reveal to the masses that this is the king. (This is the deep tradition for Jews to wear a hat. Unlike other garments of clothing, the hat is purely a sign of dignity). “Mordechai left the king’s presence clad in royal apparel of turquoise and white with a large gold crown…” (Megilah 8:15)
The challenge of life is to reveal the G-dly greatness deep in all of us.
The gemarah asks, “Resh Lakish said, ‘Great is teshuva (repentance), when sins done with intent are converted to accidental sins.’ However, didn’t Resh Lakish say (differently), ‘Great is teshuva for sins done with intent are converted to good deeds?’ The resolution (of the two statements) is; The first statement is true when the teshuva is accomplished out of fear of heavenly punishment; the second is true when the teshuva is preformed out of love for G-d.” (Yoma 86b)
Previously it was explained that all negativity in the world stems from one of three negative shells (klipah). These shells are so tightly tied to negativity they can never be elevated. For example, pig, an idol or the act of the sin itself. A person’s body mass is a consequence of everything that one has consumed. Throughout the duration of one’s life, food’s nutrients are ingested and become a part of one’s very being. If a person were to consume pig, he would become one with it in essence and he can never achieve a rectification. Only when one accomplishes a deep teshuva through “ahava rabba” / great love, the impossible transpires and this negativity is elevated. (Tanya chapter 7)
Chasidus explains, Yom Kippurim is only like (a kuf means like) Purim. Therefore, the true day of atonement is Purim and Yom Kippur is only like it. Perhaps on Yom Kippur we repent out of fear, however on Purim it is through love, transforming even the negativity of the sin / darkness into light.
Light is far more potent when it radiates in the darkness as opposed to it shinning in already illuminated surroundings. This is the unique quality of Beztalel. Through the darkness of this most physical and crude world, he disseminated a great light to all of creation. The mystics interpret the name Beztalel to mean, in the shadow is G-d.
This is the true depth of Purim. It is when Mordechai is wearing the royal garments, a concealment in order for a revelation, the Megilah relates “.The Jews had light …” (Megilah 8;16). This is the light out of the darkness. This familiar verse is repeated as we apparently descend from the light of Shabbos into the darkness of the week, as the havdalah candle illuminates our surroundings. This candle is not the light of Shabbos. It is the light out of the darkness of the week.
The Megilas Esther (the scroll of Esther) means to be megaleh / reveal the hester / concealment. There is a deep tradition that the names of the 3 utter negative shells are, Amalek, Agag and Haman. Perhaps the secret of the mitzvah in becoming so intoxicated until one can’t discern between baruch / blessed Mordechai and arur / cursed Haman is precisely the aforementioned concept. “When wine enters, secrets are revealed”. Once a year, through the lowly act of inebriation we reveal our inner G-dly greatness. Just as the Purim story turned utter despair into our greatest celebration. The gallows were built for Mordechai, however, Haman was hung on it. So too in life, as on Purim, the greatest darkness / evil can be the very source of the greatest light.
R’ Moshe Zionce
Originally Published 2/29/2008