Inside/ Outside

Boarding the plane for my 6:00 AM flight from LaGuardia, bleary-eyed from too little sleep, I forced myself to offer a moderately enthusiastic good morning to the smiling steward as I crossed over the jet way and through the hatch. The steward echoed my greeting, then added, “You look very sharp today.”

I felt my eyebrows rise up toward my hairline. This isn’t a comment one hears every day. I thanked him and made my way down the aisle to find my seat.

Mid-way through the flight I wandered up toward the front of the plane. The steward stepped forward immediately when he saw me. “I hope I didn’t offend you earlier,” he said.

“Why would I take offense at a compliment?” I asked.

“Well, you never know these days,” he replied. “But you stood out so strikingly from the other passengers that I had to comment.”

I hadn’t considered my ensemble in any way remarkable. I was wearing a $120 gray suit, a $5 blue tie, and a black sweater vest that was a gift from my mother.

The steward wasn’t finished, however: “When you headed down the aisle, I saw that you were Jewish,” he said. “I’ve noticed that Jewish people are always conscious of how they dress.”

It was a nice kiddush Hashem to start my day, all the more so because it seemed to fly in the face of the stereotype that Torah Jews are unconcerned with the finer points of self-presentation.

I went on to explain to the steward – who showed more interest than many of my students – that the Jewish value of modesty has less to do with how much skin we leave exposed than with the projection of human dignity and our awareness of the sanctity that resides within every human being. We may reside within a shell of flesh and blood, but essentially we are beings of spirituality. By dressing in a way that is smart yet simple, restrained yet distinguished, those around us cannot help but take notice and, on some level, absorb a portion of our appreciation that the physical is meant to serve the spiritual and that our external form is merely a garment for the soul.

The interrelationship of the revealed and the concealed should occupy our thoughts as we approach the holiday of Purim. The apparent coincidences of the Purim story, the supernatural reversal of fortune, and the illusion of peril that prodded the Jews of Persia to rediscover faith in the wisdom of their Torah leaders… these are all part of the theme of hester ponim – the hidden face of G-d – that lies at the heart of the holiday. The physicality that surrounds us masks the spiritual reality of our universe, and by conscripting the material into service of the spiritual we succeed in showing the world (and reminding ourselves) who we are and why we are here.

However You Say It, We Wish Everybody a Wonderful Purim.

However You Say It, We Wish Everybody a Wonderful Purim.

Is “Happy Purim” the traditional Purim greeting ?

Well, yes. “Happy Purim” is the principle anglicized version of a number of transliterated Hebrew variations of “Happy Purim”.

What are the transliterated Hebrew versions of “Happy Purim” ?

There are many traditional Purim greetings in Hebrew. The following are the transliterated versions:

* Chag Purim Sameach [Joyous (or Happy) Festival (of) Purim]
* Chag Sameach Purim [Joyous (or Happy) Purim Festival]
* Hag Purim Sameach [Joyous (or Happy) Festival (of) Purim]
* Hag Sameach Purim [Joyous (or Happy) Purim Festival]
* Purim Sameach [Joyous (or Happy) Purim]
* Purim Chag Sameach [Purim Joyous (or Happy) Festival]
* Purim Hag Sameach [Purim Joyous (or Happy) Festival]
* Chag Purim (Purim Festival)
* Hag Purim (Purim Festival)

Happy Purim Transliterations From Hebrew Into English

Chag = Festival

Hag = Festival

Sameach = Joyous, Happy

Samayach = Joyous, Happy

Someach = Joyous, Happy

Somayach = Joyous, Happy

Found here:

They did leave out Freilichin Purim – which also means Happy Purim.

They Don’t Make Anti Semites Like They Used To

By Rabbi Benzion Shaffier

“In the third year of his reign, he made a party for all of his officers and servants, the rulers of Paras and Madai, the Partamim and rulers in front of him.” – Esther 1:2

The Megillah opens with a description of Achashverosh’s vast empire, “He ruled over one hundred and twenty seven nations.” The common assumption is that he was in the height of his glory. However, Chazal tell us that shortly before this, he had ruled over an additional one hundred and nineteen nations. At this point in time, he was still a powerful ruler, but almost half of his kingdom had been taken from him.

In his commentary on the Megillah, the Nesivos (Megilas Sisarim) explains that by all rights, Achashverosh should have been in mourning. He had just suffered a striking loss. He had been the ruler of the earth, and now his power and glory were stolen from him. Yet he was joyful and made a party because he understood the ways of HASHEM, and he had a sign from the heaven.

Chazal tell us that throughout our long exile, HASHEM has kept the Jewish people scattered across the globe so that if an evil king would come to power and attempt to kill us, a portion of the nation would be living in other parts of the world not under his control. Never are all the Jews under one ruler.

Yet that rule was clearly broken. When Achashverosh reigned over the entire world, every Jew alive had been under his sovereignty. Even now that he ruled over only half of the world, every Jew was still under his dominion. Whether he would keep or lose a province seemed to have been based on whether Jews were living there. It was almost as if a laser beam were carving out his monarchy. If there were Jews in a region, it remained under his control. If not, it was taken from him. When the rebellion was finished, every Jew was still under his control. Achashverosh took this as a sign that HASHEM was delivering His people into his hands and therefore he was joyful and made a party.

This concept becomes very difficult when we focus on who this man was.

Achashverosh wasn’t the Pillsbury doughboy

If you were to ask a school age child to describe Achashverosh, you would likely get an image of a short, roly-poly, fun loving guy who liked to drink – the Pillsbury doughboy. Chazal tell us that is not quite an accurate description. In fact, it couldn’t be more off-base.

Rashi tells us that Achashverosh wasn’t born to nobility. He was an ego-driven lout who kicked, clubbed, and clawed his way into power. His ambition was nothing short of world dominion, and he had recently achieved his dream – Emperor of the Earth. When the Megillah opens, his honor and glory have been ripped out from under his feet. How is it possible that he made a party? How could he possibly be filled with joy?

The answer to this question comes from a better understanding of what actually drove this man.

Achashverosh was evil
In the first posuk of the Megillah, Rashi explains that Achashverosh was consistent – consistently wicked from the first verse until the very end. Make no mistake; this man hated the Jews as much as anyone in his times. But he knew why he hated the Jews: the Jews represented HASHEM, and he was engaged in a war against holiness.

As an example, the Nesivos explains why the Megillah delineates the details of the party that Achashverosh threw. We are told about the tapestries on the walls, the food served, and what the guests drank. Why, nearly twenty five hundred years later, do we need to know that the golden benches were covered with butz and agraman?

The Nesivos explains that this was all part of the plan. The focus of the party was the last seven days when the “people of Shushan” were invited. Shushan then was the center of Jewish life. Mordechai met with the Sanhedrin there daily. It was the epicenter of religious Jewry, and that was Achashverosh’s target. He invited the Jews to his palace to get them to sin. Everything in the party was focused towards that goal.

The benches were covered with butz and argaman, wool and linen, which is shatnez. The tapestries on the walls were placed there to get the Torah sages of the generation distracted. Maybe their eye would be caught and they would look at something inappropriate. The food at this affair was “according to each man as he wished.” It was kosher by design. Achashverosh knew that if he forced the Jews to eat treif food, it wouldn’t be considered a transgression; he needed to get them to sin willingly. So each invitee was given a private waiter and could ask for exactly what he wanted.

Achashverosh even eliminated the ancient Persian custom of forced drinking. At this party the drinking was done willingly. No one was forced. Achashverosh knew that if the Jews were drunk, there would be much less of a complaint against them. He did everything in his power to get them to sin in as an egregious manner as possible. He knew that if he got them to sin, they would be his for the taking.

The farmer with the dirt, the farmer with the ditch

When Haman came with his “plan” to kill the Jews, it wasn’t a difficult sell. Chazal give a parable: imagine two farmers with adjoining fields. One says to his friend, “I have this large pile of dirt in my field. Because of it, I can’t plow. You have a large ditch in your field. Because of it, you can’t plow. I would like to take my pile of dirt and put it in your ditch. For this, I will pay you handsomely.” The second farmer responds, “Pay me? You don’t have to pay me. I will gladly let you do it. You benefit, I benefit; there is no need to pay me. Go ahead with my blessings.”

When Haman offered the ten thousand talents of silver to “pay for the killing of the Jews,” Achashverorsh’s response was, “The money is yours to keep. As to the Jews, do with them what you please.” He didn’t even accept the fortune of money being offered to him.

The key to understanding this man is to recognize that as much as he was set on world conquest, he was engaged in an ideological war; a war against holiness, the Jews, and G-d.

This seems to be the answer to the question. Granted Achashverosh had just recently suffered a great personal setback, the loss of half his empire. But he had been given something even sweeter – he was given the Jews. He had the ability to eliminate the ultimate source of holiness in the world – G-d’s people – and therefore he was joyful and celebrated. This man was a real Anti- Semite.

They don’t make Anti- Semites like they used to

This concept is eye opening because for thousands of years, everyone has hated the Jews, yet the vast majority of our modern Anti-Semites couldn’t tell you why. If you were to ask one of them, “Why do you hate the Jews? You would likely see him take on the glassy-eyed look of the semi-conscious. “Why? Why do I hate the Jew? I hate him so much that I would drink his blood!” His hatred is quite clear, based on his fury and drive. But what is his reason? Your run-of-the-mill Anti-Semite can’t answer the question intelligently.

Once upon a time, the Jews faced a different sort of enemy, men who hated them and could tell you why. “I hate the Jew because he represents everything holy. I hate the Jew because he stands for everything good. He has introduced conscience to mankind. But more than anything, I hate the Jew because he represents G-d.” Such a man was Achashverosh, and such men were common in earlier times.

It is ironic that through the eyes of our enemies, we can come to understand the significance of the Jew, and the pivotal role that he plays in world history – that of G-d’s Chosen People.

May HASHEM quickly redeem us, and may we regain our unique status of the Exalted Nation.

“The Shmuz” an engaging and motivating series of Torah lectures, that deals with real life issues ,is available FREE at www.theShmuz.com.

Simplicity is Wonderful but it’s for the Next World!

Purim is somehow connected to Yom Kippur – in the Torah it is called Yom Hakippurim and the play on words is not lost on the Rabbis. They say that in a sense, Yom Kipur is a yom k’Purim, meaning a day like Purim, so in some way Purim is seen as a paradigm of something that Yom Kipur emulates. What’s that all about? On the face of it, the two days couldn’t be more different. Purim is all body and Yom Kipur is all soul.

Purim is about revealing the hidden Hand Of God in events. God isn’t referred to by any name in the Megillah at all, and only through putting together all the events could his workings be seen. Through doing so, we see it as a battle of good against evil, where each receives his just deserts. We see how God engineered each individual event according to an intricate plot to upstage the evil.

How ironic is it then that the mitzvos of the day ask us to drop our sense of right and wrong and just open our hearts and minds to the goodness within everything and everyone. We give mishloach manos to help us come close to others, we give gifts to those who need without reserve and without enquiry as to their righteousness. We revel in physical pleasures of eating and drinking more than usual. We even drink purposely to blur the line between good and evil – until we cannot tell the difference between the blessedness of Mordechai and the cursedness of Haman.

Isn’t it odd that on a festival whose essence is about the victory of good over evil, that we do all we can to overlook the evil and bring ourselves to a state of happy acceptance of everything and everyone?

Let’s think about the drinking aspect (my favourite mitzvah) a little deeper. What is this business of making it hard to tell between Mordechai (the epitome of good) and the monstrous Haman? How can this be desirable at all?

In the classical mussar work, the Orchos Tzaddikim discusses the ills and the benefits of drinking alcohol. The main benefit as the author sees it is in helping a person through a distressing time to lift his spirits and get him back on track both physically and spiritually. It’s no coincidence that the section on drinking is placed in the middle of the book’s chapter on simchah and in fact is used to make the transition in the chapter between the negative type of simchah and the positive.

Immediately after the piece on alcohol, Orchos Tzaddikim goes on to explain how simchah is achieved ultimately by totally trusting in God that everything that ever happens is God’s doing and happens for a reason that you will one day (not likely in this world) understand and truly rejoice in.

It’s with this kind of superhuman faith that a person could truly recognise that Haman’s evil is as much a part of God’s work as Mordechai’s good. From the perspective that everything that happens in this world is by God’s design, you can truly accept that Haman is as necessary as Mordechai in bringing about the ultimate redemption.

But the Orchos Tzaddikim, in telling us that a little drunkenness is a great way to get over a rough patch (if done with responsible friends and not in excess), he’s teaching something very significant: You have to realise that this is an extremely high level of faith and you’re not expected to reach it without a lifetime of effort. A little drink really can make you feel that things aren’t as bad as you thought they were, and that really does allow you to view the world as if you really believe God is leading the way.

In short, drunkenness is a very good simulation of the way the world would appear from a high level of faith.

So a little more wine than usual on Purim can bring you to a fleeting experience of that kind of faith that God is the Creator of both Light and Darkness, the Doer of Good and Evil.

But that’s the vital word: FLEETING!

The world you see when you’re drunk, where everything is just great, is really not something you’re supposed to experience in this world. The idea that things that seem bad are really good for you is an other-worldly concept and you can’t live in this world with that idea at the front of your mind.

The very fact that the mitzvah of the day requires you to drink to reach that conclusion is a lesson that you shouldn’t miss. The point is that it’s neither desirable nor really possible to look at the world in those terms on a daily basis.

Living in this world requires you to be acutely aware of what’s going on within you and around you, and in particular to be on guard against doing wrong or even witnessing wrong without protest.

Purim, as I said, is about the victory of good over evil. On the other hand the very essence of the day’s activities take us to a plane of existence in which evil is revealed as nothing other than God’s tool.

It’s a day of irony. The idea is to get that fleeting glance of a perfect world but to do it in such a way that emphasises that it’s beyond our reach and supposed to stay that way.

In this sense, Yom Kipur is very similar indeed to Purim. Yom Kipur also takes us to a plane of existence on which we feel the nearness of God and our ability to reach Him, only this time it’s through a complete negation of our physical needs. It too is a day full of irony, but yet different from Purim. Here, we do not negate the essence of evil, in fact we focus on it sharply and objectify it in an effort to expel it from ourselves and draw close to God.

Here too, the lesson is that yes closeness to God and cleanness from sin is a wonderful thing, and we need that glance of spirituality. But here too, it’s a one-off event and you shouldn’t even think about living permanently in that way. The mitzvos of Yom Kipur of fasting and refraining from other physical pleasures are there to get us to reach that unattainable plane, while teaching that it’s essentially unattainable to normal people.

The mitzvah of drinking on Purim is there to get us to another unattainable place, while teaching that it’s essentially unattainable to normal people!

But Purim and Yom Kipur are also polar opposites. The level of Yom Kipur is one of complete Din – Justice, where evil is evil and must be eradicated in all shapes and forms. Purim is overwhelming Chesed which actually reveals all evil to be essentially good.

The lesson of these days is that neither of these poles are a desirable place to inhabit as a way of life.

In real life, it’s not possible to distill pure evil and objectify it and then throw it off the cliff in the way we do on Yom Kipur.

Equally, it’s not possible to accept evil in it’s many guises as simply being God’s will and leave it be.

Real life entails complexity. Our mission is to use the tools that we have to view the world from a perspective of faith, while protesting evil and ridding ourselves and our world from it.

Purim and Yom hakippurim open up a brief window onto a simpler, more perfect world, but they do so in a way that reminds you that the window has to close at the end of the day.

Simplicity is wonderful but it’s for the next world!

The Essence of Purim

I spent a lot of time a few years back trying to clarify the whys and hows of the mitzvah of Drinking on Purim. My Rav, Rabbi Welcher, feels that the main thrust of the mitzvah is to foster feelings of friendship and achdus in line with the other mitzvos of the day. However he states clearly that drinking to the point where somebody is out of control would be beyond the bounds of the halacha.

So in line with the theme of Achdus, this is probably a good time to give a Purim group hug. To realize that we are all on the same team and that includes people following a different derech and Rabbonim giving a different psak from the one we are following.

The biggest kindness we can do for somebody is helping them get closer to Hashem and that is our primary goal here at Beyond Teshuva. Hopefully, we all realize that we can use improvement in the areas of hearing, listening, understanding and communicating – essential skills in the process of spreading Kedusha.

Let us all rededicate ourselves to Jewish Achdus as we use the holiday of Purim for the purpose it was intended.

First published March 14, 2006

Purim and The Search for Yossi

“The more often and earlier a child smokes, drinks and uses marijuana, the likelier that child is to use harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.”

“It’s all about children. A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol is virtually certain never to do so.”

“Teens who smoke cigarettes are 12 times likelier to use marijuana and more than 19 times likelier to use cocaine”.

– Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Chairman and President

Read more Purim and The Search for Yossi

Drinking On Purim – Old Lows or New Highs

Rugby and beer go together. There’s nothing like an ice cold beer after a hard rugby game. It soothes your aching, wounded body. It makes you relax. After a couple of beers you feel strong again, almost ready for another game or some other adventure. That’s the problem with alcohol, it clouds your judgment. It makes you think you are a different person than you really are. Maybe that’s part of its appeal. We can escape our lives and be someone else, even it is only for a while. I used to enjoy a beer or two after a game, but I saw too many rugby players and others, become a little too adventurous for my liking, to allow myself to get into that situation.

On Purim, we also drink and we also pretend we are someone else. We dress up in costume. But there’s a very important difference. On Purim, we are trying to find out who we really are. We are trying to strip away the external layers which hold us back from getting closer to G-d. That’s why when a true talmid chacham, a Torah scholar, drinks on Purim, what comes out of his mouth is no different than on a regular day. Because who he is internally, is exactly who he is externally.
Read more Drinking On Purim – Old Lows or New Highs

Living History

Mordechai and Esther's TombToday I was speaking with a business associate who mentioned that his father was born and raised in Hamadan, Iran also known as Shush or Shushan HaBira–the setting for the Purim drama. Hamadan is located between Teheran and Iran’s western border with Iraq. He mentioned that his father is very proud of his birthplace–Hamadan literally means “place of knowledge” and its inhabitants were generally regarded as very intelligent. Interestingly, Hamadan was the first Iranian province to allow Jews to own property. He also mentioned that Esther and Mordechai are the most popular names for Jews born in Hamadan and he himself has numerous relatives bearing these names.

The ancient wooden tombs of Esther and Mordechai still lay, side by side, today in Hamadan under a simple brick dome. One tomb, draped in shimmering cloths, is labelled “Esther” in English and Hebrew. The other, draped in vibrant colors, reads “Mordechai” in English and Hebrew.

Who Turned Off the Lights?

Today is the first of Adar. As you are likely aware, that marks the beginning of a month of increased simcha (joy). The first of Adar is also the date that Hashem wrought the maka of choshech– the Plague of Darkness — on Egypt.

As Adar begins, we begin our preparation for Purim. (I already began scarfing hamentshen). I’m wondering what the connection is between darkness and simcha/Purim. One thing I can see (pun intended) is that Adar is the month where we see through the darkness of the world and perceive what is really going on. Just like during the makka of choshech, even in a world of darkness, we have the ability to see things clearly. Anyone else care to take a stab at this seemingly contradictory connection?