Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Connecting Purim to Pesach

There is a very famous story that happened many years ago. It involves the Jews and the foreign land they lived in. The story contains a wicked oppressor and a great Jewish leader. It begins with the antagonist making a decree against the Jews and the protagonist coming and rescuing the Jewish people and freeing them from oppression. Also, the oppressor was smitten in ten ways and in the end he was killed.
Many might think that I am referring to Passover, but in truth I am talking about Purim. After the destruction of the first temple the Jews were sent into exile in Babylon (which later became part of the Persian Empire). Almost seventy years later they were oppressed by Haman, a very wicked man, who made a decree that every Jew should be killed. Mordechai, the leader and savior of the Jews, was able to save the Jews from destruction. In the end Haman was smitten in ten ways by having his ten sons hanged on the gallows along with himself.

These similarities bring about a very interesting correlation between Passover and Purim and reveals to us the similarities between Mordechai and Moshe as well as the similarities between Haman and Pharoh. The renewal of the dedication to the Torah by the Jews during Purim was so great that it is referred to as kimu vikiblu (establishing and keeping) and is compared to the receiving of the Torah (Esther 9:27). So the question here remains that if it is supposed to be just like Passover and the only difference is that one was for the First coming into Israel and one was for the second coming, since Jews returned to Israel after Purim, what happened? Why was the second coming so much weaker than the first coming and why did Mordechai, the savior of Purim, not lead it? By Passover the entire congregation of Israel came to the land without hesitation, but by Purim there was much hesitation and only 43,000 people came at first. Also, if Mordechai is compared to Moshe why was he not the one to lead the Jewish people in, why was Ezra hasofer the one to lead the Jews into Eretz Yisroel?

Here we can delve into the differences between Passover and Purim. The biggest difference is that very few people went back with Ezra to Israel after Purim as apposed to when everyone left Egypt with Moshe. This seems to be caused through the fact that in Egypt Hashem let the Jewish people see his great miracles openly whereas the Jews of Persia only realized how Hashem guided the events secretly. In Egypt, Hashem had these cataclysmic wonders destroy the Egyptians, but in Persia Hashem made everything occur naturally and through the Jewish people defending themselves. They fought against non-Jews that attacked them and killed 75,000 of them as it is stated in Megilas Esther (Chapter 9), but that was a hidden miracle.

Based on this we can point out the difference in thinking by the redemption in Egypt and in Persia. In Egypt, the Jews were so overcome by all of the plagues and wonders that they automatically accepted Hashem and there was no way to deny Him or ignore what He said. However, by Persia the Jews realized the wonders and miracles Hashem did, but He performed them in such a way that people could be less wowed by them. People thanked Hashem, but returning to Israel was still not important enough to forgo the comfort of the Persian Jews current living situation. Especially when we see what happened to the Jews in the books of Ezra and Nechemia. There were constant raids on the Jews trying to rebuild Jerusalem and many people died. There was no security and one would be putting blind faith in Hashem. This blind faith was attainable for everyone in Egypt, but the slightest bit of doubt would turn anyone away in Persia since Hashem only performed hidden miracles and there was no guarantee of redemption, in most people’s minds. This lack of faith is what caused the Second temple to be much weaker in spiritual holiness than the first temple.

The next difference is the leaders of the two holidays, Moshe and Mordechai. Both were undoubtedly great men and had much fear of heaven, but there was a difference. This can be seen in the listing of names of prominent people in Ezra and Nechemiah by the different houses that came to Israel. Among these names of prominent people, Mordechai is mentioned. There is, however, one discrepancy in these two different books. In Ezra, Mordechai is mentioned 5,th whereas in Nechemiah, he is mentioned 6th. So the question here is why exactly was he mentioned later in the book that takes place at a later time period? What caused him to be given less honor and be mentioned later?

My Rebbe, Rav Parnes, wanted to say the following. If we look at Mordechai in the book of Esther we see that at the end of the story he became the viceroy of Persia. Now, a Jewish scholar is given his position based on his knowledge and expertise in Halacha. The head of the court should be the most knowledgeable and, usually, the person given the most respect is the one who knows the most and is the wisest. So, what my Rebbe wanted to say was that maybe it could be that Mordechai got too involved in politics and never really went back to learning like he did before the Purim story. Yes, public affairs are important, but once they are finished with and everything is set straight the scholar needs to go back to his usual studies, otherwise he will become less of an expert and not be as knowledgeable. This could have been what happened to Mordechai. He might have gotten too caught up with being the viceroy and did not return to his learning and thereby he became less of an expert. It is because of this he may have been demoted in status compared to others. However, this is the opposite of Moshe who was able to juggle the role of being a leader and learn as much as he needed to in order to remain the ultimate authority. Nevertheless, both were great men and magnificent leaders.

These two differences could be the cause for why Mordechai was not the one to lead the Jews into Israel and why the people of Egypt all came to Israel instead of just a fraction. This is not a good excuse though, just an area for future generations to work on. We, for example, need to look at Purim and at Passover and be able to say that just like Pesach was from G-D so too was Purim.

No comments: