Monday, February 22, 2010

Toras Purim 5770

Toras Purim Deluxe 5770

Prepared by: Rabbi Binyomin Adler, best remembered for Toras Purim which was not deluxe. Stay tuned for the difference between deluxe and non-deluxe.

Ok so here we are again, at the crossroads of history, and actually, at the crossroads of the Jewish calendar. Tu Bishvat is behind us and we are approaching Purim. Tu Bishvat is when we celebrate the renewal of the trees, and we pray for a good Esrog. Purim is when Haman gets hung on the tree, and guess what, he actually forgot about the Esrog. What does that mean, you wonder? Well, it is said (Tehillim 36:12) al tivoeini regel gaavah, do not bring me to the foot of arrogance, and the Arizal writes that the first letters of these words form an acrostic for the word Esrog. Thus, we can deduce that one who searches for a beautiful Esrog must have humility, and to say the least, that was the least character trait that Haman was endowed with. So, we must learn the lesson from the Esrog tree and not get carried away with ourselves. Actually, come to think of it, that could be the connection between the Esrog and this month of joy. The Esrog is referred to in the Torah as a pri eitz hadar, and yes, you guessed it, the word hadar is pretty similar to the word Adar. I know, I know, there’s one slight problem, and that is that the word hadar begins with a hey, whereas the word Adar begins with the letter aleph. Ok, so the easy way out of that pickle is that the letters hey and aleph are interchangeable. Ever wonder how we can just interchange letters? Well, imagine if Haman was Aman. Hmm, that wouldn’t work so well, you say. In truth, it makes perfect sense, because the Gemara (Megillah 11a) quotes the verse that states (Tehillim 124:2) lulei HaShem shehayah lanu bikum aleinu adam, had not HaShem been with us when men rose up against us. The Gemara makes the following deduction: adam vilo melech, man and not a king, and this refers to Haman, So you see that Haman and “A man” are similar. And that follows the rule of interchanging the letters hey and aleph. Well, not really interchanging them. Rather, dropping the hey from Haman. That may not sound fair, but let’s remember that the Name of HaShem is a yud a hey a vav and a hey. And what did Amalek come and do? He dropped the vav and hey from HaShem’s Name and it is our job to restore it. So it makes perfect sense that we should drop the hey from Haman’s name. It would be even better if we could drop all the letters from his name. However, it’s a good feeling when we blot out his entire name year after year, when we bang on Purim upon hearing Haman’s name. Don’t start yet. First read this entire page and then you’ll really appreciate all that banging.
Ok, so now that we have discussed a thing or two about Haman’s arrogance and his name, what is going to be this year’s Toras Purim theme? Well, I thought that we would take one of the most famous statements said regarding Purim and delve into its history a little bit. In case you were wondering what statement that is, it is the statement made by the Holy Arizal, who said that Yom Kippurim is Yom Ki-Purim. Literally translated, that means that the Day of Atonement is like Purim. Thus, Purim is even more holy and special than Yom Kippur. So let’s take a look inside the Megillah and offer some support for this profound statement. Hang on tight, don’t fall off your horse, and get off your high horse so you do not come anywhere near Haman and his gang!
Vayehi bimei Achashveirosh hu Achashveirosh hamoleich meiHodu viad Kush sheva viesrim umeiah medinah.
The word bimei means in the days of. This alludes to the Gemara (Brachos 8b) that states that that whoever eats and drinks on the ninth of Tishrei (Erev Yom Kippur) is deemed to have fasted on the ninth and tenth of Tishrei. Thus, these are the two days alluded to in the Megillah. The name Achashveirosh can be understood as follows. The aleph and the ches equal in gematria nine, alluding to one who eats and drinks on the ninth of Tishrei. The next letters are shin, vav, reish, and vav. The second vav can be interchanged with the letter fey, and those four letters read the word shofar. The Torah only mentions the word shofar regarding Yom Kippur. (Regarding Rosh Hashanah the Torah only states teruah.) Now there is still one letter remaining and that is the last shin in the name Achashveirosh. There is a rule that the letters shin and sin are interchangeable (this sounds like Purim Torah, where everything is vinahafoch hu, upside down and switched around). So the sin stands for simcha, joy. When do we blow the shofar on Yom Kippur? We blow the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur. The Medrash states that following Yom Kippur, a bas kol, a heavenly voice, proclaims the verse (Koheles 9:7) lech echol bisimcha lachmecha ushisei bilev tov yeinecho ki chevar ratzah haElokim es maasecho, go, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a glad heart, for G-d has already approved your deeds. That is why after blowing the Shofar we are told to be joyful. Now the next word in the Megillah is hu, he. The letter hey alludes to Hoshana Rabbah, which according to the Kabbalists is the final judgment from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The letters vav and aleph equal in gematria 7, and Hoshana Rabbah is the seventh day of Sukkos. We then have the name Achashveirosh again, and the letters aleph and ches equal in gematria nine, and the letter shin, which we now know is interchangeable with the letter sin, alludes to Simchas Torah, which in the Diaspora is the ninth day of Sukkos. Furthermore, the letters vav reish vav shin equal 17 in mispar katan, digit sum (ok, I’ll explain what that means. Reish normally equals 200 in gematria. In the world of mispar katan, however, we remove the zeros, and are left with 2). So 8 alludes to Simchas Torah, the eighth day in Eretz Yisroel, or to Shemini Atzeres, the eighth day of Sukkos in the Diaspora. The word meiHodu, from Hodu, alludes to our recital of Hallel on Sukkos, when we recite the words Hodu laHaShem ki tov numerous times. The words viad Kush, to Cush, allude to the Simchas Bais Hashoeiva that was performed in the Bais HaMikdash, as the Gemara (Sukkah 51b) tells us that the joy at the Simchas Bais Hashoeiva was a beautiful sight. Back to Yom Kippur now. The words sheva viesrim, twenty seven, allude to the two goats that were chosen on Yom Kippur. One goat was brought as a sacrifice and the second goat was brought to a place called Azazel, where they pushed it off the cliff as an atonement for the Jewish People. In the words sheva viesrim are contained the following words: (the letter) beis, seirim, which alludes to the two goats, and the word Esav, as the Medrash (Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer §22) states that the goat that was pushed off the cliff alludes to Esav being distanced from the Jewish People on Yom Kippur. Ok, one more for Yom Kippur before we move on to other holidays. Now this one you have to hold on to your seats for, as it’s a bit of a wild ride. The word umeiah, a hundred, forms an acrostic for the words (Tehillim 148:4) vihamayim asher meial hashamayim, and the water that are above the heavens. What, you may ask, does this verse have to do with Yom Kippur? Well, the word mayim alludes to the flood that HaShem brought upon the world in the times of Noach. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 108b) states that one of the reasons that the flood came was because people then were guilty of the sin of intentionally wasting seed. This sin is alluded to as water (In fact, the Gemara there states that the generation of the flood acted corruptly with a boiling substance (semen) by engaging in immorality, and it was therefore with boiling water that they were punished. This is derived as follows: Concerning the end of the flood it is said (Bereishis 8:1) vayashoku hamayim, the waters subsided, and it is written (Esther 7:10) vachamas hamelech shachacha, and the king’s anger cooled down. It is noteworthy that the Gemara brings support from a verse in Esther). Now, the Gemar elsewhere (Yoma 86a) states that Teshuvah, repentance, is so great that it reaches the Heavenly Throne. Thus, the meaning of the word umeiah is that one who committed this grievous sin of wasting seed on Yom Kippur can repent and be saved from a harsh judgment, which is alluded to in the next word medinah, literally translated as provinces, but homiletically interpreted to mean judgment. The connection to Yom Kippur is because the Gemara (Ibid 88a) states that one who experiences a seminal emission on Yom Kippur should wait out the year and if he lives, this is a sign that his repentance was accepted and he earns a share in the World to Come.
Bayamim haheim kisheves hamelech Achashveirosh al Kisei malchuso asher bishushan habira.
The next verse states bayamim haheim, in those days. We will now work backwards, as this alludes to the two days of Rosh HaShanah. The word haheim, those, reflects the following: hey and hey equals in gematria 10, alluding to the ten days of repentance between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The mem alludes to the forty days of favor that begin with the first day of Elul and continue through Yom Kippur. The words kisheves hamelech Achashveirosh al Kisei malchuso, when King Achashveirosh sat on his royal throne, alludes to HaShem sitting on His Throne of Justice on Rosh Hashanah. The next words asher bishushan habira, which was in Shushan the capital, allude to our acknowledgement of HaShem as the ruler of the world. This is based on the Medrash that states that Avraham was seeking to discover what controlled the world, and the Medrash states that Avraham’s search was analogous to one who passes by a birah, a castle, that is burning, and he wonders, “who is the baal Habira, the owner of the castle?” The owner, in this case, HaShem, responded, “I am the owner of the castle.” Thus, the birah here alludes to the world, which HaShem rules. The word Shushan, a rose, can allude to Avraham, as he was like shoshanah bein hacochim, a rose amongst the thorns. He was righteous in contrast to most of his generation who were wicked.
Bishnas shalosh limalcho asah mishteh lichol sarav vaavadav cheil Paras uMadai hapartimim visarei hamedinos lifanav.
The next verse states bishnas shalosh limalcho, In the third year of his reign, and this alludes to Chanukah, which occurs in the third month of the year, starting from Tishrei. Additionally, the first letters of the words bishnas shalosh limalcho equal 8 in mispar katan, digit sum (you know how that works already!), alluding to the eight days of Chanukah. Furthermore, the word limalcho in mispar katan equals 9, and this alludes to the nine candles that we light, including the shamash, “the serving candle.” If you wonder what right we have to include the shamash in the gematria, stay tuned shortly for the answer. The words asah mishteh, he made a feast, alludes to the opinions of the Rambam, the Yam Shel Shlomo, and others, that Chanukah is also a time of joy and one should celebrate with festive meals. The words lichol sarav vaavadav, for all his officials and his servants, alludes to the shamash that we mentioned above, as all the servants are invited to the king’s feast. Additionally, the word vaavadav (98) equals in gematria Chanukah (89) +9, alluding to our lighting of 9 candles on Chanukah. The next words are cheil Paras uMadai, the army of Persia and Media. The first letters of the words cheil paras (88) equal in gematria Chanukah (89). Additionally, the word paras in at bash [Time for some more education: at bash worlds like this: aleph is interchangeable with taf, bais is interchangeable with shin, etc.] (vav gimel ches) equals 17, and 1+7=8, which alludes to the eight days of Chanukah. Furthermore, the last letters of the words cheil Paras uMadai equal in gematria 100 and this equals in gematria zeh Chanukah, this is Chanukah (101). The next word is hapartimim, the nobles. The word hapartimim, when rearranging the letters, is an acrostic for the words parah tamim, a perfect cow. What does this have to do with Chanukah? The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) states that according to the opinion of Bais Shammai, one lights on the first night of Chanukah eight lights and the second night seven, until the last night he lights one. One of the reasons for this is based on the idea that on Sukkos we are instructed to bring seventy bulls (parim) corresponding to the seventy nations of the world. The first day of Sukkos thirteen bulls were brought, the second day twelve bulls were brought, until the seventh day when seven bulls were brought. This descent of offerings symbolized that the nations of the world would also eventually disappear. Similarly, Bais Shammai maintains that we light the Chanukah lights in descending order, parallel to the seventy bulls that were offered on Sukkos (This is not the place to discuss the connection between Sukkos and Chanukah, but a hint to the association could be in the fact that the word Sukkos means to see (socheh) and one of the important features of the Chanukah lights is that one should see the lights.) Finally, it is said visarei hamedinos lifanav, and officials of the provinces being present. So here’s something amazing. The words visarei hamedinos lifanav (1207) equal in gematria exactly the words shmoneh neiros Chanukah +25+36; eight candles, Chanukah, 25 is the day of Kisleiv when Chanukah begins, and 36 is the total amount of candles that we light on the eight days of Chanukah.
Now for the grand finale (for this year).
Biharoso es osher kivod malchuso vies yikar tiferes gedulaso yamim rabim shmonim umeas yom.
The word biharoso, when he displayed forms an acrostic for the following words: bikeish Haman Rasha ibud tor vigozal, Haman the wicked sought the destruction of the turtledove and a young dove (a reference to the Jewish People – see Bereishis 15:9). Es is an acrostic for the words oso timcheh, him (Haman) you should obliterate. Osher, the riches, is an acrostic for the words al sheim rishaso, meaning that he should be destroyed because of his wickedness. Kivod, [of his] glorious, is an acrostic for the words kol veiso urichusho danu, all his house and his wealth were judged, i.e. given over to Esther and Mordechai. The next word, malchuso, his kingdom, forms an acrostic for the words manos lireieihu kesef vizahav ten vitein, portions to a friend, silver and gold, give and give. This alludes to the mitzvah that every Jew has on Purim to give two friends two portions of food. Furthermore, this alludes to the mitzvah that every Jew has on Purim to give money to the poor. The next word vies forms an acrostic for the words umegillas Esther tikra, meaning that you should read the book of Esther. The next word is yikar, honor which forms an acrostic for the words yisu kolam raash, they will lift their voices, a tumult, alluding to the custom of making noise and a tumult when Haman’s name is mentioned during the reading of the Megillah. The next word is tiferes, splendorous, which forms an acrostic for the words taasu Purim Adar rishon tinyana, make Purim (in) Adar, the first (Adar Rishon) and the second (Adar Sheini). The next word is gedulaso, majesty, which forms an acrostic for the words gemol dalim vigam laevyoinm ten vitein, provide aid to the poor and destitute, give and give, alluding to the mitzvah of Matanos Laevyoinm, giving gifts to the poor on Purim. The last words allude to the festivals of Pesach and Shavuos. The word yamim, days, is an acrostic for the words yud makkos yatzu miMitzrayim, ten plagues (to the Egyptians) and they (the Jewish People) left Egypt. The next word is rabim, many, which forms an acrostic for the words rau bayam yigaleh malchuso, they saw by the sea (that) He revealed His kingship. The next word is shemonim, eighty, and forms an acrostic for the words shifcha meihem vigam Neviim yemino mauzo, (even) a maidservant from them (the Jewish People) and prophets, His right (hand) and His strength (they saw). The next word umeas, and a hundred, forms an acrostic for the words vihisiam Moshe el Torah, and from there Moshe caused the Jewish People to journey towards Torah (Sinai). The next word is yom, day, which forms an acrostic for the words Yisro ubinei Moshe, Yisro and the sons of Moshe (arrived to receive the Torah).
As you can see, the Megillah is endless with hints and allusions to major events in Jewish history. The Medrash states that the Name of HaShem is not found in the Megillah. Thus, our job is to find HaShem in the Megillah, i.e. to discover HaShem’s Presence in the darkness and concealment.
The Gemara (Chullin 139b) states, how do we know Esther from the Torah? The answer is that it is said (Devarim 31:18) vianochi hasteir panai bayom hahu, but I will surely have concealed My face on that day. Upon examination of this verse, a question arises. Prior to this verse it is said (verse 17) vicharah api vo vayom hahu vaazvtim vihistarti panai meihem vihayah leechol umitzauhu raos rabos vitzaros viamar bayom hahu halo al ki ain Elokai bikirbi mitzauni haraos haeileh, my anger will flare against it on that day and I will forsake them; and I will conceal My face from them and they will become prey, and many evils and distresses will encounter it. It will say on that day, ‘Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?’ The question here is, in verse 17 it is already stated that HaShem will conceal His face. Why, then, did the Gemara not choose the earlier verse to prove that Esther is hinted at in the Torah?
The answer to this question is very profound and in essence explains all of our encounters with a Amalek and the forces of evil. Initially when the Jewish People sin and HaShem conceals His Presence from them, it is meant to be a warning sign that HaShem is displeased with our behavior. Yet, the Jew often responds with the words ‘Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?’ We find that the Torah explicitly states this response subsequent to the liberation from Egypt. Upon arriving in Refidim and not finding water, the Jewish People complained and HaShem provided them with water. It is said (Shemos 17:7) vayikra sheim hamakom masah umerivah al riv binei Yisroel vial nasosam es HaShem leimor hayeish HaShem bikirbeinu im ayin, He called the place Masah Umerivah, because of the contention of the Children of Israel and because of their test of HaShem, saying, “Is HaShem among us or not?” Subsequent to this incident Amalek attacked the Jewish people for the first time. Thus, we see that when the Jewish People are uncertain whether HaShem is involved in their daily lives, HaShem causes Amalek to appear. The Jewish People are then scared, as they were with the decree of Haman, and then HaShem saves us. It is for this reason that the Gemara chose the second verse that mentions concealment. When the Jews fail to learn the lesson and they declare that the evil has befallen them because HaShem is not in their midst, then HaShem proclaims, ‘but I will surely have concealed My face on that day.’ When the Jewish People do not initially get the message that HaShem is sending them, HaShem conceals himself further, and it is only then that they are awakened to repentance and HaShem saves them.
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 97b) states that according to one opinion, if the Jewish People do not repent, HaShem will bring upon them a king whose decrees are as harsh as Haman’s and that will coerce us into repentance. It should be HaShem’s will that we get the message prior to a deep concealment and we repent on our own, thus heralding the much awaited redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days. Amen.
Wait! Don’t put this down yet. Here are few more interesting discoveries regarding Purim and the Megillah.
The name Amalek is the same gematria as ram, high. Thus, Amalek positioned himself as on the same level with HaShem on High. The word Amalek can be rearranged to read kam al, he rose up upon. It is said (Tehillim 124:2) lulei HaShem shehayah lanu bikum aleinu adam, had not HaShem been with us when men rose up against us. The Gemara (Megillah ) interprets this verse to be referring to Haman. Here again we see the words bikum aleinu, rose up against us, to be referring to a descendant of Amalek. Furthermore, the name Amalek is equal in gematria to the words Haman hakam, Haman, the one who rises up.
Ok, now it’s time for some Purim maasos. Enjoy.
Becoming you
There is a well known story of a Badchan who was the PURIM RAV at the Purim tish of the Satmar Rebbe (Rav Yoel) zt”l and he started imitating the way the Rebbe davened on Yom Kippur. His voice, his niggun, copious tears etc. and suddenly the Rebbe himself started to cry. The Purim Rav became concerned and worried and frightfully asked the Rebbe what he has done wrong. The Rebbe assured him that there was nothing to be concerned about. He said, “as I was marveling over your perfect imitation of me I started to ponder whether I am really also only imitating myself.”
A Purim secret
Nissan was a wealthy man who lived in Yargin, a small town near Pressburg, the capital city of Czechoslovakia. When younger, he had been a student at the famous Pressburg Yeshiva. He and his wife were already married for many years, but still had not been blessed with children. When, finally, a son was born to him in 5583 (1823), it was no surprise, that he honored his former teacher, the world-renowned scholar known as the "Chasam Sofer" to perform the circumcision. Unfortunately, the bris had to be postponed because of the weak health of the baby. It wasn't till several weeks later that it was announced that it would take place on...Purim!
At the bris, the Chasam Sofer was glowing with "light, happiness, joy and honor." Whether it was the joy of Purim Day, happiness for his student or a combination of both, nobody knew. After completing the circumcision, when he dipped his finger in the wine to place a drop in the baby’s mouth (following custom), he raised his voice and called out very loudly the Talmudic expression, Nichnas yayin yatza sod--"When wine goes in, secrets come out."
The baby was given an appropriate name for a Purim bris, Baruch Mordechai, which means "blessed be Mordechai," from the paragraph recited after the Megillah readings.
The child grew. At an early age he was already outstanding in character and religious observance. However, much to the distress of his parents, his ability to understand Torah was not at a par. As a boy, he didn't seem any different than his age-mates, but after his bar-mitzvah, when he entered the famous Pressburg Yeshiva, it was noticeable that he was having major difficulties in his studies.
In truth, he was very diligent. He would sit absorbed in the holy books from morning to evening. But whenever he was asked to repeat or explain anything he was unable to respond, and could only sit silently.
His less sensitive classmates liked to make fun of him because of this. Once, when he left his place for a few minutes, they switched his volume of Talmud for one of another subject entirely, leaving it open to the same number page he had been on. When he resumed his seat, he didn't seem to notice the difference at all.
When he turned eighteen, The "Ksav Sofer" (who had replaced his recently departed father as the head of the yeshiva) advised his parents to send him to the Land of Israel. Perhaps there, where "the air of the Holy Land makes wise," his studies would prosper.
His parents decided to do it. They hoped it would also enable him to make a good match.
Baruch Mordechai arrived in Jerusalem with a letter of recommendation from Rabbi Shraga Feldheim, mashgiach (study-supervisor) at Pressburg, which said that he "is truly pious, prays with great devotion, and that his desire to learn Torah is sincere and enormous."
One of the scholarly leaders of the Jerusalem community then, Rabbi Yeshaya Bardaki, "adopted" Baruch Mordechai, concerning himself for all of his needs. He was impressed with the young man’s sterling character and piousness, but he could not fathom how someone who had done nothing but study Torah diligently all his life could have retained so little.
When Baruch Mordechai reached age twenty, Rabbi Bardaki found a bride for him: a simple girl from a good family in Jerusalem who wouldn't mind that her husband was an ignoramus.
Several years after the wedding, Baruch Mordechai began to work as a water carrier. He was honest to an extreme, and as a result quickly became very popular. Every Rosh Chodesh (1st of the month), he would deliver water to his regular customers for free; he worried that over the course of the previous month water may have spilled, whereas he had charged for full buckets.
For more than forty years Baruch Mordechai toiled at his chosen profession, the whole time in joyous spirit and with gratitude to G-d for his lot. He took special satisfaction from servicing the many Torah scholars within the walls of Jerusalem; he considered this a great merit and refused to accept payment from them. It anguished him that the great scholar, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Diskin, refused to take water from him. "I cannot allow myself to be served by the likes of Reb Baruch Mordechai," he would say--but refused to explain his words.
On Purim Day 5653 (1893), at the time of the festive meal, most of the chassidim and notables of Old City Jerusalem crowded, as every year, into the home of Rabbi Schneur Zalman Fradkin of Lublin, the celebrated author of the scholarly book, Toras Chesed. The atmosphere was exceptionally joyous, even for a Purim celebration. Everyone was constantly erupting into lively song and dance, and there was a complimentary flow of wine and wise words.
All of a sudden, Baruch Mordechai called out to the host in a loud voice from the midst of the swaying Chassidim, "Rebbe! Today is seventy years exactly since my bris."
Everyone smiled tolerantly, figuring such an outburst from the simple water carrier could only be a result of all the Purim wine he had imbibed.
"If so," responded Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "you deserve an extra-large measure of liChayim."
Immediately a large tumbler of a special strong wine was poured and passed to Baruch Mordechai, who speedily dispatched it as commanded.
It had an immediate effect. The elderly water-carrier began to sing and dance energetically.
The sage's reaction was surprising. He looked up at Baruch Mordechai and shouted over the crowd: "It would be nice if you would stop fooling around already and honor the holy assemblage with some strong words of Halacha and agaddah (Torah law and lore)."
Suddenly there was silence. Everyone's gaze shifted in amused anticipation to the tipsy Baruch Mordechai as he climbed up to stand on the table and began to speak.
But then, all the grins slowly gave way to wide-eyed stares of astonishment as it penetrated their ears that the water-carrier was discoursing enthusiastically on scholarly Purim topics and peppering his words with learned citations from the Talmudic tractate Megillah and a variety of Midrashim and works of Jewish Law. And he waxed on and on! Indeed, if the strong wine hadn't finally taken its toll, it seemed that he could have continued indefinitely.
Even before the holiday was over, the news of the extraordinary scholarship of the unassuming water-carrier had spread throughout Jerusalem. The community was in an uproar. How had they allowed such an accomplished scholar to be disdained in their midst, and to labor as a mere water-carrier for so many years. And how had his erudition remained hidden for so long?
A few of the elders of the community recalled hearing of the mysterious words of the Chasam Sofer seventy years before. Now, some clever minds were saying they could finally be understood.
Nichnas yayin yatza sod--"Wine enters, secrets emerge." Yayin (wine), spelled yud-yud-nun, has a numerical value of seventy, and so does samech-vov-dalet, the word for secret!
Purim of the Curtains ∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂
You probably think I am joking, and the relationship between Purim and curtains goes no further than a Purim joke. Well, you are wrong. There was really a Purim of the Curtains, originally called “Purim Vorhang,” and like the first Purim of Shushan and the other local Purims celebrated in different countries, it commemorates the miraculous salvation of a Jewish community from the hands of their enemies.
Purim of the Curtains used to be celebrated in the middle of the winter, on the twenty-second of Tevet, two months before our regular Purim. Its story happened more than 300 years ago in the once famous large Jewish Ghetto of Prague, in Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic). As far as we know this is how it originated:
Rudolph of Wenceslav, the governor of Bohemia, was one of those who resented the rise of Jewish fortunes during the reign of Ferdinand II. He considered it a personal affront when a man like the wealthy Jacob Schmieles of the Prague Ghetto was knighted and bore the noble title of Bassevi of Truenberg. But there was little he could do to the Jews of Prague, which in those days counted more than 1,000 people, many of them rich and influential merchants and bankers. For the memory and influence of Chief Rabbi Judah Loew, famous as the “Maharal,” was still felt among Jews and non-Jews. Thus, despite all efforts, the governor was not able to provoke any riots or pogroms of major proportion. But one day in the winter of 5383 (1623) Providence really seemed to play into his hands.
Among the treasure of his palace were heavy gold brocade curtains, artfully woven by a famous medieval master weaver from Brussels. They were considered invaluable, and the governor was responsible for them to the crown. All through the spring, summer and fall, till the middle of winter, they were stored away so that the sun and dust would not harm their precious texture. December came and Chamberlain Hradek, next to Rudolph of Wenceslav the mightiest man in all of Bohemia, gave orders to have all the velvet and brocade curtains and the Persian carpet taken out of storage to prepare the palace for the festival season. Everything proceeded in proper order, for each piece of the precious ornaments and furnishings had been carefully recorded and systematically stored away. At the bottom of the list were the famous gold brocade curtains of the stateroom. As usual they had been placed in the huge iron chest in the cellar that held the most valuable articles of the palace.
The important day came when Hradek himself went down into the cellar to make sure that the servants treated the precious materials carefully. The heavy iron lid of the chest was opened and the yellow glow of the candles showed-could it be possible? -nothing but the bare brown wood of the cedar-lined iron chest. Everyone present gasped, and a cry of horror passed from the cellar through the hundreds of halls and rooms of the palace, up to the battlements of the watchtower. Soon the governor himself heard the shocking news of the missing gold curtains. He ordered an immediate investigation. No one was permitted to leave or to enter the palace. Raging like a furious lion, Rudolph of Wenceslav questioned every one of the employees, from the chamberlain down to the lowest cleaning woman-but to no avail. They all staunchly denied any knowledge of, or connection with, the theft of the precious curtains.
“If they are not back here by tonight,” roared the governor at the frightened servants who were gathered in his office, “I’ll have all of you thrown into prison.” There was no doubt in any one’s mind that he really meant it.
After a few minutes of heavy silence-interrupted only by the furious pacing of the governor from one corner of the huge office to the other, and the violent rapping of his riding-crop against his boots-the chamberlain suggested that the governor order all of the city’s pawnshops and warehouses searched by his soldiers. “If your honor permits, I’d suggest keeping a special eye on the stores and shops of the Jewish dealers. They have a liking for stolen merchandise,” Hradek added maliciously.
Rudolph of Wenceslav was highly pleased with the advice of his chamberlain, and shortly afterwards, troops of his soldiers combed every store and shop of Prague that might possibly hide the golden curtains. They sealed off the Ghetto, and without telling anyone of the object of their search they turned every house inside out, in futile search and vengeful destruction.
One troop of soldiers came also to the large house and store of Enoch Altschul, who was one of the patrician leaders of the Prague Ghetto and a scholar as well as a wealthy merchant. Without care or consideration the rough soldiers searched every closet, chest and drawer, and threw their contents all over the floor in wild disorder. Unable to find what they were looking for, they put a pistol to the breast of Enoch Altschul and threatened to shoot him if he did not reveal where he had hidden his most precious merchandise. Rather than risk his life, Enoch Altschul opened the secret vault in the back of his store. Among other precious goods stored in the plain wooden closet behind the wall covering, soldiers came upon a pile of heavy, glittering materials. With a hoarse cry of fury and satisfaction, the soldiers pounced upon the old merchant, beat him and shackled him with heavy iron chains. The story of the theft and of the search spread like wildfire and brought out every citizen into the streets of Prague. At the point of their sabers they led Enoch Altschul through the silent and shocked crowds of the ghetto, and then through the wildly shouting crowds outside the ghetto. One glance at the open chest with the brocade curtains told the story; and before his guilt had been proven Enoch Altschul was given the vilest treatment ever accorded any common thief or criminal in public. As the procession left the ghetto, the guards immediately closed the chest, for there was no telling what the wild mob would do.
Governor Rudolph of Wenceslav was still furiously pacing the floor of his office when the soldiers brought in Enoch Altschul. The sight of the recovered curtains soothed his anger, yet he was even more pleased by the sight of the patriarchal Jew led before him in heavy chains. At once he realized that here was the opportunity for which he had been waiting ever since he had been appointed to the governorship, to humiliate the Jewish merchants and courtiers, and to do some looting among the treasure of the ghetto for his own and his people’s pockets. Outwardly, Rudolph of Wenceslav kept up his rage as he shouted all kinds of vile insults at Enoch Altschul.
The old Jew faced him quietly. His inner dignity only served to increase the governor’s rage. But neither by insults nor by vicious slaps with the riding-crop was Rudolph of Wenceslav able to make the old Jew betray how he had come into possession of the precious golden curtains from the governor’s palace.
“I gave my word of honor to a most noble member of your court. Unless he himself grants me permission, I am not able to explain the presence of these curtains in my house,” Enoch replied firmly.
“You thief! You have no honor, nor does your word hold any value. You are only trying to save your hide. But never mind! We shall see whether the whip can’t make you talk.”
Torture and flogging were not able to break the will of Enoch Altschul. Towards evening he was again brought, lying on a stretcher, before the governor. “Are you now ready to tell me who gave you the curtains?” the governor shouted at the limp figure. Too weak to answer, the old merchant merely shook his head feebly.
“You have time till tomorrow morning. If you don’t talk by nine o’clock, not only will you and your family hang from the highest tree that can be found in all of Prague but my people will be given permission to storm the ghetto.”
For the first time since being seized, Enoch Altschul lost his calm. No longer was he staking only his own life on his word of honor. The horrible meaning of the governor’s threat was obvious, and it shook his determination.
All through the night he tossed back and forth on his hard bed in the dark cell of the palace dungeon, his tortured body racked by pain. His was a terrible responsibility. Desperately, Enoch Altschul implored G-d for help and guidance. Was it more important to keep his oath to the man who had brought him the ill-fated curtains, despite the fact that he had now pretended not to notice him when he saw him carried before the governor? Or was the fate of the community too vital to be risked by his, Enoch’s, code of personal honor? Towards morning he fell into a restless sleep. Suddenly, the cell seemed illuminated. The image of his beloved teacher and friend, the sainted Rabbi Judah Loew, appeared before him and assured him that everything would turn out well in the end. Although he awoke immediately afterwards, Enoch Altschul felt deeply strengthened and encouraged by this dream. All the time until the guards came to take him before the governor, he kept on praying to G-d for His help. As he soon was to find out, though, he had not been the only one who had been unable to sleep that night, and to whom his master had also appeared in a dream.
Rudolph of Wenceslav was impatiently rapping his riding-crop on the top of his desk when Enoch was carried into the stateroom before the fully assembled court. Despite the tortures of the previous day, the old Jew looked calm and collected. Without a word the governor signaled to have Enoch carried to the large plaza crowded with hundreds of heavily armed soldiers. About them milled a large crowd of wildly shouting people, all seemingly waiting for something to happen.
“At a signal from this window they will break into every house of the ghetto,” Rudolph of Wenceslav. Yet before Enoch had a chance to speak, Hradek, the haughty chamberlain, threw himself between the governor and the Jewish merchant. His face as white as snow, he called excitedly to the astonished Rudolph:
“Mercy, your honor, mercy, I am the guilty one! Punish me, not this noble old man who thinks he is protecting your own personal honor!”
The governor and the entire court were shocked by the confession of the chamberlain. Incredulously they listened to his tale:
“Several months ago I was in urgent need of twenty five thousand ducats which I had lost in a night of heavy gambling. I could not think of any other way to pay this debt than by taking the precious gold brocade curtains from the palace chest and pawning them to the venerable Enoch Altschul, who has helped me in many a tight spot. In order to protect myself, I wrote a note in your name, signed and sealed with your seal. In it, I had you ask for the money, and promised kind treatment for the Jews of Prague if no one found out about this transaction. At the same time, the note threatened that if Enoch betrayed the secret to any person in the world, the entire ghetto would be severely punished. Not satisfied with the note, I had Enoch swear personally by his G-d and his honor to guard the secret as his life, for the sake of your reputation and political career.”
“When you questioned us, I advised you to have all Jewish stores and homes searched, because I knew your soldiers would recover the brocade curtains. I knew that you would not play long with the Jewish merchant in whose possession they were found, and that I could count on Enoch not to break his word of honor under any circumstances. Thus, both you and I would be helped. I almost succeeded. But during this past night I had a terrifying vision. After hours of trying vainly to quiet my guilty conscience, I fell asleep. In my dream the famous leader of the ghetto whom they called the Chief Rabbi Loew, who died several years ago, appeared to me. He was accompanied by that terrifying monster of clay, the Golem, feared by all the citizens of Prague. No one who dared to accuse an innocent Jew of a crime ever lived to escape the Golem’s crushing fingers. The voice of the old rabbi said quietly: “You had better tell the truth tomorrow!”
“Shaken by fever and fear I could hardly wait for the dawn of the morning, and for the hour when you had the Jew brought before you, to confess my guilt in public.”
As he spoke, the chamberlain’s hands were constantly fumbling with the collar of his coat at his throat, as if to free himself from someone’s clutches. After he had finished the tale of his shameful deceit, he fainted and slid to the ground before the governor and the members of the gathered court, terror written all over his lifeless face and figure.
Enoch Altschul was at once freed from his chains and the soldiers dispersed the waiting mob instead of leading it to attack the ghetto, as had been their original purpose.
In commemoration of this miraculous turn of events, Enoch Altschul asked his people to celebrate “Purim of the Curtains” every twenty-second day of Tevet, the date when this incident took place. For more than one hundred years the Altschul family, and with them the entire Jewish community of Prague, observed this celebration faithfully, and commemorated their salvation from the accusation of stealing the famous gold brocade curtains from the palace of the governor of Bohemia.
Purim Chevron
Among the special "Purims" which are celebrated by certain Jewish communities on certain days of the year, to commemorate some miracle, there is also a special "Purim" which the Sephardic Jews of Chevron used to celebrate on the fourteenth day of Teves. The historic details of this happening are hidden in the mists of the remote past. Our story is based on that event.
Many, many years ago the old city of Chevron was inhabited by a community of Sephardic Jews who had been driven out of Spain and other Christian lands where Jews were cruelly oppressed.
One day two venerable Jews arrived in Chevron from Jerusalem, for the purpose of collecting money for "Pidyon Shvuim" (obtaining release of Jews from Slave traders).
The two emissaries met with the heads of the community and explained their important mission, namely, to collect not less than five thousand piasters from the Chevron community, for their lifesaving endeavor.
The heads of the community knew that, with a vigorous effort, they could manage to raise the required sum, but they claimed that "Charity begins at home," and they had to meet the needs of their own poor people first. So they "bargained" with the emissaries who insisted, however, that nothing less than the five thousand piasters would be acceptable. And if the Chevron community refused, or were unable to raise the required sum, the Almighty would show them where the necessary help would be available, and the Chevron Jews would lose the great merit of "Pidyon Shvuim" saving Jewish souls.
The arguments and entreaties of the emissaries proved in vain, and they left empty-handed.
Now a new Pasha came into power as ruler over Chevron, and he was a Jew-hater. He lost no time in introducing new edicts against the Jewish community, draining them of their hard earned money. At first he began in a moderate manner, but very soon tired of this slow process, and looked for some way in which he could make a clean sweep and cash in all that the Jews possessed.
The Pasha was an educated man who mastered several languages in addition to Arabic which was his native tongue. He read in history books, accounts of how Christian rulers treated the Jews in their lands, and learned that, in some cases, they threw rabbis and Jewish leaders into prison until such time as their Jewish communities would ransom them for huge sums of money. Some Christian rulers, he found, even went to the extent of driving the Jews out of their country; robbing them of all their possessions.
This latter possibility appealed greatly to this Jew hating Pasha. He quickly issued a call to the rabbis and leaders of the Chevron Jewish community and told them that he had put a tax on them, in the sum of fifty thousand piasters which must be paid within the month. Failing which, the Jewish leaders would have to pay with their lives, and the rest of the Jews would be sold as slaves! And, to make sure that the leaders would not run away, a few of them were immediately arrested and put in chains.
The Pasha then sent the others home, warning them that they had better start at once to raise the demanded fifty thousand piasters. The entreaties of the rabbis and leaders that it was impossible for them, and in so short a time, to produce such a vast sum, fell on the deaf ears and stony heart of the cruel Pasha, and they left in great despair.
The heads of the Jewish community now realized that they were being punished by G-d for having refused to find the five thousand piasters asked of them by the emissaries from Jerusalem, to save Jews from being sold as slaves. And now they were being taxed tenfold by the cruel Pasha.
The rabbis immediately decreed that the Jewish community must fast and pray to the Almighty for salvation from their desperate situation. At the same time they decided to send a "Pidyon" (literally, "ransom," but in this case, an appeal) to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were buried in the Cave of Machpelah which is situated in Chevron, to pray to the Almighty on their behalf and intercede for their children in their desperate hour of need.
The rabbis first went to the Mikveh, and having purified and sanctified themselves, they wrote out their appeal to the Patriarchs on clean parchment, the same as is used for the holy Torah scrolls.
The problem, then, was the matter of the delivery of their appeal. How could it reach the holy Patriarchs? The Cave of Machpelah was then in Arab hands. The Moslems had built a house of worship above the cave, and Jews were not allowed to visit the holy graves. The Jews were only allowed to ascend a few steps of the building and pray to their holy ancestors from the distance. And even for this "privilege" they had to pay the guard.
The only way they could think of was to bribe the guard, that he should throw the "Pidyon" into the cave, the entrance of which was sealed, so that even he could not enter it. This, they knew. But they also knew that there was a kind of "window" there through which it would be possible to throw in the "Pidyon." For a sizeable bribe the guard agreed to do them this "favor," and swore "by the beard of his prophet," that he would attend to the matter without delay.
The night before the due date for payment, the Pasha could not sleep; his mind was full of the thought of all the money he would be getting from the Jews. The moon was full, and the following day he hoped his coffers, would be equally full. The money greedy Pasha kept his treasures in an iron safe in his bedroom. Whenever he had a sleepless night he would open this safe and take out a bag of gold coins and count them with great satisfaction. This night, too, being unable to fall asleep, he went to his iron safe and took out a large bag of money and began to count the glittering, golden coins. It totaled fifty thousand piasters exactly, and he gleefully thought that the next day he would be receiving exactly the same amount from the Jewish community.
With a happy smile he returned the bag to the safe, put the key of the safe under his pillow, and fell blissfully asleep.
Suddenly, he was startled to see three old men in his room. "Give us the bag with the fifty thousand piasters if you value your life," they demanded. In fear and trembling he got the bag of money and handed it over to them. And, as suddenly as they appeared, they vanished as if into thin air.
The Pasha awoke in a cold sweat. What a terrible nightmare! He at once put his hand under his pillow and was reassured to find the key just where he had left it, so, with a sigh of relief, he went back to sleep.
The following morning the Pasha awoke and completely forgot about his nightmare of the previous night. He did not forget, however, that this was the day when he would be receiving the fifty thousand piasters from the Chevron Jews.
The previous night had also been a sleepless night for all the Jews of Chevron. They had assembled in the Bais Hamidrash. They prayed with all their hearts that G-d would save them, as "the hour of reckoning" had come.
Early the following morning the Pasha, accompanied by his soldiers, arrived at the Beth Hamidrash. They began banging on the door, crying: "Open the door for the Pasha!"
As the Shamash walked with faltering steps towards the door and was about to open it, he gazed with unbelieving eyes at a strange bag which lay in the basin in which the congregants washed their hands on entering the Beth Hamidrash. He could hardly lift the heavy bag which he quickly handed to the head of the community. With unbelieving eyes they saw its precious contents.
The Shamash rushed back to open the door for the Pasha and his soldiers.
"I have come for the fifty thousand piasters which are due today," the Pasha demanded.
"Here is your money," said the president of the community, handing over the bag to the Pasha.
The Pasha looked at the bag of money and could hardly believe the evidence of his eyes.
"Why, this is indeed my bag of gold!" he cried out in a shaky voice, his face turning pale. "How did it get to you?" But he did not wait for a reply. He knew the answer from his dream. Slowly, he began: "I will tell you how you got the money. Your holy Fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob rose from their graves in the Cave of Machpelah and brought it to you. I saw them in my dream. The Guardian of Israel does not sleep, and I beg you now to forgive me for my evil intentions. Pray for me and I promise I will never again attempt to do you harm in any way."
So, as this particular miracle took place on the fourteenth day of Teves, when the Jews of Chevron were saved from a dreadful catastrophe, they took upon themselves to celebrate every fourteenth day of Teves as their "Purim," which came to be known as "Window Purim" in remembrance of the "window" in the Cave of Machpelah which had brought them the miraculous salvation.
(Note: Now that the Cave of Machpelah has been freed from the Arabs, and Jews can enter the building above the cave, it is possible, still, to see the "window" in the first room where the tombstone of Isaac and Rebecca are on view. The grated "window" marks the sealed entrance to the Cave, and Jews can now pray there during specific days throughout the year.).
And now for the sponsorships for Toras Purim Deluxe. Oh, I forgot to tell you why this is Toras Purim not deluxe. Truth be told, after aleh shikrus viholilus visichlus diksavis, I can’t even remember the difference between Baruch Haman and Arur Mordechai or something like that. Anyway, this year’s Toras Purim Deluxe was sponsored by the gracious and generous, humble and worthy Man of Purim (huh?) Reb Ephraim Rich from Oak Park, MI (where?) and Binei Veiso Uvnei Veiso Vichiper Baado Uviad Beiso Vichol Mishpachto Viyiraso Laasos Ritzono, Ritzon Ish Vaish, Gam Ishto Hamalka asesah kidivrei Hamelech Ephraim, Vinadvah Bikiflaim, Lanu UliYotzei Mitzrayim, VaHaShem yitein lahem ulizaram vichol zareinu vitzeetzaeinu, Ulichol Ameinu Yisroel, Asher Yeshno Poh, Nes Gadol Hayah Sham Vipoh, Vaeifen Koh Vachoh, Ten Lechacham Viyechkam Od, Vayifru Vayirbu Meod, Vayifru milashon Purim, Vayirbu milashon Arbis, vimi shemavin es zeh, ladaas mah zeh vial mah zeh, gam mizeh al tanach yadav, vihi imo Elokav, Chaim shaal, yikra el hashamayim meial, vilo yipol, vilo alav yihyeh hagoral, rak al Haman haarur, vial Amalek habur, sheyimach min haaretz, vilo yiskayeim aitzel ben Peretz.
And now for our other sponsor, Reb Chaim Tzvi Greenstein and family from Southfield, MI. Short, simple, and to the point. Thanks. Ok, a little embellishment is allowed. Todah lahem, vigam libneihem, bichag Pureinu, Vihu Yigaleinu, MaiAchmajenad biyameinu, Viyahrog es soneinu, viyapil goraleinu, al chelkas tzavareinu, halo hu Bais Mikdasheinu, Machmadeinu, (Not Machmud) viSifarteinu, Bimheira viyameinu. Amen Kein Yehi Ratzon.
And before we forget, all those who donated Biilum Sheim, from Eilam Hamedinah, you know, whoever!
So please do chazarah on The Purim Torah, and bizchusah, we will see the end of the reign of the Chazirah, viyaalu LiTziyon Moshiim, viYachzir lanu HaNeviim, vichochom odif minavi, mi yikimenu chilavi, viyisnasa chiari, yavo ish ben Partzi, simchi visisi, yimche Agagi, agil viesmach bilvavi, birosi mapalas oyvi, viyarum karni, biyavo Mishichi, bimheira yachish, al yidei aniyos Tarshish, HaShem Hu HaIsh, sheyavi ben layish, vinagil vinismach, kisheAmalek yimach, viyivneh Ariel, Yagel Yaakov Yismach Yisroel, bimheira acshav, now, yetzt, in unzere tzeit, vinomar liChayim, BiYerushalayim, yasher koach Reb Ephraim, Reb Chaim (Tzvi) and aleh Yidden A Freilechen Purim, A ganzt Yohr Purim, LiChayim, LiChayim, Lichayei Olam Hazeh uliChaye Olam Haba, Lishana Habaah, BiYerushalayim shel Matah, viYerushalayim Shel Maalah.
Limaalah Limaalah visagbiah karneinu limaalah, away we go. Bye now. Zei gezuent. Zei Mochel Zei Shiker. Shkoiach!? !? !? !? !? !? !? !? !? !? !? !?
The Mossad
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