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Monday, Adar 10, 5781 / February 22, 2021


This Thursday night, we will celebrate the holiday of Purim.  As with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at night and continues the next day. This year, Purim is Thursday night and Friday.


One of the mitzvot of Purim is reading the Megilah - also called Megilat Esther - Scroll of Esther.  The Megilah details the story and miracle of Purim. We will read it Thursday night and again Friday morning. Hearing the Megilah on Purim is very important.


Our sages note several differences between the miracles of Purim and Chanukah. Purim occurred about 200 years before the miracle of Chanukah. On Purim, the Jews faced total physical annihilation, G-d forbid. On Chanukah, the Torah and Jewish religion were at stake.


Also, the miracle of Chanukah happened in Israel and was associated with the second Holy Temple. By contrast, Purim took place after the destruction of the first Holy Temple while Jews were still exiled from Israel and living in Persia under King Achashveirosh.


As a result, Jews throughout our 2000 years of exile found meaning and comfort in the miracle of Purim which took place while the people of Israel were in exile. They too have gone through trials and were saved from anti-Semites who wanted to annihilate or uproot their Jewish communities, just as Haman did. Many communities celebrated their own Purim when saved from annihilation.


Purim is a most merry and joyous Jewish holiday, for Purim celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival. Haman wished to destroy the entire Jewish people. He influenced Achashveirosh, King of Persia, to decree throughout his land, "to destroy, slay, and exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women, in a single day... and to plunder their possessions..."


Our sages explain that at the time, the entire Jewish nation lived under his rule.  Thus, had it not been for the miracle of Purim, this evil decree would have, G-d forbid, wiped out every single Jew.


The Talmud tells us "Hakoreh et HaMegillah L'Mafreia Lo Yatza" - "If one reads the Megilah backwards (L'Mafreia), one has not fulfilled the mitzvah." The simple meaning is that the Megilah must be read in order from beginning to end and not backwards.


However, there is a deeper meaning to the above Talmudic verse.  The word "L'Mafreia" can also be translated as "in the past."  According to this translation, the meaning would be, "If someone reads the Megilah on Purim and thinks that the story happened only in the past," he/she has not properly fulfilled the mitzvah. The lesson of the Purim miracle should remain with us forever. The fact that we are here today is a constant Purim miracle.