Why is Purim celebrated on two different days? Why is there a day called Shushan Purim? The Megillah tells of how the people of Shushan extended their battle one day longer than any other area in the kingdom. We can understand, therefore, why the city of Shushan should keep the following day as the day to remember the salvation from the decree of Haman; it is a special day for the city of Shushan. Shushan Purim is a day designated by our sages to remember the miracles and salvation that were unique to the city of Shushan. There, in the capital city, the Jews had to fight for their lives on the fourteenth day of Adar. They were not able to rest from the threat of the decrees of Haman until the fifteenth day of the month of Adar. For them, it is appropriate to fulfill the four Mitzvohs of Purim on the fifteenth. It was on this day that all the darkness of exile was eliminated and the love of Hashem clearly felt. Hashem’s careful, watchful, guiding hand throughout history became readily apparent. The Jews of Shushan were now able to join their fellow brethren in issuing a collective sigh of relief from the evil plans of Haman. If so, what does this have to do with Yerushalayim, the fighting for the Jews of Yerushalayim ceased on the thirteenth and they were able to rest on the fourteenth; so they should celebrate Purim on the fourteenth day of Adar? The Ran expresses the reason in a single pithy statement, “because of the honor of the land of Israel”. Our sages found it appropriate to include all cities that had a wall around them from the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun in the same category as Shushan. This of course begs the question: What does the honor of the land of Israel have to do with commemorating the salvation from Haman? In order to understand this law, Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita takes us on a journey that begins with the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai and ends by bringing us to an uplifting understanding of our relationship to G-d and His Torah.
When the Torah was offered to us at Har Sinai, we accepted it willingly, with the famous words of, “We will do and we will listen.” This, however, is only half of the story. The Talmud teaches us that G-d had to give us an ultimatum: either you accept the Torah or you will all be buried under this mountain. He held the mountain over our heads and coerced us into complete acceptance of His law. There are many varied interpretations, explanations and elucidations of this astonishing Talmud. The path that Rav Moshe Shapiro takes is a path that leads us to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Jew.
“Easy come easy go”, is a cliché that would fit well to describe the nature of our acceptance of the Torah of our own volition. The brutal truth of being coerced into towing the line was a necessary element for our fledgling nation in order to have a long term connection to Torah. The excitement and jubilation born from the womb of an exodus with such awe inspiring open miracles was a high that would not last. Had our connection to Torah only been under the shining light of G-d’s beneficence, then our connection to the land of Israel and G-d Himself could wrongly be assumed to only be valid under such glowing circumstances. Such a relationship could be well understood and governed by a written law with prophets readily available to guide us through any questions. How were we to continue this relationship when weakness and infidelity reared their ugly heads in our faith and devotion to G-d? Would it be a calamitous end to a nice thing or could our relationship be given the power it would need to weather the storms of human impropriety? To this end, G-d set up our relationship under the auspices of coercion. Yes, you are my beloved and I am in this for the long haul. The Jewish nation did not appreciate the truth of this until they were thrown into exile by Nebuchadnezzar. It was then, for the first time, that they began to wonder if they would ever be going back to being in G-d’s warm loving embrace. They had blown it, boy had they blown it! After repeated warnings, admonitions and numerous prophesies, the exile came. Never since our days in Egypt had we felt so abandoned. Our national self-image took a nose dive. How were we to get out of this predicament? Our low self-esteem led many to join the party at which Achashveirosh took out the vessels of the Bais Hamikdash and declared: Shushan is now the capital of the known world. The Jews will never return to their former glory. Their connection to G-d, their Land and their Torah is over. Against this trend stood Mordechai and Esther, and, with their heads held high, they declared: we will go back. Our relationship is just going through a difficult stage. We and G-d are bound together with tethers that can be shaken but not severed. When we entered the land in the time of Yehoshua, we entered it to stay. Our sojourn in Persia is just a temporary crucible that is purifying us from the evils of man. By holding steadfast to the laws of the Torah, we show that we can rise out of the ashes and reignite our souls; we are worthy of returning to our land, the land of our forefathers. By awakening the Jews to repent and recommit themselves to Torah, Mitzvohs, and kindness, they reignited within them this everlasting eternal bond with G-d. G-d, in turn, showed how he never really left us and He is always running the show whether it is readily apparent to us or not. This is the lesson of Shushan, its party, its decree, and its battle. It was a royal battle, more so in the heart and soul of every Jew then on the battle field. When the internal battle was won; when we showed that we had faith in G-d, His Torah, and in ourselves; we showed that really, every city in Israel, from the time Yehoshua conquered it, is, was and will be in our possession forever.
We now understand that the day of celebration for the Jews of Shushan was a day on which they could hope to return once again to the sights and sounds of Yerushalayim. For us, here in exile still, it behooves us to take pause and join in on the day of Purim, number one, and on the day of Shushan Purim as well, and think about our everlasting loving relationship with G-d. For when it may look like there is an insurmountable mountain ahead, that may just be the catalyst that we need for growth.
This Issue is Dedicated by:
Harry and Rosalind Pomerantz