Purim and Parshas Ki Sisah 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 20

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Chodshei Hashanah Part 12

The Individuals Within Society -- Each One Counts

No two people are alike. Still, individuals can find the means to overcome their idiosyncrasies and special characteristics, and make a common bond. It is not as easy as it might seem, though. Not everyone wants to turn away from their own identifying qualities, for the sake of a fragile union.

We concluded last week with the question: How could it be that the decrees of Purim would cause a division in Jewish practices, when the purpose of the Megilah story was to unite the scattered people?

Villagers and City-Dwellers

The Talmud introduced the concept that the inhabitants of small, outlying villages be able to read the Megilah at a separate time from the other, larger cities. This would permit the villagers to be free on Purim itself, so as to be able to supply the city-dwellers with food and drink. (Megilah 4a-b) We need each other. Each individual serves a vital function for the whole. True, the Talmud concludes that the city-dwellers could manage without the villagers -- but the villagers could not manage without the city-dwellers. The miracles that occurred throughout the kingdom of Persia could not compare with the miracle in the capital of Shushan. The main miracle was the very existence of Tzadikim (righteous leaders) such as Mordechai, Esther and Daniel. Shushan is no longer inhabited, but Yerushalayim is the center of Jewish life of past, present and future. Therein dwell the Tzadikim and Torah Scholars of exemplary character. Yerushalayim could survive without us, but we cannot survive without Yerushalayim.

The separate days of observance would demonstrate that -- not in spite of our differences, but because of our differing roles -- the Jewish People fuse together.

Ki Sisah and Leadership

Through Humility, Strive for Unity

The parsha read the week of Purim provides a interesting forum for this topic. The story is the disastrous episode of the Golden Calf. While still communing with Hashem on Mount Sinai, Moshe is informed of the people’s heretical act. Hashem threatens to destroy the nation, and make Moshe alone great. Moshe doesn’t bat an eyelash, but instantly begins to plead for his people.

Moshe has been spurned and disobeyed. His teaching have been contradicted. Couldn’t he find his own spiritual perfection with a nation made up of only his own descendants? No. "If You will not forgive them, erase me from Your book..." (Shmos 32:32)

The agents of enduring strength are those who can quietly manipulate influence without flaunting it. The humility of Jewish leaders has always been their greatest power.

The Risks of Power

"The heart of a king is in the hand of Hashem." (Mishley [Proverbs] 21:1) The mighty rulers may seem powerful, but are truly mere pawns. Those officers that really wield influence are behind the scenes, keeping a low profile, being very careful not to overextend themselves. Daniel, Mordechai and Esther were the champions of influence. How careful they had to be, so as not to draw too much attention to themselves.

Indeed, Daniel was killed while working in Queen Esther’s court. (See Tosfos, Baba Basra 4a and Toras Moshe, Drosh l’zayin Adar.)

The Talmud says that Esther requested from the sages in Yerushalayim that her story be recorded for all generations. The sages replied that they were concerned about the possible reaction among the nations. Esther answered that it was too late, because her story had already been recorded among the chronicles of the kings of Persia and the Medes. (Megilah 7a)

Imagine the dangers, the sacrifice. Esther gave up all that she cherished, by marrying the wicked king, Achashverosh -- for the sake of the survival of her people.

The Leaders’ Sacrifice

After the destruction of the calf, the people are humbled and wounded. Stripped of their glory and broken in spirit, they drag on. See Asarah Ma’amoros, that Shevet Levi willingly joined their brethren in suffering and deprivation, even though they didn’t share in the guilt.

Chasom Sofer al Hatorah: Why did Moshe break the tablets? He figured that for such a act, he’d be liable to death by the Divine Court. This was in answer to Hashem’s words: "Leave Me -- My anger will rage against them, I will destroy them, and make you into a great nation." (Shmos 32:10) Moshe had answered with a plea for the people, and later asked: "Please forgive their error; if not, erase me from Your book..." (Shmos 32:32) By breaking the tablets, he was showing that he truly intended to be erased, if the people could not be forgiven.

Similarly, Ksav Sofer explains (Shmos 32:31): Moshe wanted to accept the blame upon himself for the people’s actions. Surely, if anyone is to blame, it is the leader of the people, who could have better instructed them.

These are stories of leadership at its finest. Our leaders were prepared to suffer hardship and indignation -- for the sake of the people. They suffered for people of different temperament, not only for their close friends.

Legal Section

Lo Tisgodedu -- Separate Congregations -- Unity and Diversity

[The Rebbe of Munkatch used to say that the Kabalistic works he studied were the open parts of Torah learning; the Halachic discussions from the Talmud were the concealed, mysterious part. He explained: The Kabalah is, of course, esoteric; however, there are commentaries which explain all. The "havayos of Abaye and Rava" (main Talmudic debates) however, are the true mysteries. No one can explain them to the student, without the student’s full application and diligence. The laws may seem dry -- but if you open your heart to search for deeper meaning, you will see the wonders of the Torah. (From the work Divre Torah)]

We have been discussing the Torah’s prohibition of "Lo Sisgodedu," -- not to make diverse groups, observing the Torah in different ways. Last week, we mentioned that separate courts, in differing locales, are permitted to follow diverse traditions.

Each congregation is basically considered a separate court (even if they do not actually have a Beis Din [Rabbinic Court]). The general prohibition (not to make diverse groups) would only be within a single congregation; those members who belong to the congregation must abide by its practices. The prohibition is only for publicly visible practices, but not those performed privately.

A congregation, then, must have an established protocol. This is the gist of the law -- failure to have a uniformity of practice will lead to splinter groups within the congregation, making it appear that there are two separate Torahs.

Many areas today have a "shtibloch" that is intended for all diverse groups to be able to daven together. Since this was the intention of the place from its inception, and the makeup of the congregants is constantly changing, there is no problem for each person to display his own custom. Even so, the founders of the institution may stipulate that the Chazon (leader) only recite the prayers publicly according to a specific custom. (See M’vakshei Torah, vol. 3, chapter 169.)

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.

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