He had been controlling himself for so long, had come so far, but he just couldn’t hold himself back anymore. Everyone else was asleep, so no one else would even have to know. Internally, he was struggling, pulled in every direction, unable to make a decision. On the one hand, there was a convincing and confident voice persuading him to do it, to give in to the urge. “If you eat it, it will feel so good”! On the other hand, there was a quieter, more subtle voice attempting to use reason and judgment. “But this is ridiculous. It’s wrong, destructive, childish, and just foolish. You’ve done this before, and hated yourself afterwards; you felt disgusted, ashamed. You know that you’ll feel the very same way in about five minutes if you do it again. This has never ended well for you.” As a bead of sweat drips down the side of his cheek and he stares at the chocolate cake, he tries to weigh his options.

Sometimes, accessories ARE included!

Since the Mishkan and its vessels were to be carried through the desert, several items, including the Shulchan and golden Mizbei’ach, had badim, staves, which would be inserted at times of transport. The Aron Kodesh had these “travel handles,” as well, but strangely, its poles remained in place continuously – even while the Ark was parked in the Mishkan. In fact, one of the formal 613 mitzvos is a prohibition against removing the rods from the Aron at any time (Sh’mos 25:15; Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvah 96). One who would dare to separate the badim from the Ark would be in violation of an egregious crime deserving of 39 lashes (Yoma 72a, Makos 22a) – no less than the punishment for eating pork! Why did the Aron Kodesh need to be fully accessorized with its “travel pack” at all times – even when it stood still in the Mishkan?

“It’s like the Jewish Halloween”

 This is the easiest way to explain Purim to the unaffiliated co-worker. However, despite their seemingly identical customs, a closer look reveals just how different these two holidays really are.

There is a widespread problem that plagues humanity, leaving us lonely and disconnected. Many people live their lives in a state of ego – a state of mind in which one views himself as an isolated being inside his own body, his own mind, his own world, alone and independent. The consequences of this state of mind are obvious: Since everyone else in the world is separate from us, we will feel disconnected from them; we will also likely feel the need to compete with them – to beat them – in order to gain self-worth, in order to convince ourselves that we’re good enough. This often means pushing others down just to feel like we’re better than them. We might even hate certain people or even go so far as to hurt them, because they don’t make us feel good or perhaps because they challenge our own self-worth. But most of all, this state of consciousness leaves us lonely, abandoned, and empty. However, there is another option.

As we experience Purim and our victory over Haman, let us delve more deeply into the unique spiritual and existential battle that the Jewish People must continue to wage against the philosophy of Amaleik. Amaleik first appeared on the scene when they attacked the Jewish People in the midbar (desert), on their journey to Har Sinai. The most striking aspect of this attack was its timing. Hashem had just performed the makos (plagues) and split the Yam Suf (Red Sea) for the Jewish People, acts that had worldwide reverberations. The Jewish People were viewed as invincible, untouchable. And exactly at this moment, Amaleik chose to attack the Jewish People, undertaking a (practically) suicidal battle with zero provocation. What was their motivation in undertaking such a mission? This question can be extended to the Purim story, as well. Haman, suddenly promoted to second in command, makes it his mission to wipe out the entire Jewish People. As a descendant of Amaleik, he is clearly continuing their legacy of Jewish obliteration. Why is it that, throughout history, people have made it their singular focus to wipe out the Jewish People? And why is this the spiritual legacy of Amaleik? In order to answer this question, we must examine the fundamental principles of Jewish belief (based on the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith).


How about an encore? 

The end of Parshas Mishpatim has more of the razzle-dazzle Matan Torah experience that we read about last week. Parshas Yisro contains the Ten Commandments and their accompanying sound-and-light-show that literally shook the world (Sh’mos 20:15). The end of this week’s parshah continues that story and describes the eagerness of B’nei Yisrael to accept the Torah, and their famous exclamation of Naaseh v’nishma (24:7). Our sidrah concludes with the Jewish people gaining a peripheral view of Hashem Himself (vv. 10-11), Moshe’s ascent up the mountain, and his disappearance into the clouds (v. 18).