There was a peasant farmer in old Russia standing at the side of the road, weeping profusely. As he stood there, the Czar happened to pass by in his royal coach. The Czar saw the peasant, and when he noticed him weeping, he stopped his chariot to inquire what was wrong. The man tearfully explained that he had no land to farm, and he and his family were starving. The Czar, touched by this man’s misfortune, pulled out a stake from his chariot and drove it into the ground. He then gave the peasant three more stakes and instructed him: “Walk as far as you wish and then drive this stake into the ground. Turn, walk again as far as you wish, and then place the next stake in the ground. Finally, turn again and walk as far as you’d like before placing the last stake in the ground. The land between the four stakes will be yours as a gift from me, the Czar.”

“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.

Isn’t it a little late for that?!

After spending 40 days together atop Har Sinai, Hashem hands Moshe Rabbeinu the Luchos, which are simply described as “written by G-d” (Sh’mos 31:18). Just as Moshe finishes packing up and begins to head down, Hashem breaks the terrible news to him: Your people have committed the ultimate betrayal by creating a golden calf! Faithful Moshe stays and davens persistently on behalf of the nation until Hashem finally relents and agrees to not destroy B’nei Yisrael. Moshe then picks up the Luchos and comes “down to Earth,” where he proceeds to smash them in plain view of the people.

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).

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?