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8 Adar 5766 - March 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
At the King's Feast — Purim Insights Heard at HaRav Yitzchok Hutner's Table

HaRav Hutner zt'l, shared the profound thoughts that follow at the Purim seudos that he held each year with his talmidim. They are taken from notes made by one of the talmidim who shared them with us. They contain deep ideas that require reflection to fully appreciate and absorb, and whose impact will ultimately depend on the reader's own level. In truth, a more authoritative editing would have been in place before bringing teachings that were originally conveyed to a small, select circle to a wider public, but on Purim justification perhaps exists for presenting them as best we can.


"Whoever extends his hand, receives" — our teachers tell us that this principle applies to requests for spiritual as well as material assistance.

"With the imbibing of wine, secrets emerge" — part of the purpose of becoming inebriated on Purim is to lower spiritual inhibition and facilitate the expression of our innermost yearning for cleaving to Hashem. This makes us aware of the new heights and of the deep resources that lie concealed beyond the limiting horizons that we perceive throughout the year.

It is in this spirit that we undertake publication of the following divrei Torah, taken from the sefer Reshimos Lev.

Banishing the Wagon Driver — Purim 5729

Our tradition from the savants who knew how to serve Hashem is that the Purim feast can be likened to the meeting of two friends who learned together in yeshiva but who drifted apart in later life. When they happen to meet up, years later, they want to spend some time together but the wagon driver tries to convince them that there is no time. They therefore give him wine so that he will become drunk — and leave them to act in accordance with their true wishes.

Yisroel too, gather together at the Purim feast and the wagon driver — the yetzer hora — tries to persuade them that there is no time left for them to stay together. This is why we give the body wine to drink — so that it should become drunk and stop interfering. (Thus, "A mouthful of drink is a powerful thing for it draws those who are distant closer" (Sanhedrin 103) — heard in Eretz Yisroel, 5739)

The Purim feast strengthens love and friendship among Yisroel. For example, the Bach is of the opinion (Orach Chaim, end of siman 695) that when someone is invited out for the Purim feast, both the guest and his host are absolved from giving mishloach manos.

On a deeper level, the wagon driver tries to seduce the friends sitting together at the Purim feast by asking them, "Are you really friends?"

A drunkard (who has reached Lot's level of drunkenness) is incapable of executing transactions — any sale or purchase to which he is party is null and void (see the Rambam at the end of perek 29 of Hilchos Mechirah) — because he is tantamount to an imbecile. We can judge a drunkard's actions but we cannot fathom his thoughts.

This is why we drink and become inebriated at the Purim feast — in order to draw out and discover our innermost thoughts. Such thoughts only crystallize beneath the level that deeds reach, at the depth of the pure awareness of each Jew's responsibility for every other. It is these thoughts that establish that we truly are friends.

Actually, the wagon driver's seductions are the source of many of the hindrances to a person's ascent in serving Hashem. The wagon driver calls to us: "Are you really fit for such a level? You're getting involved in things that are way over your head."

This type of thinking prevents a person from attempting to attain even those levels that lie within his spiritual vista. Although the bounds of his thoughts are not restricted by the limits of his deeds, he mistakenly judges from his [comparatively meager] deeds that the [more elevated and ambitious] world of his thoughts is irrelevant. Such thoughts blur the different realms [which he occupies]!

For this reason too, we become drunk "to the point of non- comprehension" — to prevent the world of our thoughts being hemmed in by the world of our deeds.

Know the Purpose that Wine Serves — Purim 5730

"`I praise joy . . .' (Koheles 8:15), this refers to the joy of a mitzvah.

"`And as to joy, what does it achieve?' (2:2), this refers to joy unrelated to a mitzvah.

"This comes to teach you that Hashem's Presence does not reside in consequence of sadness, or of laziness, or of laughter, or of levity, or of conversation, or of idle chatter but only on occasion of joy relating to a mitzvah, as it says, ` "And now, take a musician for me," and when the musician played, the Hand of Hashem came upon him' (Melochim II, 3:15)" (Shabbos 30). Rashi comments, "It is a mitzvah to bring the Shechinah upon him." In other words, not the joy of any other mitzvah — only the joy of the mitzvah of bringing the Shechinah to rest upon someone.

"`To Dovid, a song . . .' this teaches you that the Shechinah first came to rest on him and then he sang.

"`A song to Dovid . . .' this teaches you that first he sang then the Shechinah came to rest on him.

"This comes to teach you that Hashem's Presence does not reside in consequence of laziness, or of sadness, or of laughter, or of levity, or of idle chatter but only on occasion of joy relating to a mitzvah, as it says, ` "And now, take a musician for me" and when the musician played, the Hand of Hashem came upon him' " (Pesochim 117).

Dovid Hamelech sang two types of song: one as a result of the Shechinah's resting on him and the other to make the Shechinah rest on him.

We find that wine also has two similar types of effect: of sometimes causing and of other times being the result of that which it causes. On the one hand, "Wine stimulates the appetite," (Pesochim 107). On the other, it sometimes satisfies. See the gemora in Brochos (35) which says, "Wine satisfies . . . But Rovo used to drink wine all day on erev Pesach to arouse his appetite so that he would eat more matzoh! A large quantity of wine stimulates appetite, a little wine satisfies."

Wine thus sometimes arouses the appetite while at other times it satisfies and facilitates digestion. (Ed. note: See however the Maharal's comments in Gevuros Hashem, perek 48 and Sefer Hazikoron, Reshimos #27 for a different interpretation and its application.)

"There are some who drink wine and it is good for them and there are other who drink it and it harms them" (Brochos 57). Wine that stimulates can be either beneficial or harmful, depending on the meal that it leads into.

By contrast, the effects of wine that satisfies are known in advance. If the meal that preceded it was good, the wine to aid digestion will be good!

"To the mishteh (feast)" ( Esther 5:4). Rashi explains, "Every meal is so termed [mishteh, a drinking party] because of the wine that is its main feature. The wine at the Purim feast is of the sort that satisfies and is beneficial. Its spiritual parallel is when, "he sang then the Shechinah came to rest on him . . . to teach you that Hashem's Presence does not reside in consequence of sadness . . . but only on occasion of joy relating to a mitzvah."

The purpose of the wine is to enable us to absorb the joy of this day.

However, it seems that white wine, over which the brochoh `hatov vehameitiv ' is always made (Orach Chaim 175:2), is always beneficial!


Obliterating Amolek through Wine

"`Ovadiah's vision: "So says Hashem to Edom . . .' " (Ovadiah 1:1) Why [was] Ovadiah [sent to prophesy] to Edom? (Rashi — `[Why was he] not [given] a different prophecy? Why was he chosen for this prophecy more than the other prophets?') Ovadiah was an Edomian convert, hence people say, `Wood is taken from the forest to make the ax that cuts down its trees' " ( Sanhedrin 39).

"Eisov said, `Lo, I am going to die, why do I need the status of firstborn?' " ( Bereishis 25:32) Rashi explains that Eisov asked what the nature of the service performed by the firstborns would be. Yaakov told him that it involved a number of prohibitions, punishments and death penalties. For example: "The following are punishable by death: serving in [the Mikdosh] after drinking wine etc." (Sanhedrin 83). Eisov said, "I'm going to die because of it; what do I need it for?"

Eisov sold his status as firstborn and chose wine instead. We therefore fulfill the mitzvah of wiping out Amolek by drinking wine — "Wood is taken from the forest to make the ax"!



"And he brought him wine and he drank" (Bereishis 27:25) "A feast of wine" ( Esther 5:6)

"And hunt game for me . . ." "Rivka told her son Yaakov, `Lo, I have heard your father speaking . . . "bring me game" . . . please go to the flock . . .' And he brought him wine and he drank . . ." (27:5-25).

Yaakov brought Yitzchok wine without him having asked for it. The reason that Yitzchok didn't ask Eisov to bring him wine is because, "No harm will befall the tzaddik" (Mishlei 12:21). In several places the Maharal explains (see Gevuros Hashem, Hilchos Pesach in short, also Chidushei Aggodos, Shavuos 18b, and other places) that wine has the power of drawing closer and it is fitting that something with this effect should also serve to separate where appropriate. Yaakov gave Yitzchok wine in order to bring himself closer to his father and to separate himself from Eisov!

Our teacher said that he wanted to draw all those present closer with his own wine.


Joy Through Wine — heard in 5720

"There is rejoicing only with meat...there is rejoicing only with wine . . ." (Pesochim 109). This is because the main task of tzaddikim in this world is to reveal that there is truly nothing in the world that is merely optional, but rather, "All your deeds should be for Heaven's sake" (Ovos 2:12). Wine and meat are unique among foods in that they are either beneficial to a person or harmful. Chazal say "An ignoramus may not eat meat" (Pesochim 49) and that, "Some drink wine and it is good for them while others drink it and it harms them" (Brochos 57).

Tzaddikim therefore celebrate with meat and wine, for their eating and drinking shows that there is no optional middle ground (reshus) in life.

Thus, "they did not undertake any prohibition against working [on Purim]" (Megilloh 5). Were Purim's ordinary, mundane status to have been sanctified by such a prohibition, the possibility of revealing holiness within the mundane would have been lost.

The Song that Rav Yisroel's Circle Sang

Our master zt'l said that although he didn't remember the tune, he did remember the words of a verse that used to be sung by Rav Yisroel's group:

"World, world, world, you are sweet and bright,

For he who wants nothing from you.

How bitter and dark you are,

For he who wants anything from you."

Today, as we sit together in love and friendship, "one family with another" (Esther 9:28), which Rashi explains means, "gathered together and eating and drinking together," we "want nothing from the world."


One Family with Another

"And these days are remembered and observed in every generation, one family with another . . ." Rashi explains, "Gathering together and eating and drinking together." In this way they undertook that the festival of Purim would continue being observed by all future generations.

Chazal point to a difference between Yisroel's acceptance of the Torah on Shavuos and their renewed acceptance of it on Purim. At Sinai, "Hakodosh Boruch Hu hung the mountain over them like a barrel and said, `If you accept the Torah, well and good; if not, your graves will be there.' This is a powerful declaration about the Torah [which lessens their later guilt for having lapsed in its observance, since they were compelled into accepting it]. Nonetheless, they accepted it once again [this time willingly] in the time of Achashverosh . . ." (Shabbos 88).

Lest we wonder whether there was not an element of coercion in their second acceptance as well, due to their difficult situation and the pressures they were under, Rashi writes, "Gathering together and eating and drinking together; in this lay their undertaking that this Purim festival would not lapse."

When Hakodosh Boruch Hu hung the mountain over them they said, "We will carry out and will listen to everything that Hashem said" (Shemos 24:7). Upon their second acceptance in the time of Achashverosh they said nothing — all we have are Rashi's comments: "gathering together and eating and drinking together; in this lay their undertaking that this Purim festival would not lapse."

There is no pressure in such an acceptance; it is born of love, friendship and Purim joy. That is our frame of mind!

Only on Purim!

On Purim there was a custom to go from door to door reciting the rhyme, "Heint iz Purim; morgen is ois. Git mir a trunk, und varft mir arois! (Today is Purim; tomorrow won't be. Give me a drink and get rid of me!)"

A certain godol beTorah took exception to the verse and we will explain why. Listen carefully for tomorrow you won't understand!

"`The soul is never satiated' (Koheles 6:7) — to what can this be compared? To a town dweller who marries a princess. Even if he brings her the finest things in the world they are of no significance to her — for she is of royal birth. So it is with the soul. If a person offers his soul the world's finest delicacies it feels no satisfaction because it comes from the upper worlds" (Koheles Rabba 6:6).

See Pachad Yitzchok on Pesach (#41), where the trait of zerizus is explained. On a mundane level it consists simply of avoiding delay and lateness but on a more exalted level it derives from the fact that the neshomoh is eternal and the company of the body, which is under the influence of time, is difficult for it to bear. This creates an urge to carry everything out with alacrity.

This is the state of affairs all year round. But on Purim the eternal nature of the body of Yisroel is revealed and the neshomoh divines an aspect of the eternal within the body itself. "Morgen iz nisht ois! Tomorrow it is not the case that it won't be. It will still be there — for on Purim the neshomoh tastes eternity in the body. And it can sate itself!


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