Dvar Torah for Purim


Based on Rabbi Nachman's Stories, The Lost Princess; Likutey Halakhot, Hilkhot Yayin Nesekh 2

After his first failed attempt to free her, the princess told the viceroy that this time he would be permitted to eat, but not to sleep. "And whatever you do," she said, "make sure you don't drink any wine because that will make you sleep. The most important thing is to not sleep."

The viceroy went and followed her instructions. On the final day he set out for her home in captivity, in order to free her. On the way he saw a flowing spring. It was red and smelled like wine. He asked his man-servant, "Did you see this? Here is a spring which be of water. But it looks and smells like wine!" He took a taste from the spring and immediately fell asleep. He slept for seventy years.

(Rabbi Nachman's Stories pp.42-43)

In his second introduction to the Stories Reb Noson writes that the lost princess of our story is the person's soul-root which, like the Shekhina (Divine Presence), is in exile. The viceroy, the person, must persevere and search and search, till he finds and frees her.

We are people and despite our best intentions and dedicated effort we still manage to sabotage our own best interest and we fail. This is what happened to the viceroy in his first attempt to free the princess. However, Breslover that he was, he did not give up. He went to the princess and they commiserated. This is when she gave him the second set of instructions, with her warning: "The most important thing is to not sleep." What is sleep? The loss of awareness that the life one lives is permeated by God's presence.

Our mission in life is, rather, can be, accomplished by all that we do: saying a blessing over food, teaching a child good manners, singing songs at the Shabbat table, playing a friendly game. While doing all these things we have to keep yearning to free the princess, we have to keep our minds and hearts focused on the goal. We have to keep ourselves from falling asleep.

On the final day, when we've done what is necessary to set the stage and we set out to actually to free the soul, we face another challenge, the challenge of wine. Wine is intoxicating. Our Sages teach if one is worthy he will use wine properly and be the better for it. However, if one is not worthy, the wine will wound him (Yoma 76b).

There are many things in life that are as inviting as a flowing spring. They often present themselves in a unique way, in a way that makes them all the more alluring. If we drink of them with the belief that they are something that they are not they will put us to sleep and cause us to sleep "for seventy years." The Torah has seventy PaNiM. PaNiM literally means "faces," but is related to the word PeNiMiyut, internality. The Torah herself has many, many messages within her; she has seventy panim with which she expresses those messages. We have to be sensitive to her calls to us. If not, God forbid, our relationship with her will suffer.

So beware all those "flowing springs" that promise more than they can deliver. Food, patriotism, wealth, politics and literature - just about everything under the sun, including religion! - can capture our attention, and intoxicate us. If we let them, they become narcotics and we sleep away our lives. We dream that we are awake until God sounds the alarm to wake us up.

In Shushan, Persia, long, long ago, we slept (Esther 3:8; Megilah 13b). Though we had the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) we failed to free the Shekhina. The Beit HaMikdash was taken away from us and we struggled through the seventy years of the Babylonian Exile hoping to see the return of the Shekhina and the Beit HaMikdash. Ah, but on the final day, toward the close of that Exile, we took a drink from Achashverosh's spring. We wanted to enjoy the banquet and to show that we were as loyal as his other subjects. We came to feed our desire for wealth by enjoying the exhibition of his wealth. Our interest was piqued by the power struggle between Queen Vashti and Haman, Achashverosh's search for a new queen and the plot to assassinate him. We fell asleep, but no longer dreamt of our return to Zion, no longer longed to eat of the korbonot (sacrifices) or to be inspired by the wealth of the Temple. It seemed that the story of the Jewish people had come to an end, God forbid. That's when the Blessed Creator started the next chapter.

The rise and fall of Haman, and the threat of annihilation that we faced and how disaster was averted, were newsworthy events, to say the least. Today they are stories that constitute Megilat Esther (the Book of Esther) and they teach us how to look at the events of life. Even if God doesn't make the headlines, even if the messenger who casts a pall on our lives is human and not angelic, we must read between the lines to see Who is writing the story and we must remember:


agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!