Dvar Torah for Purim


Based on Likutey MoHaran I, #29

A newfound friend lobbed me a deceptively difficult question: Since Jews are supposed to be involved in tikkun haolam (rectifying the world), why don't religious Jews get more involved in issues such as protecting the ecology, assisting disaster victims, repressed peoples and the like?

While I won't say that the following is the definitive answer, I do think that it goes a long way to understanding why religious Jews are not in the forefront of 'causes,Ó whether or not they are aware of the following.

If there was a perfect, optimized flow of shefa (Divine beneficence) into the world, there would be a perfect, optimized world. The (individual, communal, national, global) problems the world suffers are due to the improper flow, or non-flow, of shefa. What blocks the flow of shefa?

In a word, sin. Big sins mean big blockages, little sins mean little blockages. ('Big" and 'littleÓ are determined by who does what and why. Only God Himself can weigh a sin [RAMBAM, Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:2].) Sin causes disease (e.g., AIDS), destruction (e.g., global warming) and repression of national freedom (e.g., the Tibetans). A blockage of shefa also results in negative effects on the low-end of the suffering-scale: getting a paper cut, not having change for the parking meter and many other annoyances. How can we be rid of all these problems, great and small?

We could try to fix each thing by itself. Organizations could be set up to 'Save the Children/Rain Forests/WhalesÓ and to 'Fight Cancer/AIDS/IlliteracyÓ and to assist groups or individuals who need assistance. One shortcoming of such an approach is that it works only on the symptoms and not the underlying cause, namely the eradication of sin. Even if such organizations were to also dedicate themselves to teshuvah (repentance), they would have difficulty in improving the flow of shefa. The reason is that many sins would have to be corrected and 'to correct all the sins individually–they are very many, and the task is an onerous oneÓ (Likutey Moharan I, 29:4)!

It is impossible to rectify them, Rebbe Nachman continues, for each prohibition contains many fine points and details. In different spheres, no less–thought, speech and deed! Are we doomed to a life of limited shefa, God forbid?

No. If we fix the problem 'higher up,Ó in a general sense, automatically the problems lower down will be fixed. The shefa can then reach every nook and cranny and everything can be rectified. This tikkun haklali (general remedy) is sexual purity. Our receiving the Torah began when Hashem (God) made the covenant with Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Patriarch), a covenant which is based on sexual purity.

Purim is Tikkun HaKlali. (In Hebrew, the word 'EstherÓ has the same numerical value as ' Tikkun HaKlali.Ó) If we fix the Jewish problems, all the other problems will be resolved.

As a condition for receiving the Torah on Shavuot, the Jews had to be celibate for the three days immediately preceding the Revelation at Sinai. Parallel to that we have the three-day fast of Esther (Esther 4:16). The purpose of these were not mortification, but meditation: Dissociation from earthly, material goals and supplanting them with awareness of the ultimate goal of life–harmonizing Creation, being in unison to the Master of Creation. When we achieved this awareness–with Haman's help–we re-accepted the Torah, more willingly than the first time (Shabbat 88a).

Tikkun HaKlali is about more than just sexuality.


In addition to sexuality, there are other areas in life which require a tikkun haklali. They are earning money, talking and clothing.

The definitions of 'necessitiesÓ and 'luxuriesÓ depend very much on one's income. The less one has, the less one needs; the more one has, the more one needs. As our Sages put it, 'One who has 100, wants 200Ó (Kohelet Rabbah 1:34). The 100 may be sufficient to buy what one actually needs, but one begins to think that he needs more. Thinking that he needs more he invests more of his limited lifespan trying to get more. If he succeeds he fails, because if he actually ends up with more he'll only generate a new round of the vicious cycle, of wanting still more.

Some will forfeit their honesty into to put more money at their disposal. They may pad expense accounts, miscount the change or fail to report taxable income in order to achieve this. The tikkun haklali for past ill-gotten gains, and for keeping one's hands clean in the future, is to have in mind that every work-related step (e.g., business trips and commuting to work) and every work-related thought is in order to have money to give tzedakah (charity).

I don't know what the airwaves are like in other Western countries, but I know that in the USA there are innumerable (and insufferable) talk shows of every variety, on radio and television. One can get expert opinions on any topic, from the sublime to the ridiculous. I am surprised that no one has been CNN-ed to death! In Israel? Talk shows, cafes and cell phones galore! If only shmoozing were an Olympic event!

With all the talking that's done, how much actually gets said? Granted that much practical information gets transmitted so that people know how to do things. However, what about ideals and goals that ought to constitute the values and purpose of life? How effectively are the ideals and goals conveyed within families, among friends and between teachers and students? What ingredient is necessary in one's talk if one wants his words to be heard? Daat–any piece of wisdom or knowledge that enhances a person's awareness or experience of God.

The tikkun haklali of speech is praising tzaddikim, in particular the genuine tzaddikim. While every Jew is a tzaddik (Isaiah 60:21), the genuine tzaddikim are those whose every thought, emotion, gesture, etc., are products of daat. When extolling the virtues of a tzaddik, one invokes the merit and energy the tzaddik left behind which enhance the speaker's daat. His words, coming from enhanced daat, will be more acceptable.

(Rebbe Nachman explains that daat is good and everyone wants good.)

Finally, we come to clothing. Clothing and speech are related because each is an aspect of Malkhut (Kingship). Keeping one's clothing spotlessly clean is parallel to filling one's words with daat.

What has this all have to do with Purim? Achashverosh and Haman knew how to waste money. Achashverosh used his wealth to pay for 180 days of national debauchery to celebrate the non-redemption of the Jews (Megillah 11a). Haman was ready to spend 10,000 talents of silver (Esther 3:9) for the privilege of ordering genocide. (See the ArtScroll Megillah to find out how much that was in 'real money.Ó)

Our Purim is filled with tzedakah. We give matanot l'evyonim (cash gifts to the poor) and shalach manot (gifts of food) to friends and the poor.

Haman spoke ill of the Jews in general (Esther 3:8ø9) and wanted to speak ill of Mordekhai in particular (ibid. 5:14). His words were well-nigh put into practice. However, Esther's words proved more effective. She praised the tzaddik, Mordekhai, more than once (ibid. 2:22; 6:2; 8:1). When we read the Megillah we are praising God (Megillah 14a), Who is a tzaddik (Psalms 145:17), as well as Mordekhai and Esther.

Achashverosh attempted to show that there was nothing special about clothing when he wore the uniform of the kohein gadol (high priest) at the aforementioned celebration (Megillah 12a). To rectify that, Mordekhai had to wear sackcloth (Esther 4:2). His eventual wearing of royal clothing (ibid. 8:15) was due to his efforts and to Esther's donning of Malkhut (ibid 5:1). We, on Purim, wear our Shabbat clothing are dress for a costume ball.

Wine, which figures prominently in the Megillah and our celebration of Purim, relates to each of these concepts. Depending on one's spiritual prowess, wine either elevates a person or impoverishes him (Yoma 76b). When 'wine enters, secrets emergeÓ (Sanhedrin 38a). The redness of wine corresponds to blood, which can sully clothing. 'Most lewd behavior is brought on by wineÓ (The Aleph-Bet Book, Adultery A:11).

One is allowed to extend the Purim meal into Shabbat. (See Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 271:5ø6.) If you're drinking, DON'T DRIVE. Have a very merry Purim.

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!