Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Serious Purim Torah Based on a Zoharic Passage

The holiday of Purim this year fell within the lead-up to the weekly Torah portion of "Shmini".

The Zoharic commentary of the portion of "Shmini" includes these illuminations:

64) Wine, oil, and water come from one place. The priests take the water and oil from the right and inherit them. Oil, Hochma, more than anything, is joy in the beginning and in the end, unlike wine, which ends in sadness...And wine, which is to the left, is what the Levis inherit, to raise the voice and to sing, and not to keep silent, since wine is never silent and oil is always in a whisper.

65) What is the difference between oil and wine? Oil is in secret and always in a whisper. It comes from the thought, Hochma, like an undisclosed thought. Hence, oil is from the right.

Wine is to raise the voice; it is never silent. This is because the drunk cannot keep silent. It comes from the side of Ima, from the left of Bina, and it is inherited by the Levis, which are to the left, and are ready to sing and to raise the voice. They are in judgment...

66) For this reason, when a priest begins to work at the Temple, he is forbidden to drink wine, since his actions are secretive. He comes secretly and makes unifications...And it is all in secret, for all his deeds are hidden. This is why he is forbidden to drink wine, which reveals secrets, because when wine enters, a secret exits, and in all his deeds, he is about to raise his voice.

Oil extends from Hochma, right, and AVI are always in covered Hassadim [acts of good and kindliness]. And the oil is in concealment and in secret, for it does not appear in illumination of Hochma. And from there the priests extend.

The wine is from the left of Bina that returned to being Hochma, illumination of Hochma, which reveals the Hassadim and sounds them. Hence, the wine reveals a secret. It raises the voice because voice is Hassadim and the wine reveals the Hassadim, for the outward appearance is tantamount to raising one’s voice. Hence, the priest, whose every action is in secret and in hiding, since he extends from Hochma and Hesed, is entirely right and covered Hassadim. This is why he is forbidden to drink wine, for he must be like his root above.

The link between the Torah portion for this week and the holiday of Purim would seem to be obvious.

At the time of the events of Purim, the Temple had not yet been rebuilt.  The prominence of wine in the Megilla would seem to point to a major intervention based on the need to reveal a secret, a secret the jews at the time were uncomfortable with, perhaps, for that is why they subverted themselves to the King's command to participate in the feast despite the problems involved.

As this Chabad source explains:

This is one more reason why he made such a pompous feast. He felt secure and powerful, so much so that he did not hesitate to adorn his tables with the precious and sacred vessels of the Holy Temple, which had been captured by the wicked Nebuchadnezzar.

Like all other nations, the Jews also were invited to attend the King's feast. This was Haman's plan; he saw an opportunity of luring the Jews into eating non kosher food and then using G-d's momentary anger at His people for the persecution and destruction of the Jews which he had been planning.

Mordechai, the great Jewish leader at that time, was aware of this sly scheme. He exhorted the Jews to avoid the palace and thus avert G-d's anger. The vast majority of the Jews followed his advice, but many Jews did not heed his words of caution. They went to the feast at the palace. To their consternation they discovered the holy vessels of the Temple on the King's tables, and they drew back. But the King quickly commanded his servants to set up tables especially for the Jews. The Jewish guests swallowed their pride and remained for the feast, eating and drinking the non kosher food and wine, and making merry like the other guests.

As the Zohar makes clear, the quality of wine is its ability to release a person from restraints, from elements he would much rather keep secret.  It removes barriers and in our specific case, caused the true Jewish voice to be raised and sounded.

Jerusalem is the great secret of the Megilla.  God is not mentioned in the text and Jerusalem is mentioned once, in Chapter 2:

5-6: - 5 There was a certain Jew in Shushan the castle, whose name was Mordecai the son of Yair the son of Shimi the son of Kish, a Benjamite, 6 who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives that had been carried away with Yechoniah king of Judah...

Jerusalem's downtrodden status as a razed city, with the Jewish people in exile is the opposite of what the normal position of the Jews should be.  And in their Persian exile, they are confronted with a choice: to reveal the secret of Jewish existence, of Jewish essence or to drink the wine of the nations.  Do they raise a voice, in all sorts of ways, do they exhibit their Judaism?

And due to the good deeds of a few, due to their wisdom, due to their 'right' - ish yemini - not only are the physical condition of the Jews protected, not only do they naturally and properly respond to the threats against them by defending themselves and subsequently assuring their security but by their actions also assure that the Temple will be rebuilt by first honoring Jerusalem by adding the second day which is defined by 'walled cities at the time of Yehoshua Bin-Nun' and then having the Persian King Cyrus declare the freedom to return to our holy city.


1 comment:

Moshe Sharon said...

The Parsha Shemini is about the completion of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. The number seven represents all things occurring within the natural construct of this finite world, while the number eight represents all things beyond nature, or infinity. According to Rashi, the eighth day was the day of re-establishing the eternal connection with the Almighty that we had lost when we stumbled and fumbled with the golden calf. Here at the beginning of this portion, we are witness to the momentous occasion of our reconciliation with our Creator, who is beyond all things natural and supernatural. Once Aaron had achieved atonement with the final offerings of the eighth day, the Shechina descended into full view and all of the people fell on their faces. G-d resumed His place among His people. Thus the Torah reminds us that we are a Holy people whose very existence as a nation is beyond nature. Therefore, the prime minister would do well to remember that G-d is the Guardian of Israel and that destroying Jewish homes gives the impression to our enemies that the Israeli government has abandoned the Jewish people who remained in Samaria leaving at the mercy of the Arab cutthroats. The only way to prevent more killing is for the Israeli politicians to back up the Jewish heroes who are establishing their homes on Jewish land in the face of Arab hatred and, worse yet, Israeli government apathy. More at http://moshesharon.wordpress.com