The Talmud states that when the Messiah will come all the holidays and all 24 books of the bible will be no longer in use accept for Purim and the Book of Esther, another source states that Purim is even greater then Yom Kippur. By that we can understand that Purim has a very significant hidden meaning. Many Kabbalists teach that the name ‘Megilat Esther’ (the Book/Scroll of Esther) implies on its hidden meaning – Megilah from the word Giluy (to reveal) and Esther from the word Hester (Hidden). The Ari helps us to understand the hidden secrets of the Megilah.
Purim According to Tradition
The name Purim is from the Book of Esther that has the miraculous story of the saving of the Jewish people from destruction during the time of the Persian Empire some 2,600 years ago.. The name Purim is derived of the word Pur (lot) that was made by Haman using his sorcery in order to set the date for the destruction of the Jewish people. However, fate turns around and the Jews stood up against their enemies and survived. Therefore, this day, Adar 14th, was set as a day of thanksgiving for the great miracle.
Purim is characterized by 4 Mitsvot:
Reading the Book of Esther – On Purim eve and also in the following morning it is a Mitsva to read the Book of Esther, as part of being grateful for the great miracle and in order to announce it in the public.
The three following Mitsvot set in the Book of Esther (chapter 9, 22) saying that the days of Purim should be celebrated as “days of feasting and happiness, and of sending portions of food one to another, and gifts to the poor”.
Purim feast – as mentioned above it was established that Purim’s day should be a day of feast and drinking wine until one could not make the difference between the cursed Haman and the blessed Mordekhai.
Gifts to the poor – Also here the Sages learned that by saying gifts and poor in plural means we should give at least two gifts to at least two poor people.
Mahatsit Ha’Shekel – It s a contribution at the value of 9.6 gr. of pure Silver (26.00 ILS or $7.30 USD on Feb. 2023 – Adar 5783) for every member of the family.
Other customs of the holiday is dressing in costumes, eating pastries (of dough filled with different stuffing according to different communities around the world).
During Amida and also during the grace on the food it is customary to add a special part of thanksgiving called ‘Al HaNissim”. In the morning service the Book of Esther is being read again, after reading the story of Amalek in the Torah.
The Fast of Esther:
Adar 13th is set as the Fast of Esther in the memory of the Ta’anit (fast) that Esther established on all the Jews before she entered Ahasuerus, the King of Persia in order to ask him to abort the validity he gave to Haman’s command to kill all the Jews on Adar 14th.
When Purim eve falls on a Saturday, the fast of Esther is set for the previous Thursday.
The Shabath before Purim is called Shabbat Zakhor since we read Zakhor – three verses from the book of Deuteronomy (chapter 25, 17-19) that tell us to remember what Amalek did to the Israelites in the desert on the way from Egypt and to erase his memory. According to tradition, Hamman was a descendant of Amalek and that is why this portion is being read just before Purim.
Purim According to Kabbalah
It is said in the Talmud that when the Messiah will come all the holidays and all 24 books of the bible will be no longer in use accept for Purim and the Book of Esther, another source states that Purim is even greater then Yom Kippur. By that we can understand that Purim has a very significant hidden meaning. The Kabbalists say that the name ‘Megilat Esther’ (the Book/Scroll of Esther) implies on its hidden meaning – Megilah from the word Giluy (discovering) and Esther from the word Hester (Hidden). The Ari helps us to understand the hidden secrets of the Megilah.
The Ari teaches us about a spiritual state called “Hester Panim” that describes disconnection and lack of communication with ones Soul. Usually, that kind of state will be expressed as misfortune, chaos and pain.
An important Kabbalistic principle teaches us that many times this state of disconnection is necessary in order to reach a state of perfection, and usually when we manage to grow from a crisis we also become an inspiration to others. A known example is that the slavery in Egypt, an era that lasted for hundreds of years and led to the Mt. Sinai revelation; the destruction of the second temple (70 CE) led to the creation of the Mishna, Talmud and the Zohar; The expulsion from Spain (1492) produced the golden age of the great Kabbalists of Tsefat (Safed); and many more.
The problem is that a state of disconnection could last for a very long time since we don’t always know how to get out of it. The Kabbalists described this state as Dormita (hibernation) – a complete disconnection between the soul and the body, a spiritual-metaphysical state in which we are completely not protected. This could happen to us as individuals, as a society, a city, a state and even a continent.
However, and as mentioned above, the Dormita is a preparation toward wakening and redemption. It allows us to reconnect and in a better way to the spiritual frequency of our inner soul and to all the good of the universe. This connection allows us to draw back into our lives abundance, blessings and goodness, and the way to do so is by sharing, loving and giving.
The story of the Megilah (the Book of Esther)
The story takes place at the end of the exile that happened after the destruction of the first temple (586 BCE).
The Ari explains that Haman was a great astrologer and sorcerer, and therefore he knew about the Dormita at that time and its meaning and that it is an opportunity to destroy all Jews in the Persian Empire.
So Haman goes to King Ahasuerus and tells him “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples…” and “…If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed…”. According to the Midrash, at first Ahasuerus refused, since historically he knew what happened when anyone “messed” with Israel, but Haman explained to him the meaning of Dormita, that the God of the Jews is “asleep”. The Midrash explains that when Haman said Yeshno ישנו (“There is a certain people…”) it means ישן “ו” (Yashen Vav), meaning that the letter ו (Vav) which according to Kabbalah connects between the upper and the lower worlds is disconnected from Israel as well as the Neshama is disconnected from the body, making him helpless while we sleep. And that is why Ahasuerus agreed to Haman’s request. On Nissan 13th Ahasuerus signed the order that in a year from then, on Adar 13th all the Jews in his kingdom will be killed on one day.
Why is Purim on Adar 13th and not on another date?
The Megilah tells us that Haman conducted some sort of a raffle (פור Pur) in order to set the date for the destruction of all Jews. Pur פור means fate and that implies us that Haman, while being an astrologer, used an astrologic chart in order to determine the exact date.
The Kabbalists explain that Nissan (Aries) is controlled by Mars – the planet of wars and conflicts – and on that month all the wars and conflicts, winners and losers, to the year to come are set:
On the 1st of Nissan the wars and conflicts that will happen on Nissan (Aries) are being set;
On the 2nd of Nissan the wars and conflicts that will happen on Iyar (Taurus) are being set;
On the 3rd of Nissan the wars and conflicts that will happen on Sivan (Gemini) are being set; and so on.
Haman waited twelve days to pass in order to check and find that the nation of Israel is in great darkness. He also found that this state of disconnection will be manifested at its most at Adar (Pisces) 13th. However, he did not know that the final stamp on setting the war and conflicts to the following year is put on the night of the Seder, Nissan 15th, and that left enough time to Mordekhai and Esther to prepare and prevent his evil plan from happening.
Who is Mordekhai?
First, The Ari says that it is important to note that even during the Dormita there is no total disconnection between the Soul and the body, and there is always a tiny spark that keeps the body’s vitality. This spark is represented in the story of the Megilah by Mordekhai.
On Parashat Tetsave that usually is being read on the Shabbat before Purim it is said, among the rest that among the oils used in the Temple. One of them is the Myrrh, a very expensive oil that actually was a revelation of Light. It was called Mor Zakh and in Aramaic Mira Dakhya (or Mordekhai). This is the pure spark of illumination that always shines, even in the darkest moments we can experience.
Mordekhai represent this spark, an inner spiritual strength. This is the strength in each of every one of us that can give us the ability to rise from the deepest despair. That is also why after Ahasuerus signed Haman’s request it is told that “…when Haman saw Mordekhai, Haman was filled with wrath against Mordecai”. Meaning, Haman knew that as long as Mordekhai is around, as long as this spark exists, his plan is in danger.
In order to solve this problem Haman consults his wife Zeresh and his 365 consultants.
Together they planned to hang Mordekhai on a tree, 50 cubit (cubit: 30-50 cm.) tall. The Sages explain that the number 50 represents the 50 gates of impurity. The one who enters the 50th gate can no longer come out. Hence, the tree was spellbounded and was meant not just to get rid of Mordekhai but also remove the spiritual force he represented – the spark, the hope – from the root.
Queen Esther’s Spiritual Power
While we read the Megilah we find that God’s name is not mentioned in it at all. The Kabbalists explain that the story mentions two kings – Ahasuerus, that refers to the king of Persia, and HaMelekh (the king) The Creator – the King of the Universe.
When Mordekhai finds out about the evil plan of Haman he goes to Esther and tells her to talk to Ahasuerus and she replies that it has been for 30 days since she was called to the king. That implies of disconnection lasted already for 30 days between our world, symbolized by Esther, and the upper world, the world of abundance and life – The King. Kabbalah is teacing us that when everything looks hopeless and bleak the way to reconnect to The Light is by grace, sharing and giving.
That is why Esther orders Mordekhai “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day…”. According to Kabbalah, the word צום Tsom (fast) is from the word צמצום Tsimtsum (reduction, contraction) and it was designed for reducing ego and selfishness that separates and divides between the soul and the upper worlds.
According to Esther’s request the people gathered and united for the next three days, sharing and “sending portions of food one to another and gifts to the poor”, in order to rebuilt the connection to the king, the spiritual world of the divine abundance.
The Book of Esther says that after the fast “On that night the king could not sleep…”, meaning the Dormita has ended, and then everything turns over. Haman arrives to Ahasuerus in order to get his approval for the execution of Mordekhai, however, on that night when Ahasuerus had sleeping troubles so he was looking through the book of records, finding that he has not repaid Mordekhai yet for saving his life ten years earlier. As Haman enters the court the king asked him “What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor?” Haman who was sure that the king had him in mind replies: “let royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and on whose head a crown royal is set; and let the apparel and the horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man therewith whom the king delighteth to honour, and cause him to ride on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him: Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.” To Haman’s dismay, Ahasuerus tells him to do so to Mordekhai. When Haman returns home his wife and his consultants tell him “If Mordekhai, before whom thou hast begun to fall, be of the seed of the Jews, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him”.
Halakha says that the part of “On that night could not the king sleep” should be read loudly in order to waken those who fell asleep during the reading of the Megilah. That is a bit strange, since through all the Megilah it is very noisy due to the graggers. But that implies that during the Megilah each and every one of us can waken himself from his own Dormita. That is also why it was said that Mordekhai and Esther “…wrote down all the acts of power, to confirm this second letter (איגרת igeret) of Purim”. “Igeret” איגרת from the word לאגור (to accumulate), teaching us that the Megilah accumulates the power of Purim’s miracle that allows us to remove the Haman within and to reconnect to Mordekhai. This allows each of us to have his own awakening: this is the light and the power of Purim.
How can we connect to the power Purim?
The Kabbalists explain that the great spiritual power revealed in Shushan was so great that it left its stamp on the universe so every 14th of Adar it is revealed again. Purim’s customs were meant to draw that power for the year to come.
The Ari explains that Purim’s power is greater than the power of Yom Kippur, since it is man made. This is the power humanity must reveal in order to achieve its completion through loving our fellowman unity and joy and overcoming selfishness and jealousy.
Tools for connecting to Purim’s power
Reading of the Megilah – What to meditate about?
While reading the Megilah and by having the right intentions we can connect to the power of Purim that reveals in the world at that time. When Haman’s name is read we should contemplate on erasing all of the emotions that distance us from love and joy.
Sending portions of food to one another, gifts to the poor and Mahatsit Ha’Shekel
Those are actions meant to create sharing, consideration and unconditional love to our fellow men, and by that to connect us to the power of Purim.
The Half-Shekel Contribution is for the creation of Returning Light (The Light we want to receive, however, we use it for sharing) that is the only true vessel in our universe to contain the Light permanently.
A feast is a material tool meant to execute spiritual powers and lights. On Purim we are obligated to drink wine as much as we can, since the lights revealed at that time are so high and beyond any logic so we should blur the body so it will not disturb our Soul connecting to consciousness of redemption that is way over our logic.
The special Purim pastries (dough filled with different stuffing) is to show that the light of Purim is concealed and it needs some actions in order to be revealed.
Mahatsit HaShekel ‘The Giving of Half Shekel’
The Mitsvah of Mahatsit HaShekel ‘The Giving of Half Shekel’ appears in the Torah at the beginning of Parashat “Ki Tisa”:
Everyone … is to pay as an offering to The Lord half a shekel [one-fifth of an ounce of silver]— by the standard of the sanctuary shekel, a shekel equals twenty gerahs. (Exodus 30:13)
Today, it is customary to give half a shekel donation (the worth of 9.6 grams of pure silver) in the month of Adar before reading the Book of Esther on Purim.
Why half the shekel and not a whole shekel?
The simple explanation is that in the Hebrew word half מחצית (Maḥatsit), the letter Tsadi צ appears in its center, symbolizing the principle of charity Tsedakah צדקה. The two letters next to the Tsadi צ in the word מחצית, are the letters Ḥet ח and Yod י, and together Ḥai (alive) חי, to indicate that everything close to charity is alive. The two letters distant from the letter Tsadi צ in the word מחצית, are Mem מ and Tav ת, together – Met (dead) מת to indicate that whoever is distant from charity is dead in the spiritual world since they are not connected to the Tree of Life.
A deeper explanation of “Half the shekel” according to the wisdom of Kabbalah
Every real achievement and fulfillment in our world must be built on a twenty-count system. Therefore, the Torah states: “a shekel equals twenty gerahs.”
Anyone who wants to achieve anything is supposed to have a real desire to obtain his or her goal, so these are ten full Sephirot in every desire. But, according to the words of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi Ashlag, “After the Tsimtsum (The Contraction), the Desire to Receive can’t be anymore a vessel for the Light, fulfillment or achievement” and in its place we have to use the “Returning Light” as the vessel for abundance and Light” (Talmud Eser HaSefirot, Part I, Inner Reflection, Chapter Four).
That is, when we want something in our hearts and minds, we attract the supreme Light to us – ten Sephirot of Direct Light. Because the Desire to Receive is disqualified from being a vessel to receive, the result of the selfish desire is always a Tsimtsum (Contraction) – a momentary and immediate fulfillment after which the Tsimtsum will come – emptiness and failure.
When we want to achieve a true and lasting fulfillment, we must create the vessel of “ten Sephirot of the Returning Light”, this is the energy that is being generated by giving, devotion, sharing and caring for the Creator and for His creatures. Those who give ten out of ten (Returning Light), will achieve the complete sense of fulfillment and achievement – ten. In all, twenty, and this is why the Biblical Shekel was equal to 20 units.
When we give the “In memory for half the shekel” before Purim, we build a ‘Returning Light’ for a whole year – a sustainable vessel for abundance and success.
About giving half a shekel, the Kabbalist Rabbi Haim Palaggi writes: “Anyone who gives half the shekel is assured that he is a member of the heavenly world, and no harm will happen to him in that year, and even if there is a decree on him or his household members, it will be canceled. That person will not suffer poverty that year … and the one who keeps giving the Half Shekel every year will have children and long life. ”
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