One of the biggest miracles of Purim, according to Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev(z”l), was קִיְּמ֣וּ וְקִבְּלֻ֣, that the Jewish people willingly re-dedicated themselves to the Torah and accepted it anew.1
But why was this such a miracle among all the other miraculous events that took place?
The answer gives us a profound insight about how to face our own challenges and struggles in life– especially as women.
They Established What They Already Accepted
Towards the end of Megillas Esther (9:27) it says:
קִיְּמ֣וּ וְקִבְּלֻ֣ הַיְּהוּדִים֩ | עֲלֵיהֶ֨ם | וְעַל־זַרְעָ֜ם וְעַ֨ל כָּל־הַנִּלְוִ֤ים עֲלֵיהֶם֙ וְלֹ֣א יַֽעֲב֔וֹר
Jews established and accepted upon themselves and their descendants
and upon all those who join them, that it is not to be revoked…
According to Chazal, in the days of Mordechai and Esther, the Jewish people reaffirmed their acceptance of the Torah at a level that surpassed the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai:
…and they stood at the lowermost part of the mountain” (Exodus 19:17).
Rabbi Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa said: the Jewish people actually stood beneath the mountain, and the verse teaches that the Holy One, Blessed be He, overturned the mountain above the Jews like a tub, and said to them: If you accept the Torah, excellent, and if not, there will be your graves.
Rav Acha bar Ya’akov said: From here there is a great claim against [the obligation to fulfill] the Torah]. The Jewish people can claim that they were coerced into accepting the Torah, and it is therefore not binding.
Rava said: Even so, they accepted it again [willingly] in the days of Ahasuerus, as it is written, (Esther 9:27) ‘They established and accepted’ – they established what they already accepted.
How did the Jewish people in the days of Mordechai and Esther get to such a high level?
Standing Their Ground
When Esther HaMalka agreed to go to uninvited to Achashveirosh’s chamber, “to appeal to him and to plead with him for her people,” she knew she could be put to death for doing so. However, self-preservation was actually not her main concern.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Esther HaMalka herself never doubted that Hashem would ultimately redeem the Jewish people. But, she knew that her ability to intercede on their behalf depended on how they cried out to Hashem. For this very reason, she told Mordechai:
“Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens will observe the same fast. Then I shall go to the king, though it is contrary to the law; and if I am to perish, I shall perish!”
Megillas Esther 4:16
At the precise point that Esther HaMalka declared a three-day fast, the Jewish people faced a monumental decision. They could have easily succumbed to depression and despair. After all, it really did seem like Hashem had abandoned them, that they were on the verge of certain annihilation. What merit did they have?
Had they hoped that Esther HaMalka, their “sister in the palace” of Achashveirosh could rescue them, this too was dimmed by her apparent hesitancy.
However, instead of losing heart and falling into inconsolable, bitter sadness, the Jewish people decided to collectively make a spiritual stand.
This Depends on Me!
The gemara (Brachos 32a) recounts the following exchange between Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu after the chait ha’eigle, the sin of the golden calf:
And God said to Moshe, ‘Go and descend!’
…Rabbi Elazar said: The Holy One, Blessed Be He, told Moshe: ‘Moshe, descend from your greatness. Only for the sake of Israel did I grant you greatness; and now that Israel has transgressed, why do I need you?’
Immediately, Moshe’s strength weakened, and he had no power to speak.
But once God said to Moshe: ‘Let Me be, that I may destroy them,’ Moshe said to himself: If God is telling me to let Him be, it must be because the matter depends on me!’
Immediately Moses stood, and was strengthened in prayer, and requested that God have mercy.
This gemara needs a little explanation…
God said to Moshe, “you achieved your heights only in the merit of the Jews. Now that they have fallen, you must go down from your place!”
Moshe thought to himself, “how can I daven now when I have no place and no power to speak before God?”
Of course, Hashem did want Moshe to daven on behalf of Am Yisroel, so He gave him a hint:
“Let Me be…”
So far we have not heard that Moses had prayed on… behalf of [Am Yisroel] and yet [God] says “let Me be!” which implies a refusal to [Moshe’s] entreaty! …by saying this “[God] opened the door to Moshe” by suggesting to him that if he prayed for Am Yisroel, He would not destroy them
Rashi, Shemos 32:10
When Moshe came to the realization that the Jewish people’s salvation still depended on his prayers, he immediately stood (עָמַד). He refused to budge, like a pillar (עמוד), and pushed away the mistaken belief that he had no place, nor the power to daven.
Moshe stood where he was, and from there on this lower level he “was strengthened,” by none other than God Himself to daven for Divine mercy on behalf of the Jewish people.
The truth is this was precisely the tefilla that was needed to save Am Yisroel… Moshe praying on his lower level.
That was the critical message Hashem was sending him.
And, this was the precisely the kind of tefilla the Jews needed now in Shushan…
Instead of falling further into despair, each one quite miraculously said to himself, “this depends on me!” They stood as they were, together, and were strengthened in tefilla.
Without them realizing it, Hashem was already answering them…
The Biggest Miracle of Purim
The Jewish people’s re-acceptance of the Torah did not happened right away after their victory over Haman and his evil decree. It occurred only after they read the Megillah in the first year after their victory over Haman. Only then could they could see all the pieces of the puzzle coming together to form an magnificent tapestry. Only then did they clearly see God’s active hashgacha and presence in the events that unfolded over the previous nine long years.
This is hinted to in the term “Megillas Esther” (מגילת אסתר). The word for “scroll,” מגילה, shares the same root as the word מגלה, which means “to reveal,” whereas the name אסתר shares the same root as the word הסתר which means “hidden.” Thus, Megillas Esther literally means “revealing that which is hidden.”
God’s Name does not explicitly appear in the megillah. Yet, those who ponder and search will eventually come to realize that God is not only revealed in open miracles, He actively directs and guides the natural world in every fine detail. Though Hashem’s Presence may seem hidden, He is always right there with us.
As Hashem told Moshe in the desert:
הִנְנִ֣י עֹמֵד֩ לְפָנֶ֨יךָ שָּׁ֥ם
Behold, I am standing there before you…
אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא
כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁאַתָּה מוֹצֵא שָׁם רֹשֶׁם רַגְלֵי אָדָם, שָׁם אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ
The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to [Moshe]:
Wherever you find the imprint of a man’s foot, there I stand before you
Midrash Tanchuma, Beshalach 22
In the days of Yetizas Mitzrayim, Am Yisroel had witnessed the ten plagues, the Clouds of Glory, the awesome miracle of Kriyas Yam Suf. Yet, it was only after they saw their former Egyptian masters dead on the seashore, that each and every Jew recognized Hashem’s Hand in a personal way. Only then was the circle completed, and they come to fully understand that Hashem didn’t just perform miraculous events. He had never abandoned them. He was together with them in their exile, in every detail of their lives, and that His love for His people was boundless.
Only then did the Jewish people spontaneously break out in a song of praise, gratitude, and ahavas Hashem. God had revealed Himself in His Glory to the Jewish People, in such a palpable way that each Jew big and small could “point” to Him as it were with his finger. (Rashi Shemos 15:2)
In Shushan after hearing the Megilla, the Jews also came to fully understand the miraculous yeshua that had occurred hidden right before their eyes. Here too, each and every Jew recognized Hashem’s Hand in a personal way. He had never abandoned them. He was together with them in every detail of their lives, and that His love for His people was boundless.
Each one of those Jews in the days of Esther and Mordechai could say:
זֶ֤ה אֵלִי֙ וְאַנְוֵ֔הוּ
This is My God and I will exalt Him
But, if that’s true then what was their shira?
They accepted the Torah anew out of love and in simcha.
Their renewed commitment to the Torah was merely the spontaneous, natural result of the outpouring of Divine Love and Rachamim that they had so clearly received– Love and Rachamim which were revealed to them only because they stood their ground and didn’t let a sense of despair overcome them…
The result was a deeper connection to the Hashem and His Torah than that experienced by Am Yisroel at Har Sinai. In fact, we could say that the events of Purim occurred in order for the Jewish people to come to this very understanding and recognition of Divine Love and Rachamim in their daily, personal lives.
Purim and a Woman’s Avoda
As women, our personal avoda and connection to Hashem is naturally more internal than that of men. Hashem has given us a greater ability to see past the veneer of this world to focus on the One Who continually sustains and runs it. But to unlock this ability we need to encourage ourselves and our loved ones to never feel like we are so far away that we can’t call out to Hashem… and stillnbe heard! Sometimes, it’s the very tefillas that we cry out from the depths, standing in the bottom of a pit, that can initiate the greatest yeshuas.
- Haggadah MiSavi De’vey Atuni, Kedushos for Purim