The Sixty Days Of Purim

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

This article will be something of a mixed-media piece. It’ll start with a “Purim Torah,” move on to more serious “Kabbalah” stuff, and conclude with an inspiring Chassidic teaching.

(A “Purim Torah” is what Torah scholars do for fun on Purim: a short exposition that sounds and feels like a typical piece of Talmud, yet is either patently absurd or just skewered enough to be taken seriously on Purim.)

First, the Purim Torah:

Question: We read in the Book of Esther how Hamandesired “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, from young to old, infants and woman, in a single day — on the 13th of the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar” (Esther 3:13). But why was it so important to Haman that his evil decree be carried out “in a single day”? Would such a thing even have been logistically possible? Indeed, Haman initially cast lots to determine which month should be chosen as the time for the genocide of the Jews.1 Our sages tell us that when the lot fell on the month of Adar, Haman rejoiced: this was the month in which Moses had died (on Adar 7), surely a month that bodes ill for the Jews.2 Having hit on an apparently auspicious month for his plans, why did Haman continue with his lot-throwing to pinpoint a particular day?

Answer: Haman was a keen student of Jewish history. He knew that the Jewish calendar is dotted with festivals celebrating the Jewish people’s salvation from an enemy who sought to destroy them. What if — Haman worried — their G‑d saves them again? If I designate the month of Adar for their destruction, they’ll celebrate all month long!

Finale: In this, too, Haman’s plan was foiled. When Mordechai and Esther institutionalized the celebration of the Purim miracle, they ordained not only the Purim observances of Adar 14 and 15, but also the commemoration of “the month that was transformed for them from sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity” (Esther 9:22). Hence the Talmudic ruling, “when the month of Adar enters, increase in joy” (Talmud, Taanit 26b).

Now for the Kabbalah:

There are two ways in which the Jewish Calendar, and the nature of Jewish time, can be understood:

a) The “Special Days” Approach: The annual cycle consists of hundreds of days, most of which are of the ordinary, run-of-the-mill variety. Thankfully, these are punctuated by a number of special days — festivals and holy days imbued with special spiritual qualities. We trudge through the ordinary days, inspired and encouraged by the fact that we’re never more than a few weeks away from a Passover or Purim, or — at the very least — a Lag BaOmer or a “New Year for Trees.”

b) The “Quality of the Month” Approach: Jewish time is comprised not of days but of months, each possessing a distinct spiritual essence. The “special” days of the year are simply days on which the particular month’s quality is more pronounced and actualized. Thus, Nissan is the “Month of Liberation,” while Passover (observed on Nissan 15 to 22) is a week-long period in Nissan during which the month’s freedom-quality is more accessible. Similarly, Sivan is the month of Wisdom, Shevat is the month of Growth and Fruitfulness, Elul is the month of Compassion, and so on. Each month has days in which the month’s quality rises to the surface and manifests itself more than on the month’s “ordinary” days; but these are differences of expression rather than of essence — essentially, each day of the month equally possesses the month’s unique spiritual properties. This is why many of the festivals and special dates of the Jewish calendar occur on the 15th of the month — the night of the full moon, representing the point at which the month’s essence is in its most revealed and luminous state.3

Adar is the month of Transformation. Adar transforms sorrow into joy, doubt into supra-knowledge, oblivion into exuberant being. Adar transforms a “scattered people” into a unified nation, and a moment of national weakness (when the Jewish people participated in Achashverosh‘s feast in the belief that allegiance to a mortal king will ensure their survival) into the greatest statement of Jewish commitment of all time (when for an entire year every single Jew remained faithful to his/her people and G‑d, even as a decree of annihilation hung over the head of every Jew in the world). Adar transforms the most physical of activities — eating and drinking — into an affirmation of our bond with G‑d.

So while two days in Adar — the 14th and the 15th of the month — are observed as “Purim,” these represent the apex of an entire month of joyous transformation and transformative joy.

Finally, here’s the inspiring chassidic thought we promised:

A month on the Jewish calendar includes either 29 or 30 days (reflecting the 29.5-day lunar cycle). But every two or three years — seven times in a 19-year cycle, to be exact — Adar doubles in size: on these “pregnant years,” as they’re called, there’s a 30-day “Adar I” followed by a 29-day “Adar II.” In addition, 30th of Shevat is also the first of Adar I’s Rosh Chodesh (“head of the month”) days. This makes for a total of 60 “Adar days.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that the number “60” represents the power of transformation. A rule-of-thumb in Torah law is the “nullified by sixty” principle. For example, if a piece of non-kosher food accidentally falls into a pot of kosher food, the undesirable element is “nullified” if the desirable element is sixty times greater than it.

Thus, the Rebbe concludes, in a year blessed with a double, 60-day Adar, all undesirable elements — every and any cause for pain, sadness, discouragement or dejection — are nullified and sublimated by the transformative joy of Adar.

1,300 Jews Get To Visit The Temple Mount: To Honor The 2 Jewish Temples That Once Stood There

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Breaking records, over 1,300 Jews on Tuesday visited the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem for the Tisha B’av fast commemorating the destruction of the Jewish temples that once stood at the site.

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Despite fasting, 1,043 people braved the heat and went up to the Mount during the morning visiting hours, while hundreds more waited in line to visit the holy site.

The site reopened to Jewish visitors in the afternoon. By 5 p.m., almost 1,300 non-Muslim visitors had toured the site.

Hebrew media reports said the number was unprecedented since Israel captured the OId City in 1967.

In light of recent tensions surrounding the site, the Jewish visitors were required to leave their identity cards with police before passing through metal detectors at the Mughrabi Gate, the only gate to the compound through which non-Muslims may enter.

Because of the large number of people seeking to go up to the compound, visitors were escorted around the site in larger groups than usual, Israel Radio reported.

מאות יהודים עלו להר הבית בבוקר צום תשעה באב, ורבים ממתינים בתורים ארוכים. בשל העומס הסיורים מתקיימים בקבוצות גדולות מהנהוג @Roi_Yanovsky

Police said that six people were ejected from the Temple Mount for violating the site’s rules for non-Muslim visitors, which include a prohibition on prayer, while four people were arrested after a scuffle broke out between three Jews and a Muslim man as one of the groups was leaving the compound through the Chain Gate.

500 יהודים שכבר עלו להר הבית הבוקר

In addition to the extra security measures at the Mughrabi Gate, large numbers of police were deployed throughout the Old City ahead of the expected arrival of tens of thousands of worshipers to the Western Wall throughout the day.

Police said cars would be prohibited from entering the Old City beginning at 5 p.m., except those belonging to Old City residents.

On Monday night, thousands of Jews attended prayers at the Western Wall to observe the start of Tisha B’Av, days after violence shook the city.

Prayer leaders read aloud from the Book of Lamentations, believed by Jews to be the biblical prophet Jeremiah’s account of the destruction of the First Temple by invading Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining wall of the Second Temple, built on the site of the First and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

The wall is at the foot of the Temple Mount compound, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gilded Dome of the Rock shrine in the heart of the Old City. The compound is the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred site for Jews.

Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both temples, as well as several other disasters in Jewish history.

Jewish men pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City during the annual Tisha B'Av fast day commemorating the destruction of the Jewish temples, on July 31, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Jewish men pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City during the annual Tisha B’Av fast day commemorating the destruction of the Jewish temples, on July 31, 2017. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

The event comes after relative calm returned to Jerusalem following almost two weeks of Palestinian protests over security measures at the Temple Mount, installed after a July 14 terror attack in which three Israeli Arabs shot dead two Israeli policemen with weapons they had smuggled into the compound.

Muslim worshipers had refused to enter the Temple Mount until the security installations at entrances to the site were removed, while Palestinian protesters staged near-daily protests in and around East Jerusalem and the West Bank, some of which turned violent.

The clashes left five Palestinians dead. A week after the Temple Mount terror attack, a Palestinian terrorist broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and stabbed three members of a single family to death while they were having Shabbat dinner. In a Facebook post hours before his murderous spree, the terrorist cited the events surrounding the Temple Mount as a main motivator.

The crisis was contained last week when Israeli authorities removed the newly installed measures, including metal detectors, following heavy pressure from Jordan, the custodian of the Temple Mount, and the Palestinians.

Border Police officers stand guard as Jewish men pray during the Tisha B'Av fast at a gate leading to the Old City of Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound on July 31, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Border Police officers stand guard as Jewish men pray during the Tisha B’Av fast at a gate leading to the Old City of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound on July 31, 2017. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

The site has frequently been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Under a decades-old agreement enforced by Israel, only Muslims are allowed to pray inside the compound, although non-Muslims are allowed to visit.

AFP contributed to this report.