Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Purim and Education

Yeah, hi, sorry I missed yesterday, but I had an appointment with some Irish people. In case you're wondering, nothing too interesting happened on the plane. At least I got to sleep for most of the trip.
I just had a conversation with a loyal reader who mentioned that the Ramah says, in his commentary to the Shulchan Oruch, that one can take a nap on Purim to fulfill the Mitzva of "Ad D'lo Yadah." He also said that the Rabbi he had heard this from was a big fan of this. I responded that the Rebbe had some strong things to say about people who think they can nap on Purim instead of getting unsteady, but I couldn't quite recall the Rebbe's words. Well, I found them, in the Shushan Purim Farbrengen of 1954 (Toras Menachem Vol 11, page 145), and here's the basic gist. Oh, and anytime it says anything controversial, it's not me, it's the Rebbe. Look it up.

The Jewish people's saving by Queen Esther was with Mesiras Nefesh, self-sacrifice. When Esther heard that there was a decree against the Jewish people, she immediately prepared to fight it, even though she was not in any danger herself. Her going to the King to plead for her people was an act that was fraught with danger, and according to Jewish law she was in fact prohibited from risking her life, since the Halacha says that a person must put their own life first.
If Esther had asked a "Misnagdishe Rav" if she was allowed to approach Achashverosh, he (the Rav) would certainly have said that it was forbidden, since a person is not allowed to put their own life in danger to help another. The special Mazel was that Esther did not in fact go and ask a Rabbi, and she didn't ponder whether her actions were allowable according to the law. Once she heard that the Jewish people were threatened she acted in a manner of self-sacrifice.
Where did Esther learn act in this manner? From her (uncle/stepfather/husband/spiritual mentor [look it up, it's in the Gemara]) Mordechai, a Jew who epitomized Mesiras Nefesh. Mordechai was a Chassid, which can be seen from the fact that it was he who decreed that every Jew must drink on Purim until he doesn't know [the difference between good is Mordechai and bad is Haman].
Who else but a Chassid would make such a decree for the ages, that a person has to drink "until he doesn't know?"
In order that Misnagdim should be able to fulfill this Halacha an "out" is given in Shulchan Oruch, that a nap is sufficient. But the truth is that one is supposed to leave their limitations...
Before this law, there was no place in Shulchan Oruch for Ad D'lo Yadah. After all, even by Yom Tov, where Simcha (joy) is mandated, there are guards set up to make sure that nothing gets out of hand. By a Chassid, who is able to break all his personal boundaries, this is not an issue, and therefore Mordechai, who was a Chassid, was able to make this law.
In a Chassidishe household, no one gets excited or scared by the Avodah (lit. the service) of saying L'Chaim on a regular weekday, or by Melavah Malka, and how much more so on Purim.

In the city that my father (Reb Levi Yitzchak Schneerson) was the Rov (Yekatrinoslav, Ukraine), he had many opponents, since he was accustomed to say Chassidus, and he had Chassidishe stringencies in a city of many types of Jews.
Once one of the opponents appeared before the Governor, and complained, that the Jews of the city had picked as Rabbi a man who got drunk and pulled clothes off of people!
The Governor was quite perturbed that such a man had been chosen by the people to be their Rabbi, and he sent an agent to go to Reb Levik's house to find out what exactly was happening there. When the man arrived he found the Rabbi sitting and learning Torah, without a bottle of alcohol on the table, everything in order. The agent wanted to explore the matter further, so he told Reb Levik what had been reported to the Governor, and Reb Levik responded that he had no idea what they were talking about.
At the end of the day, they found out that indeed the report had a basis. On the 19th of Kislev the Chabad Chassidim of the city made a Farbrengen, which went very well. Reb Levik said over much Chassidus, everyone was on a spiritual high, and it went until the wee hours of the morning. It used to be the order among Chassidim, that when they Farbrenged until the wee hours of the morning they would throw off their coats and dance, which is exactly what they did at this Farbrengen too. When the Chassidim saw that one of their number wasn't interested in divesting himself of his upper garment-and this was in the days when Reb Levik had recently returned from Lubavitch, and he wasn't bothered by money worries, and he was spiritually uplifted-he "helped" the Chassid take off his coat, which resulted in the sleeves remaining with Reb Levik and the rest of the coat among all the others present...

To return to our original point: Mordechai taught Esther that when the safety of the Jewish people is at stake one doesn't think about one's own safety but instead acts with self-sacrifice. During the decree Mordechai told Esther that the Jews would fast on Pesach, because when the Jews are in danger one doesn't think of Pesach.
In addition to sacrificing themselves, Mordechai and Esther gathered together 22,000 Jewish children, and caused them to learn Torah with Mesiras Nefesh. Through this self-sacrifice of children, the entire Jewish nation was awakened to also have Mesiras Nefesh, even those who had bowed to Nebuchadnetzer's statue, and benefited from Achashverosh's feast. Not a single Jew even considered leaving his nation, though doing so would have saved him, and through this Mesiras Nefesh over an entire year the decree was nullified.

What's the lesson for us? Some people educate their children to become lawyers, or doctors, or even shoe-shiners. In America there is a phrase, that even a shoe-shiner is something, as even Rockefeller started off as a shoe-shiner and eventually became a rich guy. And if a mother was to send her child to Yeshiva? He would be a Batlan, a waste of time! He wouldn't even be able to polish shoes, since he wouldn't even know how to hold a brush! A mother is scared to send her kid to Yeshiva, because where will his livelihood come from?
The answer? Don't think like this. A person should know that Hashem is the one who gives sustenance to all, and it's not necessary to "help" Him do this. The main thing is to raise your kids in the way of Torah, and through he'll be wealthy, both spiritually and physically. A person shouldn't worry that their neighbor's son has a nicer house, a nice car, that they had another "year in the black".
Rather a mother should send her child to a Melamed, a teacher who doesn't know the country's language, who doesn't even know the name of the current President (for the record, Dwight D. Eisenhower), and who was President before him (Harry S Truman); this Melamed should have a full beard, and he'll be able to bring up the children in Torah and Mitzvos.
This is also applicable to the "Askanim", the community activists, who should use all their strength and power to make sure that every child should have a proper education. Even if this none of this applies to the Askanim themselves, they must learn from Esther, who went with with self-sacrifice despite not being personally threated by Haman's decree. Once she heard that the Jews were in trouble, she made it her trouble also.
So too in our situation; we see that the future of the Jewish people is in doubt, and every person must make it his business to ensure that every child receives a Kosher education. This means that a person must use all his strength, his money, his body, and his soul, in order to help every Jewish child.
Some people make Cheshbonos, they rationalize, thinking that they're too important to involve themselves with education; they think that they should involve themselves with greater things. After all, even a simple person can teach a kid the Alpeh Beis, and the one to collect money for a Cheder or Yeshiva is a Meshulach, a fund-raiser, not important people like them. This is all true, but only in normal times. Now however, when a "fire" is raging, may Hashem protect us, there is no place for "conventions" to decide who's responsibility it is to put out the fire. Every single person is obligated to do everything in their power to put it out.
Some people think that they've done enough, and now it's someone else's responsibility. The answer to this is that a person was born to work, as it says in Job, meaning that there is no rest in this world. In order to help the soul, which is in constant suffering due to its placement in the body, a person needs to work all the time. When a person is working, then the soul's suffering is justified; if a person is not doing anything, then the soul is suffering needlessly! Not only must a person himself work, but he has to make his friend work too, specifically in the field of education.


e said...

Mordecai was indeed Esther's stepfather/husband/spiritual mentor, but he was definitely not her uncle. Forget about gemaras, what about the Bible? "She is Esther, the daughter of his uncle."

Just like a guy said...

What? Of course he was her uncle. Everyone knows that. You being sarcastic or something?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. R. Shaliach:

As someone who has puzzled over this issue I very much appreciated your presentation of the Rebbe's words on the topic. That sleep idea certainly sounds like the coward's way out! Keep up the good work. L de Toot.

Just like a guy said...

All right, let it never be said that I am not magnanimous in defeat. The Almighty Editor is in fact correct; After a careful reading of the sources it comes out that Esther was in fact Mordechai's first cousin. I would like to add that he was also her wet-nurse, which is kind of strange/cool.